Question: What is arugula? Where is it grown and how is it used?
Answer: In the past, this green was known as rocket or rocket salad. After all but disappearing for some years, it's enjoying a return to popularity here in the United States under a new name (sometimes spelled arrugala), no doubt derived from the Italian name, rugala.
The dark green, elongated leaves have a pungent scent, similar to mustard greens. Their flavor is reminiscent of pepper, horseradish or mustard and combines well with blander salad greens such as Bibb lettuce. Arugula complements rich or highly seasoned foods such as lamb, duck or pork.
Although available in Southland specialty markets, home gardeners will also find arugula relatively easy to raise from either seeds or small plants available at nurseries. It will grow year-round if kept in a shaded area and pruned to prevent flowering during the warm summer months.
Q: When I bake banana bread the middle is always higher than the rest of the loaf and the top crust is uneven. What am I doing wrong?
A: It's normal for baked quick breads to have an irregular, pebbled top and to crack down the center of the loaf. The finest quality quick breads are made by gently combining the liquid with the dry ingredients just enough to moisten, so the batter still appears slightly rough or lumpy. Overmixing tends to make large holes in the bread and sometimes toughens it.
Spoon this batter into the baking pan carefully to avoid additional mixing. Then bake until a wood pick inserted in the center comes out clean and the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.
The bread will be more flavorful and easier to slice if wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator at least a day. Quick breads also freeze well.
Q: I do not want to use wine in cooking. It is called for in many marinade recipes. Is there something I can substitute? I've tried lemon juice, but it was tart, and chicken broth didn't taste right.
A: The bottled white and red grape juices can be used successfully in many recipes. Also, there are many dealcoholized wines on the market today, which give the flavor of varietal wine grapes, yet have no alcoholic content.
Q: Can you reheat tea? I remember when I was a little girl, my mother said to make a new pot of tea--never reheat. I have heard this from many people. Is this true or false?
A: The Tea Council of the U.S.A. Inc. does not recommend reheating tea, but assured us that doing so will not result in a product that is harmful to human health. Reheating will affect the tea's flavor, producing a "stewed" taste.
The council recommends following four rules to ensure a good cup of tea: Prepare tea in a teapot; bring fresh, cold tap water to a full boil; use one teaspoon of tea or one tea bag for every six ounces of water; and brew three to five minutes.
Other tips include preheating the teapot by rinsing with hot water to keep the tea hot during brewing, and not judging the strength of tea by color because some teas brew light, others dark. For those who prefer weaker tea, it is suggested to add hot water after the full brewing period. To let the full flavor of the tea come through, serve with milk rather than cream or with lemon.