Q+A with Sara Moulton

CoolJules1965: Sara, What is the best way to keep cilantro from the produce section fresh. It seems to go bad within a couple of days after buying it. Thanks! Julie B Rock Hill, SC

Sara_Moulton: Julie, When you get the cilantro home take it out of the plastic bag and put it stems side down into a glass or measuring cup filled with water. Put a platic bag over the leafy top of the cilantro like a tent and keep it in the fridge. Change the water every so often. It should last 5 days to a week like this. The same principle applies to basil, parsley and dill. Best, sara

GildaKB: Sara-

No matter how many recipes I try, I can't seem to make a really good marinara sauce that's not too acidic nor too thick or thin. I've just about given up trying and I can't believe that something so simple could be so difficult. Do you have a recipe that can put a smile on my family's face when I cook Italian? Thanks, Gilda B. Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Sara_Moulton: Gilda, Not being Italian I can't vouch for my suggestions but here goes - the trouble is that tomatoes, especially ripe in season ones and canned ones (which are canned at the height of their ripeness) have a high acidity. Some people add sugar - I prefer to add a fair amount of onions and cook them well to bring out their natural sugar. In terms of too thick or too thin that is just a matter of the water content. It is the same with any sauce -- if it is too thin, just simmer it gently until it has reached the right consistency, if it is to thick, just add water. I hope that is helpful. Meanwhile, check out one of Lydia Bastianich's books or Marcella Hazan. I bet they both have a fullproof marinara sauce. Best, sara

BrynMom: Sara, when can you substitute low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.) and still have the recipes work? Is there a rule of thumb?

Helene

Sara_Moulton: Helene, First of all I would recommend using only low fat dairy products, not no fat. I think no fat has no flavor and no texture. The recipes should work just fine although they might not be as rich. I routinely use low fat dairy products and have never had a problem. One thing to keep in mind is that milk, sour cream and yogurt, even when they are full fat cannot be boiled or they will curdle. They do not have a high enough butterfat content. The only two things you can boil are heavy cream and creme fraiche. If you add binder to a sauce such as a roux or a slurry, you can boil milk, yogurt or sour cream. Best, Sara

CoolJules1965: Sara, What is the shelf life for self-rising flour and or cake flour?

Julie Rock Hill, South Carolina

Sara_Moulton: Julie, Self-rising flour has baking powder and soda added which only have a shelf life of about 6 months. Cake flour, I think should last a year. All flour should be stored in a cool dry dark place. I put all my flours in plastic bags so no little critters can get in. -Sara

Catlady802: Sara,

If a recipe calls for brown sugar, how do you know which one to use or does it make any difference?

Rosemary K Trumbull, CT

Sara_Moulton: Rosemary, Brown sugar is simply a mixture of white granulated sugar and molasses. Dark brown has more molasses than white. If the recipe doesn't specify either one will do. The dark brown sugar, depending on how much is called for, will give you more of a depth of flavor and hint of molasses. -Sara

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