You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Betty Brannon: What are ramps?
Ramps are wild leeks, native to America. They have a very short season in the spring so if you see them, grab them and add them to some recipes. The bulb on a ramp looks like a scallion, the stem is pink and the leaves are flat and dark green. Ramps have a very pungent smell and a rather pungent taste when eaten raw (strong and garlicky). They mellow slightly when cooked, tasting more like a combo of onions and garlic. All parts of the ramp are edible. In West Virginia where ramps are especially plentiful, they have many ramp festivals.
Patty McAvin: Hi Sara, I have not cooked for a while. I am starting to again but I have forgotten how to season. I put too much salt or not enough. It is with other seasoning to. I used to make a great meat loaf. My son is 47 and loved my meat loaf. I just can't get it back- it is the same with everything. I just can't get the seasoning. Can you help me. Patty
Don't despair, just practice. Add salt to you recipes as you go in small amounts and taste constantly. I say to add as you go because if you wait until the end, the salt will not do its job which is to enhance the flavor of the ingredient or the recipe. If you add it at the end it will taste like a recipe with a sprinkling of salt on top.
In the case of meatloaf, which you cannot taste raw, add a little salt, make a tiny hamburger and cook it in a small skillet. Taste the hamburger and if you think it needs more seasoning, add more salt and pepper to the raw meatloaf mixture and then cook another tiny hamburger to check the seasoning again.
Another problem you might be having is combining raw ingredients (most of which are naturally low in sodium) with processed ingredients, such as that tomato soup in a can. Most processed ingredients are notorious for being loaded with sodium. I would steer clear of them or just cut back or try to find alternatives. Again, in the case of meatloaf, you could glaze it with a low sodium tomato sauce or even ketchup instead of canned soup.
Gloria McGlamery: I am having a piano recital on May 19. I want to have something light to eat following the recital. I have had cookies, cupcakes, etc. The usual. This year since it could be my last year to teach I'd like something a little different. I usually have about 25 to 30 people attending. Sometimes there are more and other times less. Thanks for any suggestions that you might have.
Here is a different recipe (healthier than cookies and cupcakes and perfect for strawberry season). It is from my cookbook, "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals," Broadway Books, 2005. You can halve and hollow the strawberries ahead of time, make the filling and put it in a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag. Then right before you serve the strawberries, pipe a little of the mixture from the bag (cut a hole in the corner of the plastic bag if that is what you are using) into each strawberry. If you stuff them ahead of time they get watery.
Makes 4 servings Hands-on time: 20 minutes Total preparation time: 20 minutes
8 large strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 ounces low-fat cream cheese (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 ounce bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel (if you can't find it you can substitute a teaspoon of freshly grated orange rind)
Cut each strawberry in half lengthwise through the cap. Arrange the strawberry halves, cut side up, on a serving plate. Trim a thin slice from the bottom if necessary to make each half sit evenly. Using a small spoon or melon baller, scoop out a hollow in the center of the cut side of each strawberry. Reserve the strawberry scraps for another use (or eat them.)
Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl; stir in the chocolate and orange zest. Divide the cream cheese mixture into the hollows in the strawberries and serve right away.
Recipe for a very tender and moist pound cake; but not greasy. Thank you! Sal