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dish

By JANET K. KEELER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 26, 2001


deconstructing

explanations from the inside out

measuring cups

photo Wet measuring cup

Proper measuring can mean the difference between cooking success and culinary catastrophe. Too much flour or too little liquid makes cakes, muffins and biscuits dry. Adding more liquid than called for produces a runny mess in baked goods and dilutes flavor or throws off balances in vinaigrettes, marinades and soups, among other things.

One way to alleviate mishaps is to use the proper measuring cups. Dry, or solid, ingredients should be measured in 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup vessels (or measuring spoons), and wet ingredients should be measured in a multicup vessel with a spout and a handle to facilitate pouring. Liquid and dry measuring cups hold the same volume, but for dry ingredients it's important to be able to level off the top for the correct measurement. This can't be done if you are measuring 1 cup of flour in a four-cup container.

It is possible to measure liquids in dry measuring cups but you will likely spill some on the way to the bowl or pot. To read a liquid measuring cup, set it on a level surface and look at it at eye level.

For dry ingredients, sturdy handled cups, plastic or metal, are best. Many recipes call for dry ingredients to be measured by the "dip and sweep" method. This means that the cup is dipped into the flour (or sugar) and then the excess is swept off even with the top of the cup, usually by a knife edge or spatula.

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Dry measuring cups

this web site cooks

www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/

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Mmm. Cold gelatin with peas.

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James Lileks, a Minneapolis newspaper columnist, has put together the Regrettable Food Gallery, a place for lovers of pop culture to marvel at some of the cookbooks and food advertisements of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Oscar Mayer's "Great new sack o' sauce in a can o' meat" which made "quick beef or pork meals with Fresh Cooked Flavor!" is just one of the amusing ads included. He also pokes fun at cookbooks that include unappetizing photos such as a very skinny roasted chicken, in black and white no less, on the cover of 250 Ways to Cook Chicken and Gamebirds. Lileks' book Regrettable Food Gallery (Crown Publishing, $22.95) is out this month.

cooking class

To savor Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Italian-made parmesan cheese from Parma, Italy, at its best, buy it in wedges, not grated. Whenever possible, buy chunks with the rind attached, which keeps it fresher. Wrap cheese in parchment or wax paper and then plastic or foil and use within 1 month.

rare finds

Find yourself drawn to the unusual offerings - cassava, jackfruit, prickly pears - in the ever-expanding supermarket produce section? The Exotic Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, by Oona van den Berg (Sterling, $24.95), provides a useful primer on more than 70 different items. The book also has 50 recipes, though it's worth noting that some are as exotic as the ingredients - such as pomelo and king prawn salad, and caramelized pineapple with burnt Cointreau syrup.

piece by piece

This month is National Chicken Month (who knew?) and Kentucky Fried Chicken, which likes to be called the funkier "KFC'' now, has amassed all sorts of statistics about how we eat chicken. Among the more clever cluckers are that almost seven out of 10 people surveyed prefer white meat to dark. When it comes to the most favored piece of chicken, the breast prevails by close to 50 percent over leg, thigh, boneless and wing. Chicken livers don't make the list or KFC's menu.

a world of spice

photoMcCormick, one of the leading spice manufacturers in the United States, has introduced a line of gourmet spices that reflects the worldly way we eat now. Among the 22 new spice blends are Japanese-inspired wasabi powder, Indian garam masala, Mexican chipotle chili powder and Asian lemongrass. The spices retail for $3.98. For more information, visit McCormick online at www.mccormick.com or call toll-free 1-800-632-5847. Tips for cooking with these spices are also available.

florida cooks

Sunshine state cooks from Gainesville and Jacksonville are featured in the October issue of Better Home and Gardens' Hometown Cooking magazine. Members of Gainesville's Junior League are featured in an article about tailgating (what else?!) and they say they arrive at the Swamp at 7 a.m. for 6 p.m. Florida games. The other article is about award-winning home cook Kathleen Dale, whose Jacksonville home is often filled with the smells of homemade bread. She's a bread machine aficionado. Both articles have lots of recipes.

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