Ugly tomatoes taste better

Wet cardboard and a tomato should not taste the same, but few of us have been fortunate enough to experience the difference. A tomato, in addition to water and cellulose, has sugars, acids, and aromas that distinguish it from wet cardboard. I blamed supermarkets demanding firm, but not very ripe, fruit for the cardboard-like tomato offerings, but a recent article in Science explains that the problem is a malfunctioning gene. Through most of the twentieth century, tomatoes have been selected to ripen uniformly.…

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Why measure with cups and spoons

American recipes use volumes to measure dry ingredients. Outside the United States, the amount of flour or almonds in a recipe are commonly given in grams, not cups. One uses volume, the other mass. Credit (or blame) for this difference often goes to Fannie Farmer who used cups and spoons for measurements in her The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (first published 1896). Farmer’s book was very popular. The first two editions sold over 300,000 copies.…

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Caramelizing sugar with an oven

Deep, dark, caramelized sugar, just a touch before burning, taste wonderful. But getting the sugar to that point can be tricky. When I go without caramelizing for a while, I always feel unsure that I will be able to get the sugar to that perfect brown color. In those cases, I resort to a technique that is a bit slower, but foolproof (well, almost). In this post I’ll describe the method.…

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Q&A site

I’ve been having fun at a new food and cooking question and answer web site modeled on the the very successful stackoverflow site. The site claims to be in beta, but it is already very polished with a few hundred questions available for browsing. The site is well designed and right now, ad free. To help control spam and trolls, the site has a reputation system, where users that have contributed most to the site get higher reputation scores and are granted editing privileges.…

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The brix of sweet fruit

Buying local is good for the environment and for your taste buds. When in season, I enjoy apples and peaches from the nearby Virginia farms. Produce from Pennsylvania farms — only a few hours away — arrives rich and flavorful. But it is now winter, local trees and fields lay barren, and only a few energy-sucking greenhouses produce anything. I will trade carbon emissions from many other activities before I give up those fruits and vegetables flown in from far and warmer places.…

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