Ask Bowen Appétit
Having trouble with a recipe or a technique? Need ideas for a menu or a party? Just wondering something? Doesn’t need to be related to recipes on this site – just submit a question and I’ll be happy to help. (But just FYI, I know next to nothing about certain things – like the rules of basketball, or how to clean a bathtub – so don’t ask about that.)
The answers to some previously submitted questions are below.
SOME SUBMITTED QUESTIONS
Salt in egg poaching water?
Thickening cherry pie filling?
Good dorm room snacks?
What kind of potatoes and onions for frying?
Differences between broccoli/broccolini/broccoli raab/rapini/etc.?
Homemade ice cream with lactose-free milk?
Cabbage options other than coleslaw?
Seasonal spring fruit desserts?
A: Contrary to what your source told you, it is perfectly acceptable to put salt in the water for poaching eggs. Salt will act similarly to vinegar in helping the eggs to coagulate, but it won’t really add any noticeable flavor so you’ll still want to salt the eggs afterward. There’s no real benefit to adding both vinegar and salt, but you can if you like. It might also be helpful to point out that you can poach eggs in almost any liquid, including soup and sauces (which have likely already been salted). Eggs poached in tomato sauce are particularly delicious!
And for the record, my favorite way to poach eggs is very quickly summarized as follows: crack your egg (as fresh of an egg as possible) into a small cup, then dump it into deep (~6″) water with a splash of vinegar (or salt!), heated to a high simmer/low boil. Set a timer for 3 minutes, then fish out the egg with a slotted spoon.
Q: Every year I make a big investment and sink a good $20 worth of cherries into a cherry pie, and every year the consistency just isn’t quite there. Sometimes the tapioca is far too stiff, even if I cut down on the quantity in the recipe. And sometimes it just isn’t enough. Do you have a favorite recipe? The cherries are coming and I need guidance!
A: Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of experience with cherry pies (as in: I’ve sadly never actually made one – not a lot of fresh cherries in Southern California without spending a fortune). I do know that tapioca is supposed to be the best thickener for cherries and other summer fruits, and it seems like the balance of tapioca might have to do with variations in the moisture content of the particular cherries you’re using. That I’m not sure I can help with, aside from the recommendation to cook a tiny test batch of filling – maybe just a small ramekin or baking dish – and use that to help calculate your recipe.
In terms of a recipe recommendation, I find that America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated has fantastic baking recipes. Here’s a video and an article about their sweet cherry pie, which talks about the difficulty of getting a great texture in the filling. You can’t access the written recipe from their website without an account, but you could write it down from the video or here’s a blog post that looks to be only very slightly adapted. I’m surprised in the addition of plums, but that and the food processing of some of the cherries might be the key to the best texture! Let me know how it turns out.
A: Here are my thoughts – it kind of depends on what your refrigerator/microwave/kitchen situation is, so if these don’t really fit what you’re looking, let me know because I have more ideas!
If you have a fridge, good options include hummus, string cheese, and nut butters – all great with veggies, crackers, tortillas, etc. When I was in college I kept a jar of peanut butter in my room at all times, and I’d eat a big spoonful when I’d be up studying really late. The protein keeps you going, but it’s still super tasty!
Also if you have a fridge, edamame is a really delicious and healthy snack – I hear from people all the time that they get so addicted to it that they have to stop buying it for a while. Again, high in protein which is exactly what you need! You can buy it frozen but keep it in the fridge, or if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby they sell it in the produce area. You can eat it cold or warmed up, sprinkled with salt.
If you have access to an oven (even a friend’s you could just use to make a big batch of these), you should definitely roast some chickpeas. You can make a couple of cans of chickpeas at a time and keep them in a container in your room. They’re crunchy and chewy and delicious and really healthy! I have a recipe here and you can find other options online. You can use any spices you might have around, or just salt and olive oil.
Trail mix is also kind of fun and an easy thing to have around. If you have a market with a bulk section you can have fun with all kinds of different fruits, nuts, and other bits and pieces to put in. You probably want to avoid the chocolate, though – my favorite is just peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips or M&Ms, but that makes me eat so much of it that it kind of stops being healthy …
Popcorn – if you have a microwave, you can make super cheap and healthy popcorn. Don’t mess around with the microwave popcorn stuff – waste of money and has tons of chemicals and scary stuff. If you buy unpopped popcorn and brown lunch bags you can make your own! Just put 1/4 cup (or so) popcorn in a brown paper bag, fold the top over a few times (you may end up wanting to tape it shut so it doesn’t open in the microwave), and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, until there is 5 seconds or so between pops. Then you can add flavors – salt, sugar and cinnamon, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, etc. Nutritional yeast is also really delicious on popcorn and really healthy – every hippie I’ve ever known eats this as their go-to snack.
A: For french fries or any sort of potato frying, you want a baking potato – the most common one of these is the Russet or Idaho potato. These have a dry, fluffy flesh when cooked, which is exactly what you want for a tasty french fry.
For onion rings, you want a white or sweet onion (like a Vidalia, Walla Walla, or Maui). They aren’t quite as strong as a yellow onion, which is good since the onion doesn’t get cooked much in an onion ring. Onion rings are super simple and delicious to make – have fun!
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, along with cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli can be cooked in a huge variety of ways, including steamed, boiled, stir-fried, braised, and roasted (my particular favorite – see this recipe!). For most applications you’ll want to peel the stem if you use more than what’s attached to the florets, since the stem can get kind of woody around the outer layers. You can also eat the leaves from the broccoli plant, cooked similarly to other greens (namely sauteing).
Broccolini (aka baby broccoli) is a cross between broccoli and chinese kale, and has a long stalk topped with buds that look like miniature broccoli florets. The stalk and the buds are edible, with a flavor similar to broccoli but a little more peppery. You can use broccolini in a variety of ways as well, with my favorites being roasting and grilling (since it’s so long and slender it lays across the grill quite nicely).
Broccoli rabe (aka rapini, rabe, rape, Italian broccoli) is actually more closely related to turnips than to broccoli. It has a long, leafy stalk with clusters of tiny broccoli-like buds, and has a stronger, more bitter flavor than either of the previous two. If the stalk is woody or fibrous, you may want to peel it. You can always take a bit of it raw to see what the texture is like. Broccoli rabe is commonly used in Italian cooking, and can be cooked in similar ways to other greens – including sauteing and braising. It’s particularly delicious on pizza, and I’ve got a good summery recipe for pasta with broccoli rabe, garlic, and red pepper.
A: It is definitely possible to make ice cream with Lactaid or other brands of lactose-free milk. However, most ice cream recipes include cream as well as (or entirely instead of) milk, so you also need to find an appropriate cream substitute. Unfortunately there aren’t really options for commercially-produced lactose-free cream, but I hear that coconut cream or pureed silken tofu can work well in the same quantities that the recipe might ask for cream. Alternatively, gelatin can enhance the creaminess of a cream-free ice cream. The Lactaid website has such a recipe here: http://lactaid.tastebook.com/recipes/2143528-Double-Berry-Ice-Cream. Good luck!
Q: For the last few weeks I’ve been getting full heads of cabbage in my CSA basket. Coleslaw or cabbage salads are all well and good, but I’d love some other (vegetarian) options. Have anything up your sleeve?
This is a great question! I LOVE braised cabbage, which you could easily do with veggie stock instead of chicken stock. And you could go in a different direction – instead of carrots and onions you could add apples, brown sugar, red wine, and raisins for a sweeter braised cabbage. Beer and hard cider would be interesting things to add as well.
You could also do something like a warm slaw … simmer shredded cabbage with water, salt, pepper, herbs, wine, stock, etc. until wilted but still with some bite, and make a slaw with apples, and other veggies (maybe cook those too?). You could even make something like spittle, pasta, or grains and mix that into the slaw for something more hearty.
There’s also always cabbage soup and cabbage rolls, which I know are tasty, but unfortunately I’ve never made either of those, so don’t have recipe suggestions off the top of my head. But basically you can cook the leaves and either chop them roughly and put them in a good veggie soup recipe, or fill them with some sort of yummy filling … herbed ricotta? tasty cooked grains? … then maybe top with a sauce if you like, and bake until warm.
Fruit desserts are my favorite, and there are so many options! A crisp or a crumble is a really easy alternative to a pie or other things with pastry … take whatever fruits you like, cut up and mixed with a bit of sugar and cinnamon, topped with a mixture of oats, butter, sugar, etc. I have a good recipe for a crisp here, and you could really use any fruit with that (berries, stone fruit, etc.). You could also add up to about 1/2 cup oats or chopped nuts to that topping, and easily take out the currants if you don’t want that. You can also easily do a simple single-layer cake with berries, cherries, apricots, or any other fruits. I have a recipe here. This sort of thing isn’t quite as sweet, making it nice to have at breakfast or with coffee, etc.
You can also make something super easy like a fool, which is literally just whipped cream folded together with chopped fruit. This is super tasty with berries in particular. You can also pair this with biscuits/scones/cake for a fruit shortcake.
I’m also a big fan of fruit with angel food cake, which you could make but also really easily and cheaply buy at the grocery store. (Grocery store angel food cakes are generally pretty darn good!)
And on the super easiest end of the spectrum – quickly cook together some fruit and sugar (to taste) to make a warm fruit “sauce,” and pour on vanilla ice cream.