Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Burning Questions: Vegetables and Grains

This whole series of "Burning Questions" posts originated as a somewhat amusing troll through the One Block West Restaurant web site server logs, to see what search phrases were bringing people to the web site. As I went through the logs, the search topics seemed to fall into several broad categories, each dealt with in a separate post in this series. This post deals with vegetables and grains.

Parsnip Tastes Like. Parsnips taste a bit like the green tops of carrots smell when you bruise them. They're sweet like carrots with a bit of an herbal edge to them. I love them.

Cooking Filet Beans/Cooking Fin de Bagnols Beans. You can cook the little filet beans any way that you would cook the larger green beans: steam, fry, tempura, roast, boil, stir fry, etc. Try tossing them with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic and roasting them in a very hot oven, turning every five minutes for fifteen minutes until they become brown and wrinkled.

Difference between Poblano and Piquillo. A Poblano is a large, dark black-green, triangular fresh pepper. A Piquillo is a small red triangular pepper that you will only find canned or jarred here in the US. Both are mild and have excellent flavor. See also my Chile Primer.

Torpedo Onion Difference between Shallot. The torpedo onions that I am familiar with are red onions that take shape of an elongated football. The ones that I get from the farmers market are about 4 inches long and about an inch and a half in diameter, but I've seen much, much larger ones from the produce company. Torpedo onions are very mild and work great for raw applications. Some shallots are light purple like torpedo onions while others are yellow and some are white. While torpedo onions have a mild onion flavor, shallots have a different flavor, a delicately garlic flavor. For torpedo onions, substitute any red onion. For shallots, nothing else will do. See also the Cook's Thesaurus onion page.

Best Rice for Paella. Paella rice is a medium-grained rice that separates well when cooked and does not release as much starch as risotto rice. From Calasparra in the Murcia region of Spain, these rices were at one point almost extinct. Bomba is the premium variety. Anything labelled simply Calasparra is likely to be the Sollana variety. All the paella rices produce a very dry grain at harvest, allowing them to absorb a lot more liquid than most rice. You can substitute Arborio or other risotto rice for paella rice in a pinch. See also my rice primer.

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