Dear Barbara: I have some recipes that call for fresh tomatoes. It states they should be seeded. Why, and is it necessary? It’s usually when they are in salads and dishes that aren’t cooked. — Shirley from Sacramento
Dear Shirley: The main reason that recipes tend to have you seed the tomato is not really the seeds (unless you don’t like the way they look), as much as it is the juice around the seeds. If you are making a sauce, or cooked recipe, the extra bit of juice doesn’t matter, but if you are making a salad, the juice will tend to make your salad watery, soggy or perhaps discolored. The tomato also has a nicer “bite”, or texture, without the seeds. The quickest way to seed a tomato is to cut it in half horizontally, and use the greatest kitchen tool you have, your impeccably clean fingers.
Is it necessary? I have done it both ways. If it is a garden type salad, I just slice them and arrange them around the edge instead of mixing them in, so it doesn’t detract from my salad dressing. If it is a recipe where the tomatoes are to be mixed in, I take the seeds out.
Dear Barbara: I have a question. If a recipe calls for, say, “one cup frozen fruit, thawed,” do I measure the fruit frozen, or after it is thawed? — Joanne from Galt
Dear Joanne: That is a good question and one that confuses a lot of people.
Unless the recipe specifies differently, the rule of thumb would be to always measure the fruit in its frozen state, and then thaw, draining them gently in a colander before using.
Dear Barbara: What exactly is brine? People talk about brining the chicken, or turkey, and I don’t have the slightest idea of what they are talking about. To me, brine is what you make pickles with. — Julie from Lodi
Dear Julie: You’re right when you say brine is what you made pickles with!
There are two kinds of brines that I know of. One is “pickling brine”, and the other is “soaking brine”, which is what your friends are using with their chicken, etc.
Basically brine is a strong salt-water solution used to preserve a main ingredient. It would also have other ingredients in it to add flavor. If you were brining a chicken, or a salmon, you might add onion, garlic, brown sugar, etc.
Most all soaking brines are rinsed off before cooking.
Pickling brines used on pickles, olives and vegetables need not be washed off.
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.