Shelling Tips for the Macadamia Nut

Times Staff Writer

Question: I recently purchased a home that has a macadamia tree in the backyard and would appreciate it if you could let me know how to remove the shells of these nuts.

Answer: Although the California Macadamia Society does not sell nutcrackers, they do have a list to contact for current prices and availability. They also have information on preparation and home roasting of macadamia nuts. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1290, Fallbrook, Calif. 92028.

Q: What is salad oil, and what is the difference between corn and vegetable oil? I have looked on the grocery shelf and there is no such thing as salad oil. Some tell me it is olive oil, while others tell me it is vegetable oil.

A: Perhaps this explanation from "The New Doubleday Cookbook" (Doubleday: $16.95, 1985) by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna will help:

"Cooking and Salad Oils: The two are the same except that certain oils--olive, for one--taste better in salads than others and, having relatively low smoking points, are poor choices for deep-fat frying. Oils are pressed from myriad vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits. The best all-round cooking-salad oils are corn, cottonseed, peanut and soybean or blends of these. Lightest of all is the nearly colorless safflower oil, favored by the cholesterol conscious."

To answer the second portion of the question, corn oil is pressed from only corn, while vegetable oil is a blend of two or more oils.

Q: I have found a recipe for my favorite Thai soup, tom ka gai (spiced chicken and coconut milk soup). However, it calls for several unusual ingredients that I have been unable to locate. Do you know of a mail-order source for coconut milk, galangal powder, fish sauce and lemon grass? Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

A: All of the ingredients you mention are available by mail from Gourmet Treasure Hunters, 10044 Adams Ave., Suite 305, Huntington Beach, Calif. 92626.

Q: I cannot find saffron anywhere. Please inform me where this spice can be purchased, preferably in Orange County.

A: Saffron is available by mail from Gourmet Treasure Hunters, listed above. You can also find it at all Irvine Ranch Farmers Markets in Southern California.

Q: How long can I keep canned fish--tuna, salmon and sardines? When on sale, we buy by the case.

A: Unopened, canned fish and shellfish may be stored 12 months in a clean, dry, cool place. Once opened, it can be kept in the refrigerator up to two days.

Q: How can I keep brown sugar from getting hard while stored?

A: Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 11 (Fawcett Publications: 1966) suggests that storing the sugar in an airtight container in the refrigerator will keep it from hardening.

Before someone asks, here are a couple ways to soften hard, dry brown sugar. The "New Doubleday Cookbook" (Doubleday: $16.95, 1985) suggests heating it, uncovered, in a 200-degree oven until it is dry and crumbly. It can then be pulverized in an electric blender, if necessary. Cooks with microwave ovens may place the sugar and an apple slice in a microwave-safe glass measure, cover it with plastic wrap and microwave on LOW power for one to two minutes.

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