I hate the nagging feeling that I get when I open my fridge to discover far too many random odds and ends: nubs of cheese, leftover scrambled eggs, chopped herbs, bits of sausage or ham. After all, there's nothing worse than watching food go to waste. Find out what I do to solve this problem after the jump.
I've long had a love-hate relationship with tortilla strips, those hairpin-thin bites that lend a necessary crunch to black bean soup or taco salad. I adore their crispiness, but they're not easy to find, and if I'm lucky enough to track them down, I never need a whole bag. Although I'd make tortilla strips at home, I'm reluctant to bust out a deep fryer just for a little garnish.
Thankfully, I've now got the perfect solution to my quandary. One can actually bake tortilla strips, and they arrive at the same satisfying crunchiness. I discovered this thanks to Everyday Food and an ingenious recipe for shrimp tortilla soup. The key is to crank up the oven to very high heat — 450 degrees F — toss the tortilla with a generous amount of oil, and bake just until golden brown, about five minutes.
Have you ever tried to make tortilla strips at home? What's your trick?
Grating onions, hauling out trash, squeezing out frozen spinach — when it comes to least favorite kitchen tasks, these have all been at the top of my list. A new kitchen technique I've recently learned, however, might've just changed that. Thanks to my friend, cheesecloth, I no longer dislike wringing out spinach.
I hate the idea of squeezing the moisture out of chopped spinach. How is it possible to wring out a mass of minced greens? Inevitably, everything falls apart and results in a mess. Then I was looking up spinach dip recipes online and spotted a picture of someone using cheesecloth. My life will never be the same again.
Have you ever had a lightbulb-kitchen moment like mine?
The caprese salad, with its fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, is a simple Summer dish. I must admit I thought my standard caprese recipe didn't need any improvement, but on a recent episode of Jamie Oliver at Home, Chef Oliver suggested generously salting and straining the tomatoes to improve the flavor intensity for the ultimate caprese salad. While I have often salted veggies to remove excess water, I hadn't ever thought to use the same technique on tomatoes. I was a little apprehensive about the tip but had to give it a try!
I sliced up a basket full of fresh tomatoes, placed them in my colander, and salted away. After 20 minutes, the tomatoes had lost a fair amount of water, and with that most of the salt as well. The result was just as Jamie Oliver promised: a more intense tomato flavor that wasn't overly salted. Of course, assembling a caprese with these flavorful tomatoes, burrata mozzarella and a variety of basil fresh from my garden was a piece of cake. I can't wait to use the same technique for my next batch of bruschetta — or even a simple garden salad. Don't be scared of a little extra salt to bring out even more flavor; keep reading for the recipe.
Many vegetables, like zucchini, cucumber, and eggplant, have a high water content, so to avoid my dishes turning into a diluted mess, I like to treat the vegetables by salting and draining them first.
The key is to sprinkle them with a liberal amount of kosher salt (but don't go overboard!), then wait patiently for 15 minutes for the salt to draw out the water by osmosis. Then, depending on the amount of water brought forth, either pat dry with a towel or drain using a colander.
This process, known as disgorging vegetables, works well for ratatouille crepes, zucchini-and-egg turnovers, quiche, or any other pastry dish that could turn soggy if vegetables are too moist after cooking. It also helps reduce bitterness and prevent cucumber salads from tasting overly watery. Have you ever tried disgorging vegetables?
When a slightly hungover Ming Tsai fixed himself a melon mojito at his cooking seminar in Aspen, Chef Ming also revealed a tip that he'd discovered that weekend.
"One trick I learned from [Chef] Jasper White's prep cook is to use tongs to juice lemons and limes," he revealed, placing half a lemon close to the fulcrum of his stainless steel tongs. He used the tongs to get a better and more powerful grip on the citrus before squeezing.
This tip is a great way to juice without a citrus juicer or reamer, and makes even more use out of those multipurpose kitchen tongs. What's your foolproof method of getting the most juice from citrus?
Spring cleaning may have passed, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to constantly pare down and simplify the items in your refrigerator. I'm guilty of keeping more than a few condiments, and one of my favorite ways to make use of containers that are almost gone is to make salad dressing.
Start with a nearly empty jar of any component that will work in salad dressing, such as anchovies in oil, mustard, soy sauce, olive tapenade, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes, pictured here. (Of course, don't forget to check the date on it.)
Add in the necessary components for vinaigrette (one part acid, three parts oil of any kind), along with seasonings such as salt and pepper, and anything else you've got a hankering to add. Close the top, give it a good shake — and what do you know? You've got homemade salad dressing (in this case, flecked with bits of tomatoey goodness) in its own container!
Have you ever tried this? If not, how do you use up those last jarred bits in your fridge?
Want to liven up a simple party drink? Use sanding sugars! While these specialty pantry items are a great way to add flair to a holiday cake, they're also appealing as a garnish on a glass of unexceptional bubbly.
Use red, blue, yellow, pink, or any shade of decorative sugar to add a pop of color to an otherwise beige drink. Dip the rim of the glass in a tray of shallow water, then immediately place the top of the glass, upside down, into another shallow plate of colored sugar.
When serving glasses at a large event, such as a graduation party or engagement soiree, it's nice to break up the monotony with rows of various-hued sugar rims. For even more effect, stir in raspberry puree or vibrant pomegranate arils. What's your way of livening up an ordinary glass of sparkling wine?
With 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually, I do my part to cut the losses. At home, this means utilizing every ingredient in my fridge — and, of course, never scraping the rest of my plate into the trash.
It used to be that when I cooked too much food, I'd send my friends, neighbors, and co-workers home with Tupperwares of the leftovers. But those reusable containers didn't make their way back to me, and eventually, I had nothing to pack my own lunch with! That's when I discovered another use for those pesky plastic takeout boxes that are designed to be disposable. Rinse them out with tepid water, dry them with a clean towel, and ta-da! They become a convenient way to transport goods and accomplish one more task with a single-use container. What do you do when you're faced with a surplus of food?
One of my favorite weeknight meals is roasted chicken with kale and potatoes. To prepare it, I have a simple way of removing the tough stems from Tuscan or dinosaur kale. Fold each leaf in half with the vein side out, then trim alongside the stem from top to bottom. I discovered this tip after cooking batches of kale, but I wish I'd known it when I was first starting out; then, I painstakingly traced the stem out of each leaf! What's your favorite way to prep kale?