Invest in quality kitchen equipment, and other kitchen queries answered

Well-made kitchen equipment will last for a lifetime or more, so consider investing in quality ones. PHOTO: ST FILE

(WASHINGTON POST) - The Washington Post Food staff answer questions about cooking and all things edible.

Do you expect to have to replace things such as pots and pans or knives and forks? Every five, 10 or 20 years? Do more expensive ones last longer?
Results certainly vary, but I am still using Le Creuset pans that were purchased in 1978. I have carbon steel knives found in France in the 1980s. My cast-iron pans are decades-old, most of them salvaged from junk shops and reconditioned. Well-made, often expensive (but not always), kitchen equipment will last for a lifetime or more. As for knives and forks, I use a flatware set that was my family's when I was growing up. It's well made and sturdy and feels great - and familiar - in my hand.

I would like to try to "grill" a head of romaine at home, except I don't have a grill or a cast-iron pan. Any suggestions for a work-around?
First things first: You really should get a cast-iron pan. It is very versatile and durable. But any pan that you can get smoking hot can work to sear romaine and approximate what happens on a grill (minus the actual smoke, of course). Another possibility is your broiler, especially if you've got an open-flame one.

I bought some corn at the supermarket and it was very good. So I started thinking about cooking it. My dad always said: "Bring the water to a boil, drop in the ears and set the timer for five minutes." But my sister-in-law puts the ears in cold water, brings it to a boil and then cooks the life out of it. Do you have a special technique for corn?
Microwave that corn, still in the husk. Place the corn in the microwave and cook on high for four minutes for two ears, eight minutes for four. Hold onto the hot corn with a kitchen towel, grasping it at the top of the ear and, with a sharp chef's knife, cut off the bottom 0.5cm, right through the cob. Then grab hold of the silk and husk at the top and tug the ear out. The ear will emerge perfectly cooked and without any silk.

We bought a large tub of coleslaw yesterday and accidentally left it on the table overnight after setting it out for dinner. It was unrefrigerated for about 16 hours. Would the dressing make us sick if we ate it? Can we make it safe to eat? The ingredients include mayonnaise made with egg yolks.
Toss it. The general rule is that a prepared food should not spend more than four hours in the "danger zone" - between 4 deg C and 60 deg C.

I have been enjoying wines from the Southern Hemisphere lately. My go-to bottles have been from the Cape Town, South Africa, area and Marlborough, New Zealand. Could you recommend something outside of the sauvignon blancs I have been drinking? I prefer white wines as I am sensitive to the tannins usually present in reds. And about tannin: Is it the result of a wine being "oaked"?
Tannin comes from the grape skins, stems and seeds. One reason people do not usually perceive tannin in white wines is that they are typically de-stemmed before pressing and then taken off the skins very quickly. If you try an "orange" or "amber" wine (often from the country of Georgia), these are white wines made with prolonged skin contact. You will feel the tannins. Tannins also do come from oak barrels, especially new ones.

As for other whites to try: Look for Rieslings from New Zealand and Australia. Argentina is making some of the world's best chardonnay right now, but is also known for torrontes, a lighter, flowery white wine.

From South Africa, look for chenin blanc, sometimes called steen. Ken Forrester makes a nice one called P'tit Chenin and you cannot go wrong with wines from A.A. Badenhorst, especially the Secateurs Chenin, which retails at about US$20 (S$27).

Are red onions different from yellow onions, besides the colour? Are red onions the same as Bermuda onions?
Red onions are milder in flavour, yellow onions are sweeter. Bermuda onions are not red - they are sweet onions, flat-topped, and can be either white or yellow.

You can soak onions in a little water for a half hour or so to take out some of the bite. Or pickle them, which is amazing.

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