What sex is your eggplant?
The male eggplant typically has a reasonably smooth bottom. Females usually have narrow bottoms that are deeply indented. Which tastes better? Well, the male fruit have fewer bitter seeds. You decide. (07/11)
Hot peppers to slice? No gloves?
No worries. Slather vegetable oil on your hands and get chopping! The oil offers protection from the heat for at least 3-4 peppers (then reapply). Now, go buy some disposable gloves! Oil’s for cooking! (08/11)
You might as well plant that avocado pit
Though it might make your guacamole look more homestyle, placing a pit in the dip <i>won’t</i> keep it from browning. Instead, sprinkle a little more lime or lemon juice on the surface. Making it for later? Sprinkle with the juice, press plastic wrap against the surface, seal, and refrigerate. (09/11)
Spices not so spicy anymore?
Whole peppercorns, allspice and everything in between sit in the cupboard for months on end and lose their pungency. It happens. But there’s an easy fix. Place them in a 350F oven for a few minutes. When you start catching the aroma, it’s time to pull them out and use them. (11/11)
Eliminate garlicky fingers
Ever noticed that you can’t buy garlic-scented soap, lotion or perfume? Unless you expect to fight off vampires with your bare hands in the coming days, you probably don’t care for sulfurous fingertips, a common side effect of peeling fresh garlic. Try this trick to remove the cloves from their papery covering: Place individual garlic cloves in a medium metal saucepan, then put on the lid. Holding the lid in place, shake vigorously for about 30-45 seconds. Viola! Your cloves are now paper-free. (03/12)
Wars have been fought over it; it’s been used as currency; and it makes our eggs taste better. But salt also toughens bean skins, and breaks down egg whites when added at the beginning of cooking. Sodium chloride also pulls moisture from raw vegetables, which is great for eggplant, but not so good for mushrooms. Salt soups and stews near the end of cooking as well. Why? Because they reduce as they cook, enhancing any salt that might already be in there. Added too much salt? There might be a fix. Add additional liquid, or peel and quarter a potato, add a chunk or two and simmer with the soup. Discard the salty potato. (7/12)
When you are looking for a rich brown crust on meat or seafood, steam is the enemy. Here are a few tips on achieving what you see on all of those magazine covers.
- Blot the surface of meat, shrimp or scallops with a dry paper towel before placing into a hot oiled pan.
- For fish, let it rest — skin side down — on a paper towel, then sear the skin side first.
- Sprinkle just a small pinch of sugar onto the meat that is to be seared (this works great for scallops). In most cases, it won’t affect the end flavor result, but nothing caramelizes more quickly than sugar itself.
- Looking for a beautiful brown-crusted burger? Cook it in cast iron on medium-high heat.
- Whatever you’re cooking, don’t crowd the pan! (12/12)
Waste not, want not
Stop! Don’t toss those raw shrimp shells, or the scraps from the rotisserie chicken. Leave be those beef and pork bones and know that there’s still plenty of life in that rancid garlic bulb.
Delicious homemade shrimp stock
Heat a TB of oil, toss in a clove of minced garlic and a thumbnail-sized chunk of ginger – and shells from 1 lb. of shrimp. When they turn pink, add a quart of water and simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain. (May be frozen.)
Easy homemade chicken stock
Put the carcass in a large saucepan. Add any herbs or vegetables that you typically would. Bring to boil then simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain. (May be frozen.)
Beef and pork bones are the beginning of another excellent stock, or a demi-glace. Just keep them in a large freezer bag or container. Add bones as you go.
Plant that garlic bulb in a pot or, better yet, in your herb bed. It’ll grow and multiply. As for the other vegetable scraps, toss them in the garden to improve the soil. And, for goodness sakes, gardens love coffee grounds (and paper filters) — but insects don’t! (6/13)
Oh, that smell!
Want to keep garlic odor from your knife and cutting board? Place the cloves in a plastic bag before smashing them with the back of the knife.
Steak myth debunked
Top-notch steakhouses don’t bring steaks to room temperature before cooking. Why should we? In fact, a refrigerated steak placed on a hot grill will reach ‘room’ temp in a matter of seconds — without the added risk.
It’s summer and the grills are working overtime. Just remember to let meat rest for a few minutes before you slice into it. Why? To keep the juices from running.
Growing your own basil? Or, buying it fresh from a farmers’ market? Place those stems in a vase of water on your counter top. It’ll stay fresher that way.
Easy drip irrigation
Instead of emptying that cooler or frosty container of dirty ice onto the driveway or into the sink, toss it on the surface of your favorite plants. It’ll melt slowly in the summer sun and water your plants in the process. That cooler water will also briefly lower the soil temperature. And, that’s a good thing.