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Of water and the fray

(article, Kim Carlson)

In her Oregonian column this week, food editor Martha Holmberg lets readers in on a secret culinary weapon that's, well, not so secret:

bq. When Test Kitchen Director Linda Faus and I were talking about how to make a great meatloaf, I was reminded of a secret ingredient that can make a crucial difference in so many recipes. I've known about it for, well, ever, but I've just recently begun to understand how to use it to best effect. It's water.

She's not talking about boiling or steaming. She's talking about adding the wet stuff right into recipes. She even adds water to pesto. 

Although Holmberg says she had read many Italian pasta recipes that called for a little of the noodle cooking-water to be stirred into the mix, she was resistant to the idea. Her experience echoes one of my own too-frequent kitchen S.O.S.s: 

bq.I'd keep adding more grated Parmesan and more olive oil in an attempt to make things more saucy, but all I got was cheesy, oily pasta.

Now she gets it. The H20 emulsifies beautifully with oil and cheese to create a creamy-textured pasta sauce. This is a watered-down technique I can't wait to try. 

Meanwhile, over at Edible Portland's new blog, Zoë Bradbury wrestles with the realities of being a conscientious food shopper in today's complex marketplace:

bq. Tradeoffs abound. Systems are complex. Food is messy. Eggs are perplexing. Far-flung conventional pineapples leap unexpectedly into shopping carts. And one question leads to another. If you’re asking those questions — of yourself, of the grower at the farmers’ market this summer, or the person stocking eggs at the grocery store — it’s a very good sign that you’re engaged square in the middle of the complex system that feeds you — sleeves rolled up, learning, and awake. 

Amen to awareness. It's a process. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Like water in pesto, it enhances the end result.