Dear Barbara: We are getting into comfort food season and I want to make some butternut squash soup. The recipe says to quarter, seed and season the squash before roasting it. That seems like a lot of work when you’re just going to puree it anyway. Can’t I just peel, seed, cut it up and microwave it? It would save time and basically you are doing the same thing — cooking it. — Joanie from Lodi
Dear Joanie: I have done it both ways. Roasting the squash intensifies the flavor. It gives the soup a richer, fuller taste. I can only compare it to boiled potatoes verses baked potatoes. The texture and flavor are very different.
If you want your soup to come out the way you have it pictured, take the time to roast the squash. It makes an amazing difference.
According to www.indianfood-recipes.com, soups and stews should only simmer, never boil, when cooking.
Dear Barbara: I was cooking chicken livers with the intention of making a chopped liver spread. When they were done, I tasted one. It had a muddy taste and a strange texture. I decided not to make the spread. What would cause that? — Linda from Lodi
Dear Linda: Above all else, chicken livers have to be as fresh as you can possibly get them. Even if it is just a day or two before the expired date, they are too old. Ask the meat department when they will be getting more in, and buy them and use them that day.
One other thing that may change the flavor is overcooking them. They just need to simmer until they are rosy in color. If overcooked, the liver can have a grainy texture.
Chopped liver or pate can be fantastic, but only if you start with very fresh livers.
Dear Barbara: I was at a butcher shop buying meat for the week. I noticed that the butcher, even though he was wearing gloves, handled raw poultry and beef with the same gloves on. Is the meat safe to eat? Would there be cross-contamination of the two? — Kelsey from Galt
Dear Kelsey: There may have been some cross contamination between the poultry and the beef, but since they were both raw, it should not pose any problems. When you cook the products, be sure you cook them to the proper internal temperature.
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.