Dear Barbara: I went to a Russian restaurant in the city last night. We ordered borscht as a starter. I was completely shocked that it was served hot and on the sweet side! I’ve always had it served cold with a dollop of sour cream on top.
Also the dumplings were stuffed with ground lamb, onions and a bit of cumin. Did cumin originate in Russia? — Kerri from Lockeford
Dear Kerri: Everyone who makes borscht has their own recipe. It could have meat stock, any kind of vegetables and may be served hot or cold, topped with a bit of sour cream. It is made with fresh beef, but may contain more vegetables or different types of spices.
Cumin is originally from Russia and Poland. Its use quickly spread to Arabia and Mediterranean countries. We associate cumin with Mexican food; however, it is well used in most all countries around the world.
Dear Barbara: I was making a wonderful pasta dish that had crab and roughly cut scallops in a white wine sauce. I tried to be careful when I put the crab in so that I didn’t bread it up too much. When I was done, it looked like a big, beige plate of garbage. What could I have done to make the dish more interesting? — Holly from Lodi
Dear Holly: I’m sure you have heard the saying that we eat with our eyes first. Your dish needs color. You could serve it with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and it would add a little ‘spark’ to it.
As far as the crab problem goes, I would suggest that you put half of the crab and cooked scallops in the dish and save the remainder. Just before you serve the pasta, sprinkle the remaining seafood over the top and use a little fresh parsley or more basil or any herb that you like. Toasted pine nuts would be good as well.
Dear Barbara: I have a problem with rice. No matter what I do, it comes out gummy. You couldn’t even make sushi with it because you would never get it off your fingers. Where am I going wrong? — Tanya from Lodi
Dear Tanya: I would almost have to watch you make it to know for sure, but it sounds like you may have overcooked the rice. A few other tips would be to rinse the rice before you cook it, to take any extra starch away, or to use a little less water. Do you measure your water and your rice?
Let me know if any of these tips will work for you.
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.