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Bonnie Aeschliman: Answers to your cooking questions

  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, at 7:33 p.m.

We all have kitchen challenges from time to time. Sometimes it is a recipe that has an unusual ingredient or sometimes it is a life change that finds us in the kitchen. Let’s take a look at some of those you have sent me.

Q. I have a tortilla soup recipe that I am dying to make. But it calls for cumin and cilantro. What are those items?

A. Cumin is a ground spice, the seeds of the coriander plant, and you can find in the spice section of the supermarket. It is strong flavored and is used in many Mexican recipes as well as in Southwest, Indian and other cuisines.

Cilantro is an herb, found in supermarket produce departments. It looks very much like Italian parsley but has a distinct, strong flavor. It is often used in Mexican and some Asian cuisines. Sometimes it is referred to as Chinese parsley. In my cooking classes, I have found people either love it or can’t stand the taste. If you don’t like it, just leave it out — the dish will have a different flavor but still be good.

Q. How do you halve an egg if you want to make half of a recipe that uses only one egg?

A. An efficient way to do this is to whisk the egg well so the yolk and white are combined; then use only half of the mixture.

Q. Why is it important to let meat rest when it comes out of the oven?

A. There are two reasons meat or poultry needs to rest after cooking. The internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees as the meat is resting. Also, resting allows the juices of the meat to be reabsorbed by its fibers, making it more juicy and tender. When meat is sliced immediately after cooking, those juices run out on the plate and the meat is less juicy.

Q. After over 50 years of marriage to a good cook, I found myself as a widow without the slightest knowledge or interest in cooking and a lot to learn. What is the difference between chopped green bell peppers and diced red bell peppers? I thought red and green tasted about the same.

A. I highly recommend that at this phase in life you find another wonderful woman who will be a good cook for you. But I know sometimes that is hard to do, so I will answer your question.

Red bell pepper and green bell peppers are very similar and can be interchanged in a recipe such as chili or soup. Often red bell peppers are used because they have a sweeter flavor and add color to a dish.

Q. My new interest is baking and several bread recipes call for an egg wash to be brushed on top of the loaves before going in the oven. What is the purpose of an egg wash?

A. The egg wash will add a beautiful color and sheen to the loaf. A whole egg whisked with a tablespoon of water is the normal combination. However, if you want a deeper golden brown, use only the egg yolk with the water. If you desire the natural color but with additional shine, use the egg white only whisked with a tablespoon of water. Also, if sesame or other seeds are added as a topping, the egg wash will glue the seeds to the loaf.

Bonnie Aeschliman is a certified culinary professional who owns Cooking at Bonnie’s Place in Wichita. For more information, call 316-425-5224 or visit cookingatbonnies.com. To submit a question to Bonnie, e-mail her at bonnie@cookingatbonnies.com.

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