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

February 2, 2010

Time is flying. It is already February, the month of Ground Hogs, Valentines and Presidents' birthdays. The good doctor is hanging in and hoping all his friends are coping with the winter coolness. The doctor's best advice here is "avoid glare ice".

We have a serious item to deal with here before we get to the questions. The villain is Aspergillus niger. It is a black mold that grows on onions. I never saw any of it until a few years ago when an occasional dark spot was noticed. On the onion it appears as a fine, black soot. It is toxic; avoid onions that show signs of it. When the mold advances on a bruise or blemish on an onion, it will turn the onion mushy. Usually it is seen on the first one or two layers of dried skin on the onion. It seems to prefer white onions to yellow onions. It would be hard to spot on a purple onion.

I have peeled all the black off some onions and used them. This was before I knew the stuff could be serious. If you find an onion with the black mold, throw it away and wash your hands real good. I have been a fan of white onions for a long time, but I think I'm switching to yellow. I don't know that I have seen the mold on a yellow onion.

Best advice is to select your onions carefully. Buy a few at a time, let the store worry about storing them. At home, the best place to keep the onions is in the vegetable crisper in the ice box. The mold thrives on warm, humid conditions.

Now that we have that taken care of, let's get to some patients' questions.

Maureen writes:

Can you tell us exactly what "light chili powder" is, where do you find it, and would chile molido be a good substitute, since we already have that? Our chili recipe calls for both light and dark chili powder, and it also adds cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic powder separately, and "Better than Bullion" for flavor. Thank you!

Maureen: "Light" can mean either a lighter color or less heat contained. The base for all your standard chili recipes is Ancho powder. Ancho is the word for a Poblano pepper that has ripened and been dried. Anchos are dark brown, about the color of coffee.

When the chili craze started in the early 70's, there were just a few varities of peppers on the market. As the demand grew, more peppers with new names appeared. The names of the old standards were changed. Now you can probably find a 1000 different chiles if you are so inclined.

My personal chili seasoning is a mix of Ancho for the traditional, along with New Mexico Red to lighten it up a bit. New Mexico Red is a bright red and usually very mild. In its growing stage, it is known as Anaheim.

You can visit a spice and chili site such as Pendery's and find a whole bunch of things. If you have access to the Fiesta Brand Mexican spices, they have a "mild chili mix." I mix that with equal parts of their New Mexico Red and have yet to find something better.

The quality and color of the peppers, any peppers, will change with growing conditions. You can find one container of a certain brand that is mild and the same brand next time could be scorching hot. You just got to shop around. If you find some spices you really like, stock up on them. Look at the "use-by" date to make sure you get the same batch. Also look on the back of the shelves as the older products get pushed to the front in restocking. Tightly sealed chili powder keeps very well in the freezer.

I hope this sheds some light on your problem. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Robert has a zesty question:

Is orange peel and orange zest the same thing? I have a recipe that calls for 1 orange zest. I found a jar of orange peel at the grocery store. Can you tell me if it is the same and how many teaspoons equal 1 orange zest?

P.S. I am a native Texan who got transferred to Virginia -- gotta stay here to get my retirement.

Hi Robert: The zest of citrus is the thin, colored, outer layer of peel. The white layer underneath is bitter and you don't want to use it. Zest is best fresh. You can get little "zesters" in the kitchen department of most stores. These just take off the outer layer of peel that you want. I don't think the bottled peel is of much use. I find it nearly tasteless and somewhat bitter. Learn to get and use the fresh. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Marie is looking for a recipe:

We were in Kingsville, Texas this winter and had a wonderful Tartar Sauce at Kings Inn Restaurant there. Would love to have the recipe or a similar one. Thank you so much for letting me know if you have heard of it.

Hi Marie: I'm sorry, but I don't have that particular recipe. The classic tartar sauce is a mix of mayonnaise, minced onion and sweet pickle relish. Try putting some together and maybe you can hit one you really like. You can add anything you think might go good. A good cook is always experimenting. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

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

Traditional Texas Food Articles
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