Archive for Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Green tomatoes can be fried, baked

Differences between stir-fry and pan-fry

October 6, 2004


Will green tomatoes ripen?

Some of the green tomatoes will finish ripening and the rest can be the basis for green-tomato treats. Chuck Marr, K-State Research and Extension vegetable crops specialist, recommends that gardeners:

  • Harvest all fruit as soon as a freeze enters the forecast.
  • Divide the harvest into tomatoes that show color and those that remain green.
  • Leave the fruit at room temperature for several days, in case some of the green tomatoes are going to complete the ripening process.
  • Eat or preserve the tomatoes that ripen. Discard the small greens and cook the full-sized ones.

A lot of people are crazy about fried green tomatoes. They simply dip tomato slices in olive oil or an egg wash, coat them with bread or cracker crumbs, and then fry them in a skillet until golden brown.

Another idea is to put pizza sauce and cheese on green-tomato slices and then cook them in a 400-degree oven until the cheese melts and starts to brown. If you close your eyes, you have trouble believing you're eating a vegetable that's good for you. They're a real late-fall treat.

What is the difference between stir-frying and pan-frying?

Pan-frying is done by adding a small amount of fat to the frying pan and allowing fat to accumulate during cooking. Stir-frying is similar to pan-frying except the food is cooked quickly using very little oil and stirred almost continuously. Cooking is done over high heat, using small or thin pieces of food, such as meat and vegetables. This quick-cook method seals in the nutrients, texture, flavor and color of the food while keeping added fat to a minimum.

Are there any "tricks of the trade" when stir-frying?

Follow these steps and you'll prepare a nutritious meal in a snap:

  • Prepare all ingredients in advance, keeping them handy in individual bowls. Stir-frying proceeds rapidly, leaving little time to do anything else once cooking begins.
  • Cut foods into uniform pieces to ensure quick, even cooking.
  • Meat is more easily sliced when partially frozen. Freeze no longer than one hour. Slice thinly across the grain for greatest tenderness.
  • Preheat wok or large skillet over high heat. Drizzle about two teaspoons of oil in a ring around the sides of the pan so it coats the pan as it runs to the center. Drop a piece of vegetable in the pan. If it sizzles, you are ready to cook. Then reduce heat to medium to prevent food from burning while cooking.

Why do hard cooked egg whites turn brown?

The brown color is a result of a chemical reaction within the food called the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction produces a brown color when certain chemical reactions occur between sugars and proteins. It helps produce a golden crust in baked goods, the browning of meat, and the rich dark color of roasted coffee. While these are positive results, the Maillard Reaction also can produce negative results. An example is during the storage of dry milk. A dark color is a sign the milk has been stored too long.

In eggs, the egg proteins react with the small amount of carbohydrates in the egg. This may occur if the eggs are overcooked. To prevent the color change, follow these steps to hard cook eggs.

  • Place eggs in a single layer in a pan.
  • Cover the eggs with water and bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat and let stand from 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool the eggs immediately in cold water.
  • Chill completely before removing shells.

This color change is not harmful and the eggs are safe to eat.

Why do sauces thickened with cornstarch look translucent, while those using flour as a thickening agent appear milky?

The gluten protein in the wheat flour causes the milky appearance. Wheat flour contains about 10 percent protein by weight, whereas cornstarch is almost pure starch with no protein. Gluten protein is not soluble in water and does not break down during the cooking process. Because light cannot pass through the gluten, the result is a milky appearance. On the other hand, because cornstarch has no protein, the light can pass right through its starch-water mixture. Therefore, sauces made with cornstarch are translucent and glossy and those made with wheat flour are opaque.

I have always wondered why buttermilk is called buttermilk when there is not butter in it? Isn't it actually low in fat?

Historically, buttermilk was the name given to the liquid remaining after churning cream into butter. Today, very little buttermilk actually comes from butter. Instead, buttermilk is produced by fermenting skim milk by adding "friendly" bacteria, then churned. Either way, it has a rich tangy flavor, containing all the proteins and casein of sweet milk. The souring and churning processes, however, does make the casein more digestible.

Despite its name, buttermilk is very low in fat, ranging from 1 to 2 grams of fat per cup.

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