Question: Long ago someone told me there is something in turkey that makes you sleepy. I always thought it was the big Thanksgiving meal that did that. Can you clear this up?
Answer: It really is the big meal that causes us to feel sleepy, assures the National Turkey Board. Turkey does contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is recognized as having a sedating effect on the body, but Rita Storey, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn., tells us all animal protein foods contain tryptophan, so turkey should not be singled out as the culprit.
She explains that after eating a large meal the body's blood flow increases to the stomach and capillaries of the small intestine where absorption is taking place. This results in a slight decrease of oxygen (carried by the blood) to other areas of the body, such as the brain, and may result in the feeling of being tired.
Q: Help--what is mache? It was called for in the recipe for salade a la Provencale that appeared in the Times Food Section Oct. 23, which sounds wonderful.
A: Elizabeth Schneider, in her book "Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables--A Commonsense Guide" (Harper & Row: $25, 1986), describes mache as "variable in nature, the leaves may be broad or narrow, dark or medium green, round or spoon-shaped, and sweetly nutty or simply green-flavored, like Bibb or butter lettuce." It has a velvety texture and mild flavor.
Mache (sometimes called lamb's lettuce) is generally sold in small bunches, with roots attached, held together in a twist or cone of plastic, like a bouquet. It should be clean-leaved and clear green, with no evidence of softening or wetness in the leaves. Since it is very perishable, it does not store well and should be used as soon as possible after purchase.
Although you mentioned that you could not find mache at Irvine Ranch Market, their produce buyer told us that they do carry the product regularly, unless the quality does not meet their standards. It is also available at other area specialty markets.
Q: Could you please tell me how to prepare a Plum Pudding in a microwave oven?
A: "Microwave Cooking: 101 Unique Uses" from Litton Microwave Cooking Products (Publication Arts: 1982) includes this recipe for Plum Pudding.
2 cups soft bread cubes (about 3 slices, trimmed)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons Sherry
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
2 tablespoons brandy
Grease 2 cup measure. Cut two 1 1/2-inch wide strips wax paper long enough to cover bottom and sides of measure, with 1 inch overhang on each side. Overlap strips in base of measure. Set aside.
Combine bread cubes, flour, currants, raisins, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, butter, half and half, Sherry, molasses and egg in medium bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended, scraping bowl frequently.
Pour batter into prepared measure. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in microwave oven on inverted saucer. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 8 to 12 minutes, or until no uncooked batter appears through sides and cake feels springy to touch, rotating every 2 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. Loosen edges of pudding with small spatula. Invert measure, pulling wax paper strips to remove pudding. Place on serving plate and remove wax paper strips.
Place brandy in small bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 20 seconds, or until heated. Pour into large spoon or ladle. Ignite and spoon flaming brandy over pudding. Makes 4 to 6 servings.