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Dateline: February 2, 2007

Ask Dr John

Here we are in the second month of 2007 already. Time sure flies when you are having a good time. The waiting room is full of folks with interesting questions, so lets put the doctor to work.

Drew got an unusual gift: I was given quite a few big cans of tomato juice. I am having problems finding recipes that use tomato juice. Do you have any suggestions? Maybe some stews or salsas? Thanks.

Hey Drew: Tomato juice can be used in many ways. You can use it instead of water in soups and stews for extra flavor. You can use it to make pasta sauce and even barbecue sauce or your own homemade catsup. With making pasta sauce you would have to allow for longer cooking time or thicken your sauce with roux or cornstarch. The tomato sauce called for in the recipes is nothing more than concentrated tomato juice concentrated by simmering.

A glass of lightly doctored tomato juice can be a real treat. I like just a teaspoon of lemon juice in mine. You can, of course, make Bloody Marys or leave out the alcohol and have a Virgin Mary.

I don't know if there is a specific tomato juice cook book or not. You can have a lot of fun improvising and inventing, so don't be afraid to experiment. Only thing to remember is your canned tomato juice probably contains salt, so adjust your recipe to allow for that.

Good luck and, if you come up with a winning recipe, let me know about it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Heres something new from Julie: What are butter tortillas and how are they different than regular flour tortillas? I was visiting a friend in Texas and saw them at Central Market. Thank you -- I really enjoyed exploring your site.

Hi Julie: That's a new one on me. I've never heard of butter tortillas. I checked the Central Market site and they have butter tortillas, but don't say what they are or how they are made.

I'm going to take a bold guess and say they are flour tortillas made using butter instead of the usual lard or shortening. Until I find out different that is my story and I'm sticking to it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Julie Two is getting creative; good for her: I am trying to find out what Hispanics use instead of cream cheese. I am trying to create a conversion/modification for a cooking contest and would like to be authentic. Keep coming up with nothing. Thank you.

Hi Julie: I don't know of a Mexican equivalent to cream cheese. The closest thing is their "Crema", which is really more like sour cream than cream cheese. You can find a whole article on crema on at Incomparable Crema. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Heres one from Mike: My daughter is doing a report for her Spanish class this week. She is doing it on Fajitas. After searching the web for a while, we found several different versions of where they came from. Some reports say Texas, while we even found one article claiming that they are actually French in origin. You can imagine how much this upset her since, if they are from France, she cannot use them for her Spanish report. Can you please clear this up for us? Thanks.

Hi Mike: I'm sure fajitas are of Mexican origin. After all, they do have a Mexican name. If they were from France they would be called crepes. I first heard of them in the mid 70's. Since then they have turned into something way different from the original. The original fajita was grilled flank steak with Pico de Gallo in a tortilla.

Theres an article on that addresses the origin (vaqueros from south of the border) at ¡Fajitas!. I think your daughter can safely use a fajita report for her Spanish class. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

From Robert: Why do cookbooks and recipes all say to peel poblanos? Is there any harm that can come from eating the skin? Any problem with eating them raw? I like them that way.

Hey Robert: We have so many folk with delicate constitutions now days that they don't want to have to chew anything. If you like the poblanos raw and unpeeled, have at 'em. It is probably healthier to eat them that way anyway. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jimmy writes: I have tried cooking fajitas in the broiler and on the grill and cant seem to get it right. It always comes out chewy!! I tried different marinades to no avail. I am using skirt steaks. Any tips?

Hi Jimmy: That skirt steak is naturally tough. You do know about slicing them across the grain, dont you? This makes them seem more tender. As a last resort, when they are done as usual, wrap them tight in heavy-duty foil, and let them steam on the grill or broiler for about 30 minutes. If this does not make them tender, nothing will. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Heres a departure from tradition: I make a very tasty white chili. It has ground pork, white (cannelli) beans, poblano (used for relleno) and jalapeno chiles. It is very mild but flavorful. How can I turn up the heat for a contest without losing the flavor?

Oh gosh, white chili. We don't want to use cayenne and get pink chili. First thing that comes to mind is white pepper. It has an "up front bite"; that is, you taste it on the tip of your tongue immediately. It doesn't get real hot, but you know it's there. Sure fire is the habanero. If you can find fresh in the yellow stage, it will go with your color scheme. Or you can find habanero powder. This stuff is HOT! Start with just a tad and work up to where you want it. If you use fresh, wear gloves and for heaven's sake don't wipe your eyes. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

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