Dear Barbara: I’ve recently been told that I am allergic to wheat. I don’t mind giving up the bread, etc., but I don’t want to give up my gravy, sauces and soups. What can I use as a thickener other than flour? I know I can use cornstarch, but I don’t like it; it tastes chalky to me. Is there anything else I can use? — Michelle from Stockton
Dear Michelle: If you are making soup that contains vegetables, such as potato soup, you can remove some of the vegetables, puree them, and return them to the soup. This will help to thicken the broth. I personally use arrowroot. According to Barron’s Cooking Guide, written by Sharon Tyler Herbst, arrowroot is the starchy product of a tropical tuber of the same name. It has twice the thickening power of flour. Unlike cornstarch that can taste chalky if undercooked, and can become watery if it is overcooked, arrowroot is clear when you cook it and has no taste of its own. You must, however, mix it with a little cold water to make a “slurry” before adding it to the cooking product. This prevents any lumps.
I actually use a little strainer and pour the mixture through the strainer into the product that I am cooking. I do the same if I am thickening with cornstarch.
Dear Barbara: I love to fish, and I like to cook it on the grill. My problem is that it always sticks to the grill. I’ve tried wrapping it in foil, but then it sticks to the foil. Do you have any ideas that would keep the fish from sticking? — Drew from Lodi
Dear Drew: I have a nephew who had the same problem. He found that if you oil your grill grate before you start, and put a little olive oil on your fish before seasoning it, it really helps the “sticky” situation. It’s best not to move the fish around: leave it in one spot, turning only once. If you want to wrap it in foil, try crinkling up the foil before you use it to wrap your fish, using a little olive oil on the fish before seasoning. The wrinkles in the foil will help to keep it from sticking. If you are sealing it in foil, don’t flip the fish! You can scale a fish easier if you rub the scales first with vinegar.
Dear Barbara: Can you freeze raw eggs? — Anita from Lodi
Dear Anita: Absolutely, you can freeze raw eggs. You just need to know a few things ahead of time. You can freeze the whites alone, or the yolks alone, or both together, but you must break the yolk. It will not freeze well if you don’t. Never try to freeze a whole egg in the shell. The liquid will freeze and expand, breaking the shell. So if you have a recipe that just calls for egg yolks, you can save and freeze the whites, marking the date and how many whites there are. Then, when you get that recipe that calls for just egg whites, you’re ready! Be sure to always let them thaw in the refrigerator.
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.