Question: I was told by a friend some years ago that "red spices" such as cayenne pepper, paprika and chili would last longer if stored in the refrigerator. I have since read that all spices last longer at room temperature. Which is it? Where should I be storing my spices? Are there any spices that are preserved better in cold storage, such as expensive ones like saffron?
Answer: Called capsicum spices, paprika, red peppers (including cayenne), chili pepper, chili powder and sweet (or bell) pepper flakes should be stored in a cool dry place. However, during the summer, particularly in hot climates, cold storage (38 degrees and 50% relative humidity) is highly recommended, according to the American Spice Trade Assn. This will aid in color retention and guard against any infestation. Very low moisture results in a product with reduced color values, whereas high moistures may cause molding. Saffron, sesame and poppy seeds may also be stored in the refrigerator for longer keeping, if desired.
Q: Is it safe to cook turkey in the microwave oven?
A: Yes, you can safely cook up to a 12-pound turkey in the microwave oven in about half the time as with a conventional oven. Cook a stuffed or unstuffed turkey, breast side down, on HIGH four minutes per pound, then breast side up on MEDIUM (50% power) eight minutes per pound. For even color, you may brush on a special browning sauce.
Q: All the recipes I see for using grape leaves instead of cabbage leaves (in dolma, for instance) call for canned "pickled" grape leaves.
I have a flame seedless table grape grapevine in my yard. Can I use the leaves? If so, how do I prepare them?
A: You may easily preserve your own grape leaves gathered from your backyard. Here's a recipe from Rose Dosti, as printed in her cookbook called "Middle Eastern Cooking" (HP Books: $9.95)):
PRESERVED GRAPE LEAVES
(Warak Arish Makboos)
50 to 70 grape leaves
11 cups water
1/4 cup salt
3 cups vinegar
Sterilize 2 (1-quart) canning jars and lids according to manufacturer's instructions. Rinse grape leaves. Use only young leaves that have not been exposed to chemicals or pesticides. Pour 8 cups water into large saucepan. Add salt. Bring to boil. Add grape leaves. Boil 30 seconds. Drain, discarding water in pan. Let leaves stand until cool enough to handle.
Place leaves, shiny sides up, in stacks of 10 or 15 with largest leaves on bottom. Roll up each stack and tie with string. Pack vertically into hot sterilized jars. Trim edges of rolls to fit jar, if necessary. Tuck in several lemon wedges.
Pour remaining 3 cups water and 3 cups vinegar into large saucepan. Bring to boil. Pour over leaves in jars, covering completely. Seal jars according to manufacturer's instructions. Makes about 2 quarts.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.