Asparagus: Trimming asparagus

When you are prepping asparagus, instead of cutting off the ends, break them with your hands. The asparagus will break in the correct place.

Avocado: Avocados turning brown

Avocados (and many other fruits) turn brown when exposed to air due to the action of an enzyme. To inhibit the browning, you must either minimize the exposure to air or slow the action of the enzyme. To do the former, cover the avocado with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic tightly against the surface of the avocado, or spray the avocado lightly with oil or cooking spray. Citrus affects the enzyme responsible for browning, which is why most guacamole recipes include lime juice, so rubbing extra avocado with lemon or lime juice will also work. Apparently, keeping the pit in guacamole only works because it keeps air away from the part of the guacamole touching the pit, and only keeps that part of it from browning.

Bananas: Ripening bananas

Bananas release a gas called ethylene as they ripen, which is why putting a banana in a paper bag will help an under-ripe pear (or any fruit) to ripen. For the same reason, if your other fruit is already ripe, store your bananas separately.

Basil: Chopping basil

To slice or mince basil easily, make a pile of all of the basil leaves, with the largest leaves on the bottom. Roll up the leaves to form a cigarette shape. Slice the basil in 1/8 inch slices, which will give you a chiffonade. If you want the basil minced, simply cut the slices crosswise.

Basil    Basil    Basil    Basil    

Broiler pan: What is it?

Broiler pan
A broiler pan is the blue or black pan that comes with your oven. It has a top piece, which is slotted, and a bottom piece, to catch anything that falls through. If you had no idea what it was and threw it away, or you live in an apartment and the prior tenant left it so disgusting that you don't want to use it (which has happened to me), you can always buy a new one. And the new ones aren't always that blue or black spotted variety!

You can use this pan when you are broiling something (for example, our bacon-wrapped sea scallops) or anytime you are cooking something in the oven that will produce juices or fat when cooked, like steak or burgers.

It is a good time saving tip to line the bottom of the broiler pan with tin foil to catch the liquids and reduce cleaning time.

Butter: Salted or Unsalted?

We always cook with unsalted butter. Salted butter is usually less fresh than unsalted, and the salt can be used to mask inferior flavors. Also, manufacturers add different amounts of salt to their butter, so it is difficult to control the amount of salt in your recipe. In a pinch, you can use salted butter in a savory recipe, but we would not recommend using it for baking.

Cucumber: De-seeding a cucumber

To de-seed a cucumber, cut the cucumber in half, the long way, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

fresh breadcrumbs: Making fresh bread crumbs

Fresh breadcrumbs are a cinch to make, and are incomparably better than the dried, canned breadcrumbs. Simply tear the appropriate amount of bread into pieces, put in a food processor, and process until you have the proper size breadcrumbs. You can either cut off the crusts before processing or not—most recipes will specify if you should remove the crusts, and if the crust is especially crisp, it may not process well. One slice of regular sandwich bread will make about 1 cup of breadcrumbs.

If your recipe calls for dried breadcrumbs, simply put the fresh breadcrumbs in a 300° oven for 15-30 minutes until they are dried out.

Hardboiled Eggs: Yellow hardboiled eggs

Hardboiled Eggs
To cook hardboiled eggs with no green ring around the yolk (which occurs when the egg is cooked for too long or at too high a temperature), place the eggs in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer and cover them with cold water by an inch. Bring to a boil, and as soon as the water boils, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs sit in the covered pan for about 15 minutes, then peel. (Thanks, Jane!)

Marcella spends several months a year in the Colorado Rockies at about 7500 feet. Because water boils at a lower temperature at altitude, you must keep the egg in the hot water for a longer period of time. At 7500 feet, add about half again as much time, so keep the egg in the water for between 20-25 minutes. You will have to experiment at different altitudes.

Fresher eggs are harder to peel, so try to use older eggs when hard-boiling.

Olive Oil: Choosing an Olive Oil

If a recipe calls for olive oil, you may substitute extra virgin olive oil; but if it calls for extra virgin olive oil, we do not suggest substituting any other type of olive oil.

Parboil: to partially boil...sort of

Parboil means to partially cook something by boiling it. Easy enough, right? Sometimes recipes (like this one) will call for you to boil something until it is partially cooked. Then you can finish the cooking using another method, such as baking or stir-frying. Potatoes and brussel sprouts are often parboiled in recipes.

Pears: Ripening pears

To ripen a pear, put it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. You can also simply put the pear in a bowl with either fruit.

Salt: Kosher v. table salt

We always use kosher salt in our cooking because its crystals dissolve better in water than ordinary table salt. However, kosher and table salt are not equivalent when you are measuring amounts for a recipe. To further confuse matters, different types of kosher salt measure differently. If a recipe calls for table salt (or just salt), and the amounts are relatively small (e.g., one teaspoon), we simply use the amount called for in the recipe. You can always add a bit more salt to taste. If however, the recipe calls for larger amounts of salt, as would be the case, for example, in a brine, then you should convert the amount called for. Most sources cite 2 types of kosher salt as being widely available: Morton (which is what we use) and Diamond Crystal (which none of us have ever been able to find.) In any case, to convert the amount of table salt to Morton Kosher Salt, multiply the table salt by 1.5; to convert to Diamond Crystal, multiply by 2.

Just another example of why algebra really is im

scald: How to scald milk

To scald milk, simply heat it over medium heat, stirring, until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Always use a heavy bottomed pan to scald milk. Scalding used to be necessary to destroy harmful bacteria and enzymes in milk. That is no longer necessary, but scalding is still used in some recipes to bring out the flavor of certain ingredients like vanilla bean, citrus, and cinnamon, and to melt butter.

Tomatoes: Storing tomatoes

Never store a tomato in the refrigerator. If you slice a tomato and don't use all of it, place the tomato upside down on a plate. Store the plate on the counter for up to 1 day.

Tomatoes: Peeling a tomato

To peel a tomato, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut an "X" in the bottom of the tomato, and place it in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. If the tomato is not really ripe, it may take longer-- watch for the skin around the X to start to come loose. Place the tomato in a bowl of ice water, leave for about a minute, then remove. The skin should peel right off. If you only have a few tomatoes to peel, it's probably easier to simply use a vegetable peeler.

Tomatoes: De-seeding a tomato

To de-seed a tomato, cut it in half crosswise (lengthwise if you are using a plum tomato.) Holding the tomato over the sink or the garbage, scoop out the seeds in each of the cavities with your little finger.