Dear Barbara: Are shallots just another name for an onion?
— Bill from Lodi
Dear Bill: Shallots are in the onion family, but they are not really what we consider an onion. They are much milder than a yellow or white onion. I think they have a slight garlic aroma, but even that is very mild. Shallots also cook faster, and since they are so mild, they are used frequently in dishes such as salads where they are used raw. People who don’t care for onions, will usually eat shallots.
I like them because of their size. You don’t have a huge half of an onion left over that you can’t use.
Dear Barbara: I usually line my baking sheets with foil. If I don’t have foil, can I use wax paper?
— Janet from Lockeford
Dear Janet: Wax paper is fine for lining the bottom of a cake pan or a dish in which batter will completely cover the wax paper. It isn’t fine for cookie sheets and baking where the wax paper will be exposed to the heat. Wax paper has a low smoking point, so when it gets hot, it may start smoking, or even burning. Also, keep in mind that, even though it is food grade, the wax is going to transfer to your baked item when it gets hot enough to melt. Parchment paper would be a much better choice. Cookies don’t stick and the paper keeps them from over-browning on the bottom. I generally give the cookie sheet a light coating of non-stick cooking spray that will hold the paper in place. You can buy parchment paper in most grocery stores.
Dear Barbara: What is the best way to store mushrooms?
— Christy from Lodi
Dear Christy: The best way to buy and store mushrooms would be to hand pick them from the bin. Be sure the gills are tight underneath and are not separating from the stem. If you buy them in the plastic bags, take them out of the bag as soon as you get home. Mushrooms need to breathe. Lay them, unwashed, in a single layer and loosely cover them with a damp paper towel. You can then keep them in the refrigerator for about 3 days. If you can’t spare the room in the refrigerator, you can store them in a paper bag.
Dear Barbara: I know that if your pie crust is too warm, it will shrink. I made my crust, it looked beautiful. After docking and chilling for 30 minutes, I put it in the oven and guess what? It shrank. Any more suggestions?
— Amy from Lodi
Dear Amy: How frustrating that must have been for you! The only other thing that I can think of that would cause it to shrink is too much liquid. You want to add just enough to hold it together. Also be sure that all of your ingredients are cold. This includes the flour.
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 email@example.com. Please include your first name and city.