Q: People rave about fresh artichokes, but mine always seem to be bitter and woody when cooked. How do I know a good artichoke and what's the best way to cook one?
A: To choose the freshest and most tender artichokes, look for bright green leaves that are closed tightly together, not spreading.
Avoid any artichokes that feel soft or have browning around the leaves.
A relatively fast and tenderizing cooking treatment is steaming. Trim the stem and pointed spike tips with kitchen shears and remove any tough outer leaves.
Place about 1 inch of water in the bottom of a pot, one just large enough to allow the artichokes to fit snugly. Bring the water to a boil and add the trimmed artichokes, stem side down. Salt and fresh lemon slices may be added to the water for flavor. Cover and steam for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on size) or until a leaf can be easily removed.
Q: Do bagels contain fat?
A: Most varieties of bagels do not contain fat. Egg bagels do contain some fat and cholesterol. Also bagels covered with seeds contain some fat, but no cholesterol.
Q: My dry measuring cups have a slight flare around the edges. Do I measure from what appears to be the top of the cup or up to the flared edge?
A: A dry measuring cup is meant to be leveled off at the top, so you should fill it with the dry ingredient to the top edge and then level it with a straight edge.
A reader from Oregon writes that she stabilizes whipped cream by adding a mixture of 1 teaspoon of gelatin to 4 teaspoons of cold water to the cream when whipping. Works like a dream.
We'd like to hear from you. Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Or leave your questions by phone by calling Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, 836-5028 in Harford County, 848-0338 in Carroll County). Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6180 after you hear the greeting. Although personal replies are not possible, Questions of general interest will be answered in this column.