Q: Jalapeno peppers seem to vary so much in their heat that I never know what result I will get with a recipe. Any suggestions?
A: Fresh jalapeno peppers do have different heat levels, so I have come to rely on jarred pickled jalapenos for recipes, for both heat and convenience. No need to don gloves to cut and remove seeds. Just use the amount called for in the recipe (adding a little extra if you want it quite spicy). One medium jalapeno pepper equals one generous tablespoon of pickled, sliced jalapenos.
Q: How can I get the most juice from a lemon? Does it make a difference which kind I buy?
A: The best lemons will have a smooth fine-textured skin (not bumpy and porous) and will be weighty for the size. For the greatest yield of juice when squeezing a lemon, have the fruit at room temperature. (If chilled, the lemon can be warmed slightly in the microwave -- about 30 seconds).
Roll the lemon on a flat surface, pressing gently before cutting to release the juices. Then use a juicer, electric or manual. Citrus presses works very well, but they're not always easy to find.
What has happened to potatoes? For the last two years, it seems that all the potatoes I can find turn out to be green once I start to peel them. When microwaved, they become a light leaf green. Is this healthy? I lose almost the whole potato trying to peel down to the white. They are frequently rotten inside.
If this is an ongoing problem, you should change your source or at least alert the manager of your produce store.
According to my favorite guide on choosing fresh vegetables, "Shoppers' Guide to Natural Food," by the editors of the East West Journal (Avery Publishing Group Inc), "greening" is a result of chlorophyll formation, which occurs when potatoes are exposed to light. Since the green portion contains solanin, an alkaloid substance that can be toxic, it is advisable not to buy or eat potatoes containing green. Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark and dry area.
Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered ion this column.