I’ve been getting a lot of email questions from readers which I thought were so great that I should take the opportunity to answer them publicly.  I learn something new every time I get to answer your questions and I’m sure others are wondering some of the same things.  So for all our learning enjoyment here are some of the latest questions I’ve got from readers. As so many of our readers are talented cooks, bakers and bloggers themselves, I would love for you all to add your own thoughts, answers, tips and stories. Just jump down to the comments section and share your own kitchen wisdom.  Perhaps we can put a compilation of “Kitchen Wisdom” together from everyone’s comments.

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I am trying to master the art of making a chapati.  The pan that I am using doesn’t seem to be working.  Do you have any suggestions for the type of pan to use?

When I was first married, I used a pancake pan.  The kind that is flat with almost no sides.  Then, my mother upgraded me to an All-Clad double burner griddle, which I fell in love with. It works great for pancakes or chapatis.  I’ve even made dosas on it.

I could cook two chapatis at a time on that pan and be rolling out another all at once.  However I’m not the world’s best at multitasking and I soon learned that trying to cook two chapatis at the same time while trying to roll out another resulted in a lot of burnt chapatis.  Noticing that I started to only cook one chapati at a time on my huge griddle, I decided to get an official tawa, a traditional Indian pan used for chapatis, and use my precious All-Clad for weekend pancakes.

The traditional Indian chapati pan (tawa) is basically like a cast-iron flat griddle/pan, only it has no handle.

I think the best option for chapatis is a flat pan with low or no sides.  It should be a pan that can take high heat.

Chapatis need to be cooked on a hot pan (almost smoking), otherwise they take too long to cook on the pan and end up dense and chewy. I usually put my pan over medium-high heat. However if the pan cannot take a lot of heat, the chapati will burn before it has a chance to cook properly.

When making paneer, do you or do you not add salt to the milk ? I thought salt is essential to the cheese?
Thank you. Great recipe.

 

I’ve had to do some research on this question as I wasn’t sure myself! Most of the recipes I had researched when testing homemade paneer didn’t use added salt.  Now, after a little investigation, I learned that salt is added in cheese-making as a flavor enhancer and to help preserve the cheese when it needs to be stored for months.

I tend to make paneer either the morning of or at the most, the night before. So I don’t need to add salt. However,  I’ll be making some paneer (with salt v.s. salt-free) and see how long it stays fresh and how it tastes.  I suspect paneer will dry out the longer it is stored, which is about the same as buying it at the store.

Does anyone else have experience in this? 
If you do, let us know what you have found.
 

If making a savory paneer for dinner, salt might help to add flavor, but I also use salt in the sauce.  Paneer soaks up a lot of flavor when it cooks in the sauce, so it might end up being too much salt.

Paneer is also used in desserts, in which case, you might not want added salt.  I’ll have to test added salt now to see how strongly it affects the flavor.  Great question!

The Rice with Mixed Vegetables looks like a great beginner recipe. I hate cooking but I love Indian food.
One question: When you use peas, do you use fresh or frozen?
Thanks!

The idea behind this dish is that it’s fast and easy and therefore a great recipe for a first-time cook, or those who love to eat well but are not yet fans of time spent in the kitchen.  So while I agree fresh is best, unless you can buy pre-shelled fresh peas, I just don’t think it’s worth the time to shell all the peas yourself.

I’ll test fresh versus frozen peas, though in the end,  I don’t think it will make much of a difference.  If using frozen peas, you don’t need to worry about defrosting them.  They cook just fine if added frozen.

Let me know how it goes! I think this recipe is only 10 minutes of actual kitchen time, so it’s a great place to start.  Most of the time the pot works for you.  It’s one of the dishes Hubby knows how to make really well and I think it was the first dish he taught me.

Which Indian markets do you recommend in the San Jose area?

There are two in Santa Clara which are the busiest and therefore the freshest.  New India Bazaar and Patel Brothers.

Patel Brothers is a nation-wide chain and is a bit cleaner and the parking is easier.  Though for some reason I’ve always shopped at New India Bazaar.

New India Bazaar is a bay area chain that is family-owned.  I started shopping there years ago and now I know everyone there so well that it feels great to shop there.  Though I think both are just fine.   These two stores are practically side-by-side on El Camino Real.

Hubby and I refer to the long stretch of El Camino Real in Santa Clara as the “Little India” of our neighborhood…though I’m sure Milpitas or Fremont can give it a run for the title.

I just tried your chocolate mousse recipe and it’s amazing! Do you have a lower-calorie version so I can enjoy it more often?

Yes I do! I’m actually in the middle of what Hubby calls an “obsessive”  chocolate phase at the moment.

I’ve discovered a lower-fat, no sugar added version of the original, which came about from my messing up the mousse recipe during one of my recipe testings.  I’m discovering that some of my favorite recipes come out of complete mistakes.

I’ll post it soon, I’ve got a highly requested cake recipe planned for my next dessert post this week.  I try to space out the dessert posts, otherwise this blog would quickly become nothing but cookies, cakes and chocolate.

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Thank you all for your wonderful questions, keep ’em coming! I learn so much every time I read your emails and dive into researching the answers.   There are many more questions than I could fit into one post so I’ll be doing an on-going series of questions and answers to get them all out there.  I look forward to reading some of your own tips and answers in the comments below so don’t be shy to share your own kitchen wisdom!

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