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Tips & Techniques in the kitchen for food . . . and other useful tricks

Dealing with the garlic press
Everyone knows that cleaning a garlic press can be tiresome and most chefs won't even use one because of this fact. Try pressing the cloves through your garlic press unpeeled. You will get a finer profile, but just reach in and pull out the husk and see if that doesn't change your mind about the garlic press.
(I do this all of the time - it works well).

The fastest way to bake a Potato!
Wash the potato, coat it with butter. Stick a nail into the center and bake on a sheet pan so that the potatoes do not touch each other. This should reduce cooking time by at least 20 minutes. The butter will keep the skins from cracking and add flavor.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash in the microwave
Pierce the squash with a big kitchen fork or a skewer in many places. Put the
squash on a plate and "nuke" it until it gets soft to the touch. Let rest for
10 minutes before slicing in half. Remove center and scrape out the spaghetti
from the sides of the squash.

Cleaning - Wooden cutting board
Most health inspectors will not allow wooden cutting boards in commercial
kitchens any more, but if you have one in your home and it gets mold and / or
mildew on it . . . scrub it with salt and lemon juice.

Getting Egg off of your silverware and plates
Wash them with cold water first.

Cleaning - getting the cheese off the Grater
To get the residual cheese film off of your grater, just scrape a raw potato
and a little raw onion over the soiled surface before it goes into the
dishwasher. Add a little egg to the grated potato and onion and have a potato
pancake for lunch.

Miscellaneous tips:

  • Pull to keep celery crisp, stand it up in a pitcher of cold, salted water. Then refrigerate.
  • Lettuce and celery will keep longer if stored in brown paper bags instead of cellophane.
  • Chop garlic in a small amount of salt to prevent pieces from sticking to the knife and chopping board. Then pulverize pieces with the tip of the knife.
  • Exposure to direct sunlight softens tomatoes instead of ripening them. Leave tomatoes stem side up in any spot out of direct sunlight to ripen.
  • To remove corn silk from corn on the cob, dampen a paper towel or terry cloth and brush downward on the cob. Every bit of corn silk should come off.
  • Adding a little lemon juice to beets before cooking will allow them to maintain their color.
  • To absorb excess oil from gravies, soups or other dishes, drop a few lettuce leaves in the pot. Watch the oil cling.
  • To absorb excess salt from gravies, soups or other dishes, drop a few chunks of raw potato in the pot and remove before serving.
  • To better slice hot bread, place a knife in boiling water for about 10 seconds before slicing. 
  • Bread stores best in a cool, dry place. It may be kept in the refrigerator but will get stale more quickly. It will keep in the freezer for as long as three months if tightly wrapped. Press out as much air as possible.
  • To prevent cut potatoes from turning brown, place in a bowl of cool water until ready to cook. 
  • A few drops of lemon juice in the water will whiten boiling potatoes.
  • Always remove the tops of carrots before storing. Tops drain the carrots' moisture, making them dry and limp.
  • Once an onion has been cut in half, rub the leftover side with butter and it will stay fresh longer. 
  • Thaw frozen seafood in the refrigerator or under cold running water, not at room temperature. Marinate seafood in the refrigerator.
  • Whole fresh fish should have bright clear and shiny eyes. Scales should be shiny and cling to skin. There should be a slight, sea breeze odor, not a strong, fishy odor

This section was the idea of Shirley Cline from San Fransisco. We all have useful little ideas or techniques we use which are always worth passing on but we don't because we assume everyone knows them already. The fact is we don't.

Shirley was a great inspiration when I first started working on the idea of creating a recipe and cooking web site. Not only did she encourage me but she also supplied a great many recipes and other pieces which are featured throughout the site. Her great achievement was to teach me to cook risotto over the internet!

Although I never had the chance to meet Shirley, or even talk to her, I regarded her as a good friend. It was with great sadness that I learnt that she passed away in Autumn 2004 and that there would be no more emails. I think she will be sadly missed by a lot of people like me to whom she gave such pleasure with the sharing or her recipes. The pleasure my children have had from her recipe for Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Mint - not to mention the fights for seconds - has been a joy to behold.