Q: What is a bain-marie?
A: This is a French term for water bath which is used to cook foods gently by surrounding the cooking vessel with simmering water, while baking in the oven or cooking on the stove. Custards often call for cooking in a bain-marie.
Q: I have heard there is a male and female eggplant which determines the amount of seeds in the vegetable. How can I tell the difference?
A: Many authorities differ on the answer, but the most recent information I've gathered is that eggplants do not have a gender. If you want an eggplant with fewer seeds, weigh similar size eggplants; lighter ones should have fewer seeds.
Q: I've seen a recipe using ricotta as a topping for fruit. How does one make it as palatable as, say a dollop of whipped cream? And what kind of sugar should I add?
A: Ricotta can have many sweet as well as savory uses and topping fruit (or mixing with it) is delicious. Confectioners' sugar is the easiest to use. Start with 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup ricotta. You might try adding 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. For a more exotic topping, dissolve 3 tablespoons brown sugar in 2 tablespoons of a liqueur such as Amaretto, Gran Marnier or Kahlua and mixing that with 1 cup ricotta. Try part-skim ricotta or the non-fat variety.
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