Question: I saw some "elephant" garlic in the store one day and I was curious to find out if this is real garlic. It was more expensive than regular garlic. Can you please give some information on elephant garlic?
Answer: This giant garlic (sometimes called great-headed garlic and Oriental garlic) is botanically known as Allium ampeloprasum. It is more closely related to the common leek, as is evident in the plant's broad, flat leaves, folded lengthwise.
Elephant garlic differs from regular garlic in that it produces a number of small, thick-shelled cloves around the base of the bulb. The taste is milder than the genuine garlic. Like regular garlic, the giant garlic heads may be stored in a cool dry place, and leftover peeled ones may be kept in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator.
Q: A recipe calls for two cups of cooked wild rice. How much raw rice should I start with?
A: Wild rice usually expands up to four times its dry volume. Use half a cup raw wild rice to make two cups cooked. To cook, simmer in two cups barely salted water about 45 minutes or until tender.
Q: Do you have some tips for buying and storing radicchio? As an expensive salad "lettuce," I would like to know how to treat it correctly.
A: Popular in Europe, this reddish purple salad vegetable is more perishable than other salad lettuces and should be used within a day or two. For best flavor, choose smaller heads of radicchio. Larger ones tend to have a bitter off taste.
Avoid buying limp, discolored radicchio. To avoid rapid deterioration, do not wash the vegetable head before storing. Lightly wrap in damp paper towels and place inside a plastic bag that has been punctured for air circulation. Keep in a vegetable crisper.
Q: Every time I bake poundcakes they crack in the center? Can you tell me what causes this? Also when I mix the batter, it curdles.
A: According to the American Institute of Baking, there are three possible reasons: (1) the oven temperature is too high; (2) the baking powder reaction is too slow; (3) the cake is over-mixed.
If the batter is properly formulated, longer baking at a lower temperature should produce a crack-free surface. Another reason for cracking, according to some books on baking, is too much flour and too little liquid.
Use paper-lined loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for small to regular loaf pans, 300 degrees for larger poundcakes. To avoid curdling, after about half of the eggs have been creamed in, add a little of the flour.
Q: Can moistened washcloths be safely heated up in the microwave oven?
A: Yes, and they're especially helpful when you want warm finger towels after a grease-laden meal. Wet washcloths with a water and lemon juice solution, wring out, fold or roll and heat in a wicker basket or bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.