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© St. Petersburg Times
published June 5, 2002


explanations from the inside out


The small, tear-shaped shallot is prized by chefs and at-home cooks for its intense, slightly sweet flavor. It's a member of the onion family, along with leeks, garlic, scallions and chives, and is mostly used as a seasoning, especially in vinaigrettes.

The shallot's botanical name, Allium ascalonicum, named after Ascalon, an ancient Palestinian city. Because of this, food historians think the shallot might have originated there. However, they are not positive, because the copper-skinned onion has never been found in the wild.

Shallots grow more like garlic than onions, with each head made up of cloves covered with a thin skin. Each clove, though, has layers, just like an onion.

Shallots are sold loose or in small mesh bags, two or three to a bag. They are usually stocked near the garlic.

Look for shallots that are plump and firm, with no wrinkling. If there is a green sprout coming from the top, the shallot is old and not as pungent. Store dry shallots in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place for up to a month.

this web site cooks

We found Jacques Pepin's Web site useful, with plenty of recipes and photographic step-by-step instructions for techniques such as shucking clams and kneading dough. Each recipe is accompanied by photos. The site is the companion to Pepin's public television series, Jacques Pepin Celebrates.

constant comment

"Chewing gum! A new and superior preparation of Spruce Gum." -- Chicago Daily Democrat, Oct. 25, 1850, advertisement for the first commercial chewing gum

cooking class

A tip from Martha Stewart Living: Freezing ginger root before grating circumvents the messy fibers and goo that sometimes cling to the shreds. Unpeeled ginger root, wrapped tightly in plastic, may be frozen for several months.

let it drain

Here's what every cook needs -- a pour-off sieve. Designed for draining liquids or fats from cooked vegetables, meats, pasta and the like, this stainless-steel sieve has a crescent shape, so it works with various sizes of pots and bowls. Place the sieve over the vessel's rim, then tilt and pour (over the sink). It's $19 (plus tax and delivery charge) from the Williams-Sonoma catalog and Internet. To order, call toll-free 1-800-541-1262 or shop online at

picture perfect pie

The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., is calling for entries in its fifth annual All-American Pie Recipe Contest. A $25,000 scholarship to the institute is up for grabs, along with other scholarships ranging from $15,000 to $3,750. For information, call toll-free 1-800-285-4627 or log on to Deadline for entries is July 31.

garlic lesson

The way you cut garlic makes a difference in the final flavor of a dish. Slices of garlic added to a stew or a stir-fry impart a more mellow flavor than crushed garlic. It comes down to how many of the clove's cell walls are ruptured, releasing enzymes that lead to garlic's kick.

Here is a rundown of the forms of garlic, listed from the mildest to the strongest flavors.

Whole head (roasted)
Whole cloves
Minced by hand
Minced in food processor
Crushed in garlic press

talking turkey already

It's never too early to start thinking about the holidays. Heritage Foods of New York is taking orders for 18-pound fresh turkeys that are long on history. The turkeys, being raised on small farms in Oklahoma and Kansas, are direct descendents of Narragansett, Bourbon Red and Standard Bronze breeds. These domestic flocks used to be plentiful when there were more small family farms in the United States. The birds aren't inexpensive: $63 plus $69 for next-day shipping to Florida. Call Heritage Foods at (212) 965-5641 for more information or to place an order.

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