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Fish: How can we find out which fish are safe to eat and not endangered?

Susan from San Francisco e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “Can you recommend fish that are safe to eat and not in danger of being over-fished? I’ve heard that some of my favorites are endangered, but we get conflicting reports.” Information on seafood does seem to change frequently so I…

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Ramps: What are ramps and how do you cook them?

This week I got an e-mail from Cindy saying she had seen ramps in her local farmers’ market and she wondered what they were and how they are used. Ramps (Allium tricoccum), aka “wild leeks,” belong to the onion family. Their flavor is somewhere between that of onions and very…

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Eggplant: How can I select an eggplant that isn’t bitter?

Dolores e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that many of the meatless main dishes she likes to make for Lent include eggplant and wondered if there was some way to make sure the eggplant won’t be bitter. Eggplants become bitter if they are very mature and full of seeds when harvested or…

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Avocados: Can avocados be frozen?

Becky wrote to the Kitchen Shrink that her brother can send her cases of avocados from Texas but she needs a way to preserve them. She wondered if she could freeze them or freeze her homemade guacamole, and if so, how? According to the California Avocado Commission, avocados can be…

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Bananas: Are bananas good to eat after they have been refrigerated?

Marla e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that she had accidentally put her bananas in the refrigerator in a bag of groceries and now the skins are black. She wondered if they are still good to use. Bananas are still just fine to use if they have been refrigerated and the skins…

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Sauces: How do you use cornstarch and arrowroot to make clear thickened sauces?

Michael e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink with this question. He said that he wanted to make clear dessert sauces and had heard that cornstarch or arrowroot was the answer but he had never used either. Cornstarch and arrowroot are similar ingredients to work with. Both have almost twice the thickening power…

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Mushrooms: Why do you suggest removing the gills from portobello mushrooms?

While it is not necessary to remove the gills from portobello mushrooms before you use them, I feel that there are some good reasons to take the time to do it. The dark gills share their color with everything they touch and will discolor (turn black) any stuffings, sauces, and…

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Coconuts: How do I open a fresh coconut?

A few weeks ago Blondell asked the Kitchen Shrink how to open a fresh coconut and, with the spring holidays just around the corner, this seems like the perfect time to share my favorite method for this tricky procedure. I have tried lots of different ways of cracking a coconut…

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Seafood: Is it better to buy wild or cultivated mussels?

Mary Lou e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that she was confused by the choice of mussels in her market. She wondered if wild or cultivated mussels are the best choice. Most of the mussels we find in restaurants, fish stores and supermarkets are blue mussels from North Atlantic waters. They probably…

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Baking: How can I get my cookies to brown evenly?

Sharon e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that her cookies always get dark on the bottom before the top begins to brown. She wondered what she can do to get them to bake evenly. There are several things that affect the way cookies brown. The best way to get them to brown…

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