Dear Barbara: I found a recipe in Gourmet magazine for Cajun shrimp stew. I would like to make it. It calls for scallion greens. What exactly are scallion greens and can I buy them around here? — Deane from Seattle
Dear Deane: Scallions are immature onions before they form a bulb. They are also referred to as spring onions, green onions and young leeks.
I would imagine each region of the country refers to them differently. They are all members of the onion family, and are basically the same thing. Good luck with your stew, it sounds delicious!
Dear Barbara: Maybe I just haven’t kept up with food trends, but please tell me the difference between corn meal and polenta. It all looks like corn meal to me. — Julie from Lockeford
Dear Julie: You are absolutely right. It is all corn meal.
The main difference is in the grind of the corn. Corn meal is ground finer since it is mostly used in baking, such as cornbread. Polenta is usually a medium to coarse grind. It takes much longer to cook, and is usually finished off with parmesan cheese and butter. However, you could do the same thing with a box of corn meal.
Polenta also comes in a quick cooking form and a ready-made form in a tube in the refrigerated produce section. I have tried them all, and the very best quality is when you take the time to make it from scratch.
Yes, you have to watch it constantly for about 25 minutes, but it is so worth the little bit of effort for the quality you get.
I checked the price difference between the two, and the box of corn meal was $1.58. Because the other package was called “polenta,” the price was $ 2.19! Go figure.
Dear Barbara: I chopped so much chocolate over the holiday for those great cookies and desserts that it wore me out!
Now I am making yet another chocolate dessert for New Year’s, so there’s some more chopping. I get it all over my counters, and pieces go flying across the floor. There must be an easier way.
Please don’t tell me to use chocolate chips. I like high quality chocolate and, yes, I am using a serrated-edge knife. Thanks. — Lindsey from Lodi
Dear Lindsey: I would have told you about the serrated knife if it were several years back. However, I didn’t seem to see a lot of difference between that and my chef’s knife.
In the baking section you have boxed baking chocolate, where each 1 ounce square is wrapped in parchment, which is what I was used to buying. Then you have high quality baking chocolate that looks like an oversized chocolate bar.
A friend of mine told me the simplest way to “chop” it up is to put it in the freezer for a couple of hours before you need it. When it is time to break up the chocolate for melting, simply give the frozen chocolate bar a couple of good whacks on the counter top and it shatters into nice sized pieces for melting.
Another good feature about doing it that way is the fact that there is no mess!
You may want to give it a try; it works for me. Have a Happy New Year!
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.