Dear Barbara: I’ve always heard that if you are making something and it is too salty, that you can fix it by adding a potato. Does this really work? — Dorothy from Lodi
Dear Dorothy: I’ve also heard that a potato will take out the extra salt, but I didn’t know for a fact. So back in my lab (that would be my kitchen!), I tried an experiment. I opened a can of diced tomatoes and put exactly half into two identical saucepans, adding equal amounts of water to each pan. To one pan, I added 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. This would be a normal amount to season the amount of liquid in the tomatoes. To the other pan, I added 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt, which is too much. I peeled a potato and cut it into cubes, adding half to each of the pans. After simmering the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until the potato was done, I very carefully removed the potatoes to two different plates. I could definitely taste the salt in the potato of the over-salted version. This tells me that the potato did absorb a certain amount of salt, but not enough to make an appreciable difference. The tomatoes in the second pan were still overly salty.
So, if you find yourself with an over-salted dish, you may want to try something appropriate to the recipe that is bland and slightly on the sweet side, like cream or plain yogurt, or even sweet sherry. I think you would have more success.
Dear Barbara: Does adding oil to pasta water keep pasta from sticking together, or does it even matter? — Rosie from Lodi
Dear Rosie: Having plenty of room and boiling water in the cooking vessel, and stirring the pasta with a wooden spoon, is actually what keeps the pasta apart. Remember that adding oil to pasta water to keep it from sticking is also keeping the sauce from adhering to the pasta as well as it should!
Dear Barbara: I’m having 10 people to dinner to celebrate my parents’ anniversary. I want to serve appetizers before dinner. I don’t have a clue as to how many different appetizers I should serve, and how many I should make of each one. What would you advise? — Sheila from Lodi
Dear Sheila: I had to ask a caterer on this one! I know what I do at my house, but I didn’t know if there was a formula that is used.
There is a “rule of thumb” that some caterers use. What you are having is considered a small gathering, with 8 to 10 people. It was suggested that you have three different appetizers, some cold and some hot. You can be heating the warm appetizers while the cold ones are being passed.
As far as how many you need to make, there is a little formula for that, too. If you are serving dinner, you should figure six appetizers per person. So, multiply six by 10 (the number of people that you have) and divide by three (the number of varieties of appetizers). Therefore, you would need approximately twenty pieces of each variety of appetizer. I hope this helps and have a lovely celebration!
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