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Are you making a specialty food? Share your adventure

let's share a cooking "trick"

kleinfortlee May 17, 2007 07:44 PM

we all have many cooking tricks

here's one of mine:

for adding a deep, smoky taste to soups/stews/chilis etc. put in one teabag of twining's lapsang souchong tea (available in most supermarkets) while the dish cooks...don't forget to fish it out!

what's one of your tricks?

  1. c
    Cheesy Oysters Mar 10, 2008 04:19 PM

    When I make hot chocolate, I add a pinch of salt. The salt adds a nice flavor. My kids think this is a hoot too but they like the taste. I got this one from my mom.

    1. j
      Jimbosox04 Mar 10, 2008 12:31 PM

      When using citrus in a recipe, microwave it for about 10 seconds to get the maximum amount of juice out of the fruit. works great !!

      1. linguafood Mar 9, 2008 11:27 AM

        Maggi seasoning -- add a dash to Asian marinades/sauces, in particular for beef. It gives it a 'je ne sais quoi' of depth, umami and overall savoriness. Learned this from a Chinese-American who also told me this stuff sells like crazy all over Asia. Which is particularly funny, because growing up in Germany in the 70s, that stuff was on every table in every German restaurant, and it was considered to be the most vile and lowly condiment ever -- at least by my family. Brimming with sodium, for sure, but it works damn well with red meat. A couple drops to season your burger? Yowza.

        2 Replies
        1. re: linguafood
          yamalam Mar 10, 2008 12:14 PM

          I love it too - even after I heard it was pure MSG. It's expensive in the US though, so I stopped using it.

          I picked up my trick here a couple months ago - keep a dish of white vinegar next to the stovetop, it helps absorb odors when frying and keeps me from crying when i dice onions.

          1. re: linguafood
            MrsCris Mar 10, 2008 03:21 PM

            I first had Maggi seasoning at a very lovely 'french' restaurant in Cancun where they made Caesar salad at the table. A dash went into the dressing, and now it always goes in mine too. I also use it for lots of other salad dressings, gravies, and sauces. And on scrambled eggs.
            (As for MSG, it depends on where you buy it. Mine is made in Italy and does not contain MSG. I have also bought Maggi made in Mexico and it tastes different.)

          2. fruglescot Mar 8, 2008 09:31 PM

            My trick is to add a little cold coffee to thin gravies for flavour and colour

            Very unique idea for a thread. Thanks

            1. d
              divamon Oct 10, 2007 07:13 AM

              Two tips - when making pie crust, freeze your butter or shortening and then coarsely grate it into your flour. It incorporates much more easily so that you don't overwork the pie crust. The second is when making fried eggs "easy over", just after the whites solidify, add about a quarter cup of water to the pan and cover it. It mkes it look like you've flipped the eggs but there is no chance of the yolk breaking - works like a dream!

              2 Replies
              1. re: divamon
                BobB Oct 10, 2007 08:57 AM

                That frozen grated butter trick works great when making scones too (I learned it from a professional baker friend).

                1. re: divamon
                  Morganna Oct 10, 2007 09:08 AM

                  This isn't "over easy" it's called "steamed".

                  When you're trying to flip a fried egg, it helps if you spray a little nonstick spray on your spatula. Also, make sure your pan is medium heat, or a bit more, so the white fries up quickly. Don't try to flip it until you have a nice solid ring of white around it. Then make sure you slide the spatula under the entire yolk so it is supported, and roll it over gently, don't flop it. For "easy" it takes less than a minute after flipping to harden the white without cooking the yolk to "medium".

                2. MaineRed Jul 23, 2007 07:38 PM

                  I substitute 1/2 or more of the ricotta in a lasagna/stuffed recipe with tofu :) no one, not the Italians in Boston or the Italians in Philly, can tell the difference and it's delicious...I also had great luck working with strained yogurt to make a healthier tiramisu instead of using all that marscapone ;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MaineRed
                    MSK Aug 9, 2007 09:53 AM

                    I have a great recipe for Quiche that subsitutes 1/2 of the eggs with tofu that's been blended or put in the cuisinart until smooth and creamy.

                    Cut's the fat way back and no is the wiser! Yummy!

                  2. toodie jane Jul 23, 2007 05:27 PM

                    hope this isn't already in this thread--I was going blind down near the bottom--

                    when whisking whole eggs either by themselves or into other ingredients that are then blended (like meatloaf), I "poke" the yolks with a fork first and they blend super-fast.

                    I keep a decorative plate stacker (gals, you know what I mean) on the counter near the stove. Fill it with two sizes of plain white Corelle glass plates and bowls for use in the microwave. Always have something handy to heat or melt in. One bowl or plate cupped over another is a good lid for steaming or for preventing splatters of gooey stuff.

                    Corelle is pyrex-type glass by Corningware and is almost bulletproof. No chips or breaks. Ever. Cheap at the outlet stores too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: toodie jane
                      Val Mar 9, 2008 07:44 AM

                      Corelle explodes like a splinter bomb if you drop a plate on tile floor...oh....my...goodness; you'll be finding tiny sharp tiny shards for years and years all throughout the kitchen. I used to love it but not after the bomb discovery!

                    2. b
                      barryc Jun 6, 2007 02:11 PM

                      to remove fat off the top of a cooking liquid. use a cold cabbage leaf - the fat hardens & sticks to the leaf.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: barryc
                        kleinfortlee Jun 6, 2007 08:45 PM

                        i've been known to use paper towels to suck up grease...the quicker picker upper!

                        as the OP, i'd like to thank everyone for your creative and priceless secrets...keep them coming!


                      2. m
                        Marsha Jun 5, 2007 10:02 AM

                        Just recently ordered a compost bin from my garbage/yard waste/recycling people. I put it directly under the window over my sink (yes, outside the house) and now instead of collecting bits of vegetable matter to dispose of later, I just throw everything out the window directly into the bin. You know your life needs excitement when you find that thrilling, as I do every time I just toss my orange peel out the window!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Marsha
                          Romanmk Jun 5, 2007 10:39 AM

                          Marsha knows how to live dangerously! Now I wish I had a window over my sink. It would definitely be exciting since my kitchen is on the second floor.

                          1. re: Marsha
                            Sam Fujisaka Jun 5, 2007 07:43 PM

                            Marsha, love it, absolutely love it.

                            Romanmk, we're on the first floor, but above two floors of garages (actually split level, so looking out the front balcony down to the street and towards the city view is five stories). The window above my sink is above the small downramp to the lowest level garage. Believe me, I've been tempted...

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                              parkco Jun 6, 2007 08:45 AM

                              Actually, NatureMill makes a *fantastic* indoor composter.... I swear by mine, and I've only owned it for three months now. Completely sealed, fully automatic. Runs between 4 and 500, depending on where you get it from. With the money I've saved on all that high-end all-natural fertilizer for the greenhouse, it'll pay for itself in just a few more months.

                          2. JSchwo7 Jun 4, 2007 08:55 PM

                            I use smoked sea salt to add smokey flavor to anything and I use goats milk yoghurt instead of sour cream. I'm lactose intolerant and I also love the tangy flavor.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JSchwo7
                              diva360 Jun 5, 2007 06:51 AM

                              The next time you put out a cheese spread, try goat cheese with honey and mint. It is deliscious.

                              Add a pat of butter to tomato sauce at the end of simmering to round out the flavors.

                              If you're using a slow cooker to braise meat, always take the time to brown it first on the stove top, no matter what the recipe says.

                            2. sbp Jun 4, 2007 05:26 PM

                              Cut up fresh ginger in small chunks and freeze. When you need ginger, pull out a chunk, microwave for 15 seconds or so. All the cell membranes burst, and you can squeeze ginger juice out like it was a lemon.

                              Also, substitute flavored hummus for mayo in tuna salad. Tasty and incredibly healthy.

                              1. pilotgirl210 Jun 4, 2007 05:26 PM

                                Being the original clean freak, many of my tips deal with keeping the kitchen clean as I cook. To get rid of hot bacon grease, I make a *boat* of double-folded aluminum foil lined with a paper towel. Pour in the hot grease, wad the whole thing up and toss into the garbage pail. Yes, yes......I know. Many of you save your grease. And God bless you for doing so. But being the clean freak I am, I envision all those little cooties growing in the grease.....oh, never mind.

                                Long before Rachael made it popular, I have always used a plastic veggie sack or a bowl or whatever for my trimmings and other items bound for the trash. Sure saves a lot of running back and forth across the kitchen to the trash can.

                                I always measure Crisco, butter or other fats this way: If I need a half a cup of Crisco, I fill a liquid measuring cup with water to the 1/2 cup level and then add the Crisco until the water line moves to the 1-cup mark. Much easier to clean than trying to melt the Crisco out of a metal dry measuring cup. And I always leave so much of it behind when doing it that way.

                                When I make pesto, I freeze it in an ice cube tray that has been sprayed with a vegetable spray. When frozen, I remove the cubes to a resealable bag. It's so easy to pull a cube or two out of the freezer to make pasta dishes or to flavor soups.

                                To keep knives sharp, always scrape ingredients off your cutting board with the back side of your knife, not the blade.

                                I know I'll think of many more tonight but it's been a long, typical Monday and I haven't left work yet today so....ciao.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: pilotgirl210
                                  JSchwo7 Jun 4, 2007 09:02 PM

                                  I request paper bags and put the bag near my feet so I can dispose as I go.

                                  1. re: pilotgirl210
                                    PhoebeB Jun 5, 2007 04:31 AM

                                    I appreciate the hint re: scraping things off cutting boards w/the back of the knife. I'll try to remember that.

                                    But I'm close to tears thinking about all those wasted bacon drippings. If you cook lots of bacon you won't need to save it all, but please don't throw it all away. Let the skillet cool down a bit, pour the drippings in a reserved wide-mouth jar and always keep a cup or so in the fridg. It stays fresh and flavorful indefinitely.

                                    Bacon drippings are liquid gold for making cornbread (put a couple of TBS in an iron skillet and heat to sizzling before you pour in the batter; gives that crispy little brown ruffle around the edge), for cooking fresh or frozen green beans, for making canned dried beans taste like uncanned (saute a little chopped onion or scallion in a dollop of bacon grease, add the canned beans), for fried apples (half & half with butter), for wilted salad, for sauteeing fish--especially salmon! Etc. Etc. Etc.

                                    During WWII my mother strained and saved every drop of any kind of meat grease in old coffee cans w/lids, and periodically took it to a woman who lived on a little farm on the outskirts of Dallas and used it to make lye soap.

                                    We were one of several families who saved their meat grease for her. (Meat was rationed, which made the grease rather precious.)

                                    When she had enough for a batch, she'd make that beautiful yellow soap in a huge iron kettle over an open fire in her back yard, pour it into big flat pans, cool and cut it into 4" squares, and give each family a bagful. Mama used it--shaved it with a veg. peeler--for laundry.

                                    1. re: PhoebeB
                                      pilotgirl210 Jun 6, 2007 08:36 AM

                                      On your recommendation, I will use a couple of antique grease cans that I've managed to come by somewhere along the way.......you know the kind. The lid fits over a strainer which fits over the can and says *GREASE* on the side....tee hee. Hard to miss. My mom always used one can that I have but she never refrigerated it and after a while it just smelled horrible! Maybe that's where I get my aversion to using it. But I will give it a go just for you, PhoebeB.

                                      1. re: pilotgirl210
                                        PhoebeB Jun 6, 2007 10:38 AM

                                        You'll put me in your will when you taste a salmon steak sauteed in good smoked bacon drippings. And always add a spoonful of drippings to the oil/butter you saute aromatics in.

                                        I could never figure out how people thought they could keep good drippings in a can on the stove and have it not spoil. Maybe there was a time when they used so much of it so frequently that it didn't have time to go rancid. Otherwise I can't follow the thought process behind not refrigerating it.

                                        I'm choosy about which drippings I refrigerate. If the bacon isn't flavorful I pour it--and other meat drippings I don't want to keep-- into one of those"Grease" cans like yours I keep on the stove for discard.

                                        So you're all set with TWO grease containers.

                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                          pilotgirl210 Jun 6, 2007 11:36 AM

                                          I keep one at home and one in my RV. My family has had a cabin on the Oregon Coast since 1949 and Grandpa long ago converted an old box refrigerator into a smoker so I grew up with smoked salmon coming out of every pocket during the summer months. To this day, I hate salmon......tee hee. Maybe like lobster in Maine? Although I don't think I could EVER tire of lobster :--)

                                    2. re: pilotgirl210
                                      Louise Jun 6, 2007 08:37 AM

                                      Thank you thank you thank you for your comment about knives. I thought I was OCD or something, but it drives me straight up the wall in a cooking class when I see people drag the edge of a nice sharp knife sideways over a cutting board. I just want to shout "No! No! Not like that!"

                                      And why, if someone is going to dice a shallot or onion, do they start by cutting off the root end? It's frustrating manually trying to hold it together. Leave the root end on, and cut all the way up to it. Much easier.

                                      I've seen a book of these basic vegetable peeling and cutting 'trucs' and it was magic.

                                      Throwing veg peelings out the window--priceless. "Hey kids, watch this!" Mine are screened, unfortunately.

                                    3. s
                                      sebastianxx Jun 1, 2007 06:52 AM

                                      Lapsang Souchong tea is smoked with pine needles, I believe, which imparts that wonderful flavor. Brewed as a tea, it is fantastic sweetened with maple honey.

                                      A great appetizer is to crush the tea with equal parts sea salt and sprinkle over steamed edamame.

                                      1. OldDog Jun 1, 2007 01:36 AM

                                        Instant Salsa...

                                        1 16-ish ounce can tomatoes with chiles (Rotel, store brands work just as well)
                                        1 4 ounce can chopped green chiles

                                        Mix and add anything you want (cumino, cilantro, garlic, salt, whatever...)

                                        1. foxy fairy May 31, 2007 02:03 PM

                                          This thread is such a treat! Two tricks for nuts -

                                          1. When toasting nuts, sprinkle on a good spoonful of high-quality tamari to bring a great tang and almost a sweetness to the nuts. This is an excellent salad topping and that extra zing makes everyone say hmmmmm. Great trick!

                                          2. For summer fruit crisps and crumbles - some finely chopped pistachio in the topping is really delicious and special. The saltiness really complements the fruit, setting off the flavors in a really different way from the classic oat/sugar based crumbly topping (I do love those too though :)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: foxy fairy
                                            oakjoan May 31, 2007 03:29 PM

                                            I totally agree about the pistachios in crumble toppings. Hazelnuts are also great.

                                          2. s
                                            spiffy_dude May 26, 2007 08:35 AM

                                            Sorry if everyone already knows this one... before chopping anything that's round (potatoes, melons, etc.), slice a bit off the bottom to give it a flat surface. This way it won't keep rolling around.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: spiffy_dude
                                              SweetPhyl May 26, 2007 11:44 AM

                                              I spray my leftover containers with cooking spray before putting my leftovers in them--it keeps them from discoloring the containers and helps keep the leftovers from absorbing the container's aromas.

                                              If I must seperate lots of eggs, for a mousse or whatnot, I use my hands instead of tossing between the shells. I dump the whole egg in my hand and let the white drip through my fingers. Much faster than the traditional method and helps with egg shell control as well.

                                              A pinch of salt in your coffee pot just after brewing adds a great flavor.

                                              For baking potatoes, I cover with shortening and LIBERALLY cover it with kosher salt prior to baking. It makes the skins crispy and we all know how potatoes love salt. The skin is delicious!

                                              1. re: SweetPhyl
                                                PhoebeB Jun 6, 2007 03:00 PM

                                                SPEAKING OF KOSHER SALT!!! Does anyone else have this problem or is it just Maine? The only grocery that carries Morton's Kosher Salt is Walmart, and when I want it it's usually sold out.

                                                The only kind the other stores in my area--Hannaford, Shaw's, IGA--carry is Diamond Kosher, and I HATE it--threw the whole big box of it away the one and only time I made the mistake of buying it. It has no anti-caking agent (prussiate of soda?) in it, and in the seacoast humidity (and I should think ANYWHERE it's close to a kitchen stove where one is always simmering/reducing/boiling something) it turns into a moist clump in the little open wood salt bowl and I end up with big uneven blobs when I try to sprinkle it on the food. (Most of it stays stuck to my fingers.)

                                                I'm sure Diamond is pure & natural as the driven snow and is probably perfect for the Gobi Desert and goldfish bowls, but how on earth does anyone use the stuff for cooking in normal kitchen humidity, and why would anyone prefer it to one like Morton's with anti-caking?

                                                1. re: PhoebeB
                                                  Mila Oct 10, 2007 12:22 PM

                                                  Yes, speaking of Kosher salt here is warning for Canadians. Windsor Salt has a new Kosher salt but the problem is that is twice as salty as Diamond Kosher. Sadly we don't get Morton's in Canada.

                                                  Be warned, I ruined a whole dinner.

                                                  And while I'm here, my salt tip...
                                                  Use Maldon salt as a finishing salt, especially amazing tossed in salads.

                                              2. re: spiffy_dude
                                                erly May 26, 2007 11:56 AM

                                                what a great topic.
                                                Many here have mentioned a pinch of sugar.
                                                Many years ago, when I learned to cook, a Chef taught me to substitute sugar for MSG in Chinese food, and as mentioned above a pinch of sugar in veggies when boiling.
                                                I even put a teaspoon in my chicken when making stock.
                                                Also a pinch of baking soda (really) not more in green veggies if you need to cook them ahead, as this will keep them bright green.
                                                If you use too much it will make them mushy.
                                                When I boil eggs, I immediately immerse them in ice water to keep the yolks yellow. and avoid the grey ring.
                                                I always keep whipping cream handy, as a tbls. goes a long way.
                                                I add them as the last ingredient in pasta sauces and risotto's especially.

                                              3. n
                                                nosey May 25, 2007 05:20 PM

                                                Hope this is not a repeat. To get the most juice out of a lemon or lime, I pop it in the microwave and then cut it. I don't let it get too hot.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: nosey
                                                  pamd May 26, 2007 05:55 AM

                                                  rolling it on the counter surface works too.
                                                  Also, if making things like lemon bars, to keep them moist, place torn bread slices over the bars (3slices/dozen) in an air tight container- the bread soakes up the air keeping them moist.

                                                  to remove pomegranate seeds, cut in half and scoop inside into a bowl of cold water- the seeds sink, while the rest floats to remove.

                                                  add 1 part ginger ale to 3 parts water when cooking carrots for dishes, preserves color & adds a touch of sweetness

                                                  If you get heat from chili peppers in your eyes, rub hair on your eyes & disappears. Also oil keeps the heat from soaking into your skin while working with them

                                                  not sure if this was mentioned - a little oil in a measuring cup prevents things (like honey/syrup/pb) from sticking

                                                  1. re: pamd
                                                    wawajb Jun 6, 2007 09:13 AM

                                                    Not sure where I read it...but somebody did a quasi-scientific study on all the methods of getting juice out of a lemon and the final result was that microwaving briefly AND rolling on the counter actually produced much more juce than either of those two alone. (and IIFC, squeezing the lemon around a fork worked just as well if not better than an electric juicer.)

                                                    1. re: wawajb
                                                      nosey Jun 6, 2007 07:02 PM

                                                      Sorry, I automatically roll the lemon with the microwaving. Just havit and wasn't thinking of it as a separate step. You are right!

                                                2. i
                                                  itryalot May 25, 2007 04:51 PM

                                                  For newbies, these are simple ones I love:
                                                  1. Rub garlicky "scented" hands on stainless steel when washing hands to remove garlic smell.
                                                  2. To roast portatoes and have a fluffy inside and crispy outside. Parboil potatoes in salted water while you have some fat heating in a high oven (if you are doing Prime Rib, pork or other fatty cut of meat, the fat from the meat makes the potatoes more flavourful. Otherwise use veg shortening). Then drain potatoes in a big colander and rigourously shake them to fluff up the outside; if you boil then too long they will fall apart though. Make sure your colander has bigger round holes. If your skin is not too roughed, take the prongs of a fork and lightly scrape the outside of potatoes. When fat is hot put super dry and fluffed potatoes and roast on high so outsides are crunchy and insides are just right. I eye ball it and test since I usually use yukon golds and it depends on size, etc.
                                                  3. I concur about the mashed potatoes with garlic boiling. I also mash the garlic right in and add parmesan and butter.
                                                  4. For creamy bolognese or polenta or risotto, add a dab of butter at the end for sheen and creaminess.
                                                  5. To make gnocchi or pici dough more manageable refrigerate before forming.
                                                  6. Wine tip I never forget: 15 minute rule: white comes out of fridge 15 min before serving and red goes in 15 min before serving.
                                                  7. When sifting flour and other dry ingredients to add to KA stand mixer, do so on wax or parchment, and just fold and drop into mixer.
                                                  8. In summer, make basil oil (heavy on basil) mini ice cubes and drop in arrabbiata and fresh tomato sauces in the winter; smells like summer.
                                                  I know many know these, but I love simple ideas and many of us hounders are not chefs, we are people who love food and love cooking.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: itryalot
                                                    Romanmk May 25, 2007 09:53 PM

                                                    It's a good idea to let wine breathe in the glass for 10 minutes before drinking it. Pouring wine oxygenates it enhancing flavor. Just removing the cork doesn't do much.

                                                    1. re: Romanmk
                                                      starlady May 25, 2007 10:09 PM

                                                      It's alllllll about surface area when breathing wine. that's why my fave decanters are round and flattish giving the wine the most surface area to breathe.

                                                      I sometiimes even decant whites to let them breathe, usually with aged whites, ie good older rieslings that can stand up to a bit of air.

                                                    2. re: itryalot
                                                      jinet12 May 31, 2007 05:37 PM

                                                      Our favorite Greek restaurants has potatoes to die for...When asked how they cook them, they always parboil them first, THEN fry them in hot fat...The oven method would produce the same results, I'm sure...Thanks for the tip!

                                                    3. Adeana May 25, 2007 02:45 PM

                                                      Pork Chop Trick-
                                                      For juicy pork chops start the meat in a cold pan rather than hot... turn heat to medium. After cooking each side for a few minutes cover and finish cooking over low heat. To get a pretty color use a little sugar along with salt and pepper to season.
                                                      From Cooks Illustrated

                                                      1. a
                                                        amyvc May 24, 2007 06:38 PM

                                                        Love this thread! How to cook corn on the cob in it's husk. Throw it in the micro in the husk (3-4 min for 1 ear, 5-6 min for 2 ears). Take it out (it's hot!) and wrap it in a dish towel for 5 min. Peel it, using a same dish towel or something else to protect your hands from the heat. Perfect, crispy corn on the cob! The peeling part is a pain b/c the husk is hot, but not having to wash a pan is so wonderful. I hear you can do the same with pre-peeled corn by using a wet paper towel, but not sure I want to throw it out along with the styrofoam it came on.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: amyvc
                                                          egbluesuede May 31, 2007 12:57 PM

                                                          I don't cook corn in the husk, but I don't bother boiling them in water either. Strip the husks off the corn and throw the cobs directly on the grill with whatever else you're cooking. Turn them every so often and don't worry about a few charred spots. They taste terrific, nothing to clean up, and you can turn them while attending to the meat.

                                                          1. re: egbluesuede
                                                            gginnola Jun 4, 2007 08:50 PM

                                                            We cook corn on the cob in the husk on the pit. It comes out great, it peels easier once it's cooked and the taste is unbelievably good!

                                                          2. re: amyvc
                                                            random amblings Jun 5, 2007 05:20 AM

                                                            Actually, the silk comes off very easily once the corn is steamed. You do need to use pot holders, but to me, the flavor of corn is improved by cooking in its own husk.

                                                            1. re: amyvc
                                                              Kajikit Jun 5, 2007 07:24 PM

                                                              I almost do that... I was told that the perfect way to corn-on-the-cob was to rinse the corn husks under the tap and then microwave them for five minutes. Pull them out of the microwave and hold them under the tap to keep them cool while you quickly husk them. So delicious you don't even need to add butter!

                                                            2. ceejoi May 24, 2007 03:09 PM

                                                              my cooking trick is a bit ghetto but when i fry stuff in a pan the oils get everywhere all over my stove. so what i do is i save all the junk mail i get and tape them all over my stove whenever i fry. clean up is easy. i just remove all the junk mail and the stove is clean!

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: ceejoi
                                                                niki rothman May 24, 2007 03:21 PM

                                                                I'm the same way with newspapers - they go under anything sloppy I'm doing (er...in the kitchen that is). But, I've got to say they don't go anywhere near the stove because I don't want to burn the house down...

                                                                1. re: ceejoi
                                                                  pilotgirl210 Jun 4, 2007 04:54 PM

                                                                  I inherited my mother's mesh fry pan cover. No more messy stove or walls.

                                                                  1. re: pilotgirl210
                                                                    PhoebeB Jun 4, 2007 06:54 PM

                                                                    I have several different kinds of skillet covers I've found at estate/yard sales through the years and I wouldn't take anything for them. Two of the screen mesh kind, 8" & 12", a 12" high-domed one that's full of tiny steam holes and has a little white china knob on top.

                                                                    Another that's hard to describe: two separate 12" circles of lightweight aluminum held loosely together by the center knob bolt. The lower layer is flat and covered with little round holes, the top layer is a slightly domed solid piece w/a circle of barely-punched slits. It's so light and loosely held together that vapor can escape but no grease can.

                                                                    Never pass by the old kitchen stuff at junk shops and flea markets without checking it out. A lot of invaluable things have gone obsolete. In case of fire I'd probably grab first my old Peerless ice cream scoops, "The Allenbury's Food Measure", my 1920s 6 qt. cast iron "Drip-drop Baster " dutch oven, a hand-made tin grater that beats any grater I've ever seen, an old milk-shed strainer with mesh that's finer than cheesecloth, etc.

                                                                    1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                      pilotgirl210 Jun 6, 2007 08:27 AM

                                                                      A woman after my own heart!! I, too, have either collected or inherited a number of old kitchen utensils that you just can't find anymore. A couple of stand-outs: an antique, hand-cranked pasta machine given to me by a retired Italian client of mine who brought it to the U.S. as a war bride after WW II; my great-grandmother's biscuit cutter with wooden handle; the old cutter my grandmother used when cutting noodles for homemade chicken noodle soup (still my all-time favorite); a 150-year-old ornate yellow ware bowl in several colors that belonged to an aunt; and a varied assortment of gadgets from the '50s with the red-painted wooden handles. I know you know what I mean, PhoebeB.....tee hee. We are hopeless romantics and relish nostalgia from our pasts.

                                                                    2. re: pilotgirl210
                                                                      soupkitten Jun 6, 2007 09:35 AM

                                                                      you can buy the mesh pan covers in all sizes in the kitchenware aisle of your local asian supermarket, very cheaply.

                                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                                        PhoebeB Jun 6, 2007 10:25 AM

                                                                        They're certainly better than nothing, but they don't hold together like the old heavier ones.

                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                          soupkitten Jun 6, 2007 11:45 AM

                                                                          i'll take your word on that Phoebe!

                                                                          1. re: soupkitten
                                                                            PhoebeB Jun 6, 2007 02:34 PM

                                                                            Yep, I was probably ruining those new mesh skillet covers before you were a gleam in your daddy's eye :o)

                                                                            It's when I'm cleaning the grease off them with detergent and a soft brush, no matter how carefully, that the mesh starts pulling out of the rim. My old ones have wider rims and stiffer screen.

                                                                  2. c
                                                                    chitta chef May 24, 2007 02:25 PM

                                                                    I've been using a paint strainer bag from my corner hardware sore to strain my homemade almond milk - cheaper than the designated nut milk bags I could only locate online, and works perfectly.

                                                                    1. starlady May 23, 2007 12:47 PM

                                                                      If you ever end up over salting a stew or soup throw in a whole uncooked potato. It leaches the salt out of it and you can save your soup.

                                                                      I use leftover black tea in lots of soups and stews.
                                                                      I have also been known to poach salmon in tea.
                                                                      Can also add black tea leaves to your wood chips if you are smoking something in your BBQ.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: starlady
                                                                        PhoebeB May 23, 2007 02:47 PM

                                                                        The potato trick has never worked for me. A splash of vinegar seems to neutralize salt quite effectively in many things. Anyone else ever noticed this, &/or know why?

                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                          demimonde May 24, 2007 12:26 PM

                                                                          sugar and salt also cancel each other out

                                                                          1. re: demimonde
                                                                            foiegras May 31, 2007 09:45 AM

                                                                            I had always understood that salt *enhanced* sugar ...

                                                                      2. notmartha May 23, 2007 12:16 PM

                                                                        My son loves egg scrambles, so I figured out a way to make light and fluffy creamy eggs through trial & error.

                                                                        I add a tad bit of water to the eggs mixture, and uses a pat of butter, but the two keys are:

                                                                        1) use a nonstick frying pan, and use a silicon coated whisk and keep whisking the eggs in the frying pan while it cooks in medium-low heat. Stop whisking when the eggs are almost set (80% done)

                                                                        2) Turn off the heat before the eggs are set and then add shredded cheese (I use TJ's 3 cheese blend) if desire, even a slight coating of cheese helps with the flavor and keeps the eggs glossy. Leave the pan on the stove, the residual heat will cook the rest of the eggs

                                                                        Using whisk seems to greatly improve the texture. Stirring frequently with a plain old spatula doesn't seem to work the same way.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: notmartha
                                                                          Sam Fujisaka May 23, 2007 02:11 PM

                                                                          I use a fork to scamble eggs (also with a pat of butter, at low-medium heat with care taken to not over cook), lightly and gently folding over small portions at a time. I think the fork works better than a whisk, with both much better than a spatula.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                            lollya May 23, 2007 02:34 PM

                                                                            heh. i use a scraper spatula - like for mixing cakes.
                                                                            PERFECT and it doesn't melt or wreck my pan.

                                                                            1. re: lollya
                                                                              notmartha May 24, 2007 02:53 PM

                                                                              Silicon coated whisk won't wreck your pan either. I think they fold more air in than fork or spatula.

                                                                        2. i
                                                                          ickster May 23, 2007 11:58 AM

                                                                          Maybe not tricks, but a couple of shortcuts:

                                                                          -for a quick mole sauce, buy it from the supermarket in the glass jar, grate some mexican hot chocolate into it (has sugar, cinammon in it already) and reduce with boxed organic chicken stock to desired consistency. add to chicken or turkey.

                                                                          -use canned tomatillos for a green sauce. I drain them and blend cilantro, onion, jalapeno, salt and a squeeze of lime for an instant tasty salsa. You can also use this to braise pork ribs or chicken.

                                                                          1. i
                                                                            ickster May 23, 2007 11:47 AM

                                                                            I add a pinch of salt to my freshly squeezed lemonade aide or limeade.

                                                                            1. b
                                                                              Bigtigger May 22, 2007 09:48 PM

                                                                              1) To remove the skin from a lot of garlic cloves, simply throw the cloves into a hard plastic, metal or china bowl, place another bowl of same or a little smaller size on top of it, and shake vigorously for 30 secs or so - voila: stripped garlic cloves ready to be chopped or pressed !

                                                                              2) To make a gravy base, deglaze roasting or frying pan with leftover brewed tea.

                                                                              3) Any chocolate recipe becomes more sophisticated and less cloying if it is cut with coffee; I often buy a double or triple espresso from the local Starbucks et al. and incorporate it into the liquid required for the recipe (eg, choc mousse, silk pie, brownies, ice cream sauce...)

                                                                              4) Any home-made syrup-based non-alcoholic drink such as a punch or ade (lemonade, lime rickey, drink made with an Italian syrup, etc) becomes more sophisticated and refreshing if you add a few tablespoons (per quart) of cider vinegar. Your guests won't know what you've added, but they will love the drink ! In addition, I always substitute sparkling for still water.

                                                                              5) any stew, pot roast or similar slow-cooking meat dish will receive a boost in depth of flavour if you add a mirepoix to it. Simply chop fine app equal amounts of celery, carrot and onion in your food processor; add the mixture to the bottom of your stewpot containing well-heated vegetable oil, reduce temp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 mins. Then add the rest of the browned meat and other prescribed ingredients for the recipe you are making.

                                                                              6) Roast potatoes are a lot more flavourful if rolled in a melted butter and chopped garlic mixture before being put into the oven, then basted with same from time to time.

                                                                              7) An oven-ready souffle can be covered and remain perfectly well in your fridge for an hour or so before being put into the oven to be baked. You may need to add 5-10 mins to cooking time. This is especially true of dessert souffles, but works well for every souffle I've ever made.

                                                                              8) Knorr chicken cubes add depth and flavour to poultry gravies without adding an artificial taste.

                                                                              9) Some wine - red or white - adds depth and flavour to any gravy.

                                                                              10) Any peeled fruit can be turned into a company dessert if you pour a mixture of sour cream and brown sugar over it and broil for 5-10 mins.

                                                                              11) Perfect scrambled eggs without fussing over having them ready with other breakfast items can be achieved if you mix the eggs with some cream and grated cheese (and cooked bacon bits if desired), season with salt and pepper as desired, pour them into a casserole dish and bake at 325. When ready to serve the meal, simply upend the casserole contents into a hot frying pan, and a quick stir or two will set the remaining runny part of the mixture and produce a moist dish.

                                                                              12) Chopping some dill or parsley in a food processor and adding it to your hamburger meat produces a "dish" as opposed to a "burger." To make it truly sublime, roughly cut strips of round steak, add seasoning and an egg, and make your own chopped meat !

                                                                              13) Any snack food or nuts are transformed from mundane to much better by being either heated in the oven for 5 mins or quickly stir-fried (so to speak) in a lightly oiled or buttered pan.

                                                                              Enjoy !

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Bigtigger
                                                                                PhoebeB May 23, 2007 08:53 AM

                                                                                Absolutely priceless suggestions, Bigtigger. Several of them were news to me and I've ben cooking a LOOOOOONG time.

                                                                                1. re: Bigtigger
                                                                                  oakjoan May 31, 2007 03:25 PM

                                                                                  Finally, somebody mentions Knorr chicken bouillon cubes! Thank you Bigtigger! I use them sparingly all the time. I usually add a half cube to soups, stews, etc. The beef ones are, IMHO, awful. Another trick I use is to put a tablespoon or so of that Better than Bouillon mushroom base. It comes in jars right next to the canned chicken stock. It's verrrrry salty, so a little goes a long way.

                                                                                  I also use dried porcini mushrooms, soaked and chopped, in lots of soups and stews. Then I add the strained soaking juice.

                                                                                  Fresh berries (strawbs, blues, blacks, etc.) are delicious when washed, cut into pieces, and then tossed with a bit of sugar and some lemon zest. I serve them with some yoghurt flavored with vanilla and some sugar (not too much, though, because the berries have already been sweetened). It's always a hit. The lemon zest and sugar works especially well when the strawberries are less than perfectly ripe.

                                                                                  If you spice up and add lots of stuff to egg scrambles/fritatas, etc., you can get away with using fewer yolks and more whites. I buy the packaged whites in the market. You can use only a couple of yolks and lottttts of whites if you add sauteed onions, a bit of turkey bacon, green onions, a bit of feta, and/or tomatoes.

                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                                                                    PhoebeB Jun 1, 2007 09:44 AM

                                                                                    And thank you for the tip re: Knorr. I tried the beef bouillon cubes first, and they were so bad I never tried the chicken.

                                                                                    The most incredibly good chicken base I've ever used is a Mexican powdered kind I used to buy in Texas. It came in a cylindrical cardboard canister almost the size of Quaker Oats. I'd recognize the name if I heard it. Anyone know what I mean?

                                                                                2. k
                                                                                  KeriT May 22, 2007 12:41 PM

                                                                                  Everyone balks at me for this one but here goes - add a tiny amount of mayo to guacamole - people are appalled but they all love it and ask what my guacamole secret is. It adds a creamy tang.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: KeriT
                                                                                    PhoebeB May 22, 2007 04:49 PM

                                                                                    Yes it does. "Tiny" is the operative word, but it does improve both the texture and taste, IMO.

                                                                                  2. s
                                                                                    Spencer May 21, 2007 03:55 PM

                                                                                    I have a bbq sauce one.
                                                                                    When I smoke brisket I foil it for roughly the last 4 hours of a 16 hour cook. The foil fills with wonderful smoked brisket juice that I like to use in making my bbq sauce, which I make a gallon at a time.
                                                                                    I put on some gloves and lift the foiled brisket while my wife pokes a hole in the bottom of the foil and catches the run off with a bowl. I take the juice and put it in ice trays and freeze it. Takes about 4 cubes to the gallon of sauce for my recipe.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Spencer
                                                                                      PhoebeB May 21, 2007 05:03 PM

                                                                                      Spencer, that is brilliant. Any of the smoked juice you don't use for BBQ sauce you can use to make the world's best beans/soup/chili/gravy. I wish I had some of it in my freezer.

                                                                                    2. l
                                                                                      LabRat May 21, 2007 11:08 AM

                                                                                      When making bread dough in a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients until just combined (about 1 minute or so) and let it sit lightly covered with plastic wrap for 20-30 minutes. This is called an autolyse stage and is used by a lot of artisan bakers. During the rest, the starch granules absorb water and the precursor proteins to gluten hydrate. Then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. This added step allows you to get a dough with a higher hydration, which improves the crumb texture, and shortens the kneading time, which lessons the damage done to some proteins during the knead. I keep a spray bottle of water next to the mixer so I can add as much water as possible during the knead without the dough becoming sticky.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: LabRat
                                                                                        Gooseberry Aug 9, 2007 03:49 PM

                                                                                        It's best to add the salt only after autolyse - it retards gluten development.

                                                                                      2. k
                                                                                        k_d May 21, 2007 08:36 AM

                                                                                        I keep a plastic drinking cup next to my cooktop, filled with regular flatware tablespoons. That way, I have a clean spoon ready for tasting whenever my sauce, soup, stew, or whatever gets to that point. Of course, if your silverware drawer is near your cooktop anyway, you won't need this tip.

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: k_d
                                                                                          PhoebeB May 21, 2007 09:59 AM

                                                                                          You've adlibbed a spooner. Why they ever went out of fashion I can't imagine. Just the two of us go through 2-3 dozen spoons every day.

                                                                                          I keep a small old crockery cream pitcher w/a few teaspoons at one end of the counter by the elec. teakettle and coffee maker, and a fat squatty Savoie pottery pitcher with 20 or so spoons of every size at the other end of the counter next to the range in front of the big crock of utensils/wooden spoons.. The classic pitcher-shape is perfect for spooners because the round belly lets you keep the spoons in them bowl-down.

                                                                                          1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                            MMRuth May 21, 2007 10:01 AM

                                                                                            I have lots of random silver tea spoons and keep a bunch of them in a drawer in the kitchen for just that purpose.

                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                              caliking May 21, 2007 11:33 AM

                                                                                              Another way to make the sauteed eggplant rounds: lay the uncooked rounds out in a pan, brush with oil of choice (we use mustard oil) on both sides and sprinkle with seasoning of choice (we use salt and turmeric). Bake until done. For small bacthes we use the toaster oven. Uses a fraction of the oil.

                                                                                              Mayo rocks! I marinate skinless chicken in yogurt, mayo, ginger, garlic, and tandoori spices. The mayo keeps the chicken nice and moist during grilling.

                                                                                              For cutting watermelon: cut the monster in half, then start scooping out the watermelon with an ice cream scooper. You don't have to wrestle with trying to cut a huge melon (and maybe your hand) and kids love eating the smallish roundish watermelon pieces.

                                                                                              1. re: caliking
                                                                                                kleinfortlee May 21, 2007 07:56 PM

                                                                                                re: another use for mayo--broiling fish

                                                                                                spread a thin coating of mayo on fish fillets (that don't require turning) before broiling them, maybe with a sprinkle of bread crumbs plus your favorite seasonings...it forms a very thin, crispy topping that keeps the fish moist

                                                                                                squeeze of lemon before serving

                                                                                                once you've tried this technique, you won't go back to just dry broiling!

                                                                                                1. re: kleinfortlee
                                                                                                  rcallner May 24, 2007 03:16 PM

                                                                                                  I absolutely agree with kleinfortlee - I find salmon is fabulous this way, with a final sprinkle of lemon pepper over the top before broiling or convecting at very high heat.

                                                                                                  1. re: rcallner
                                                                                                    bryan May 24, 2007 10:09 PM

                                                                                                    I too agree. But I also love this method with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

                                                                                        2. 4
                                                                                          4chowpups May 21, 2007 05:36 AM

                                                                                          Excellent thread!!!
                                                                                          Browned butter....melt a 1/2-1 stick of unsalted butter with a handfull of dried plain bread crumbs in a skillet. Watch closely as it will brown quickly. When a deep brown (I often have to turn off heat before this as the butter still cooks off heat) serve with steamed veggies (great on red potatoes) and grilled fish...add whatever chopped fresh herbs or mix with sesame seeds and scallions over fish. I learned this from a former chef I worked for.
                                                                                          Whip sour cream with a bit of lemon zest and sugar, spoon over strawberries.
                                                                                          When making sauce add pork neck bones, I pick them up whenever I find them and freeze. Asian markets sell them for next to nothing. They make the sauce!!
                                                                                          Add a dash of fish sauce to anything savory.
                                                                                          Add chopped cilantro to sauted zucchini, they taste great together.
                                                                                          I keep frozen basil cubes from Trader Joe's in the freezer for pasta salads or dishes where basil isn't the focal point and I always have it on hand.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: 4chowpups
                                                                                            PhoebeB May 21, 2007 06:14 AM

                                                                                            Thanks for some great ideas in one post! I love pork neck bones (I can almost always find them at Walmart). And a couple of your suggestions remind me of another time & money-saver of mine.

                                                                                            This saves me many discarded hard brown lemons/half-lemons and trips to the grocery for fresh ones (which can get quite pricey up here in Maine at certain seasons).

                                                                                            I keep a bottle of Minute Maid's Premium (pure, no additives/preservatives, equiv. to juice of 7 lemons) frozen lemon juice in my freezer all the time. Also a bottle of Penzey's freeze-dried lemon peel. When a recipe calls for lemon juice I put the bottle --with the little tab open--in the microwave on Defrost for ~30 seconds and pour off the thawed juice and put the bottle back in the freezer. With some practice you can pretty precisely gauge just how long to microwave it for the amt. you need.

                                                                                            It lasts me for months for those "a sqeeze" here and "2 Tbsps." there needs, and I've never noticed a deterioration in flavor or strength. Between it and the lemon rind you can adequately replicate fresh lemon in most anything. (I also keep orange juice and Penzey's orange rind in the freezer.)

                                                                                          2. bryan May 20, 2007 10:53 PM

                                                                                            When I make a meat sauce for pasta, I use plenty of grated carrots and minced sauteed mushrooms. Makes it seem much meatier than it really is. I can get away with a pound of ground meat in about 2 gallons of sauce and it's thick and quite tasty. Better for us too.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: bryan
                                                                                              alkapal Oct 10, 2007 06:50 AM

                                                                                              i added grated carrots to a chicken curry made with Trader Joe's Indian cooking sauce. extends, adds sweetness and a savory dimension, plus fiber without stress!

                                                                                            2. m
                                                                                              Marsha May 20, 2007 06:01 PM

                                                                                              Rather than complicated, thick, and sticky barbecue sauce, I often just mix some ketchup, balsamic vinegar, worcestershire, and water into a thin "mop" that can be used to baste such things as beef ribs. It's enough to promote a good caramelization, but doesn't overpower the flavor of the meat.

                                                                                              1. Tartinet May 20, 2007 03:52 PM

                                                                                                My best bang-for-the-buck trick: add fresh lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to store-bought hummus, and people will ask you for the recipe all day long. It loses that fluffy, grainy hummus texture, but it is super delicious.

                                                                                                Also, when I find a good deal on bacon or salami or sausage, I buy a lot, chop it up, and brown the hell out of it (in batches). Then I freeze it on a cookie sheet, bag it, and then use it by the half-cup when I make pots of soup and want that browned-meat flavor without the mess and time browning meat takes.

                                                                                                1. atheorist May 19, 2007 05:36 PM

                                                                                                  For soup, sauce, or stew brown the meat, sautee the onions or vegetables in clean looking parts of the fat you skimmed off the refrigerated broth. When the recipe calls for vegetable oil ask yourself if it would taste better with bacon grease. Only if you are eating too much meat too often in the first place could these amounts of animal fat would be worth avoiding.

                                                                                                  1. e
                                                                                                    Ellen May 19, 2007 07:42 AM

                                                                                                    I use tabasco or hot sauce in lots of things without making them hot. A few dashes will improve many soups, scrambled eggs, meat loaf and meat balls.

                                                                                                    Adding parsnips to mashed potatoes -- I'll use 1/3 to 1/2 cubed and cooked at the same time -- adds a lot of flavor, cuts carbs, and lightens them up a bit.

                                                                                                    Add cut up vegetables to cooking pasta two minutes before the pasta is finished cooking (unless you're using fresh pasta, which may cook faster than the veggies) and drain it all at once. This technique works great for a quick last minute one pot meal with jarred or leftover sauce or when you want to add some veggies to instant mac and cheese (I like Annies). Asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, yellow squash, zuccini, peas, carrots, red peppers work best. Mushrooms, onions, garlic not so well.

                                                                                                    If you have a bunch of leftover cheese ends and/or cheese that is past it's prime, grate or shred them and make mac and cheese.

                                                                                                    1. PamelaD May 19, 2007 06:17 AM

                                                                                                      When making soups, stews, tomato sauces, I add a splash of soy sauce instead of salt. Seems to add a little extra complexity to the flavor.

                                                                                                      1. jinet12 May 19, 2007 04:21 AM

                                                                                                        Add a little cider vinegar and cayeene pepper to Frank's Hot Sauce before you combine it with butter to toss your wings in...Adds a nice "kick"...Always saute your veggies before you mix them with the meat to make meatloaf...A great topping for meatloaf, BTW, is a mixture of chili sauce, chipolte sauce, and grape jelly..( Yes, grape jelly!)..Want to make a quick delicious version of Caesar Salad Dressing? Mix and 8 oz bottle of Caesar Salad Dressing ( not creamy) with 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 teasp. mustard powder, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce, 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese, 1/2 teasp. anchovy paste, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1 teasp. pepper...Puree it all in a blender or food processor...Toss with romaine and crutons...People think that this is the real deal...

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: jinet12
                                                                                                          atomic42 May 19, 2007 05:47 AM

                                                                                                          Add 3 or 4 squares of dark 85% cacao chocolate to chili con carne, soups, etc. It adds great depth and a wonderful edge to round-off the spices.

                                                                                                          1. re: jinet12
                                                                                                            foiegras May 21, 2007 08:41 AM

                                                                                                            For meatloaf, I use chili sauce, dry mustard, and brown sugar ... love the kick from the mustard.

                                                                                                          2. k
                                                                                                            kleinfortlee May 18, 2007 08:35 PM

                                                                                                            great ideas posters!

                                                                                                            this one is not a trick, but it's a seemingly strange and unbelievable combination:

                                                                                                            fresh ground black pepper on strawberries

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: kleinfortlee
                                                                                                              bethd127 May 24, 2007 08:02 PM

                                                                                                              balsamic reduction as well (on strawberries) throw the lot on some arugula, toss with some fennel and goat cheese....yummm!

                                                                                                              1. re: kleinfortlee
                                                                                                                alkapal Oct 10, 2007 06:43 AM

                                                                                                                salt and pepper on melons, including watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe

                                                                                                              2. Sam Fujisaka May 18, 2007 05:37 PM

                                                                                                                Sauteed eggplant rounds w/o a ton of oil: start w/ a bit of oil in a hot pan; when the eggplant asks for more, toss in some liquid--water or stock. The eggplant will continue to cook; will not need more oil, will end up as if it were cooked in oil, but will not be oily.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                  bryan May 20, 2007 10:46 PM

                                                                                                                  That's brilliant. I hate losing all that good oil making eggplant. Thanks.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bryan
                                                                                                                    Seldomsated May 21, 2007 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                    You can also bake the (sliced, salted, and pressed to be somewhat dry after sitting for 45 minutes) eggplant rounds on an oiled pan in the oven. This method uses much less olive oil. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, and turn after they've been in the oven for several minutes. Turn again several more minutes. Place the thicker slices at the edges of the pan and the thinner in the center to so they will get done at approximately the same time.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Seldomsated
                                                                                                                      MMRuth May 21, 2007 01:12 PM

                                                                                                                      I also grill them in a grill pan on the stove top - per a Thai eggplant salad recipe that I have - v.little oil involved.

                                                                                                                2. k
                                                                                                                  Kaisgraham May 18, 2007 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                  For chocolate dipped strawberries.... Buy fresh that day. Do not refrigerate. Always use dark or bittersweet chocolate (Trader Joe's is GREAT for this). Do not mix anything with the chocolate. Do not refrigerate after dipping. Eat within 4 hours.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: Kaisgraham
                                                                                                                    alkapal Oct 10, 2007 06:41 AM

                                                                                                                    make certain the berries are very well dried -- lest your chocolate seize.

                                                                                                                  2. archangelcat May 18, 2007 03:14 PM

                                                                                                                    Butter your corn with lime chile butter, simply squeeze fresh lime juice to taste into a 1/4 lb. butter and add 1 chopped roasted (skinned) pasillo (or jalapeno) if you want it hot) and mix. Too good.

                                                                                                                    One more! Bastille Day Chops: let boneless pork chops marinate for about 20 minutes at room teimp in olive oil enough to coat, fresh chopped or dried thyme, fresh grated coarse pepper and sea salt. Then grill.

                                                                                                                    1. demimonde May 18, 2007 02:40 PM

                                                                                                                      My major trick is compound butter. I learned it from a chef friend.

                                                                                                                      You add herbs to softened butter, roll it up into a sausage-like shape in cling wrap, cool it, and then cut off slices for whatever you're baking/sauteing, etc. I keep several varieties in the freezer.

                                                                                                                      My current favorite: roasted garlic.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: demimonde
                                                                                                                        lilinjun May 21, 2007 09:12 AM

                                                                                                                        Any idea as to how long these will last?

                                                                                                                        1. re: lilinjun
                                                                                                                          demimonde May 21, 2007 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                          I assume they'd last as long as regular butter lasts in the freezer. Maybe a little less because they've been softened. A couple of months? Just make sure and wrap in foil before freezing so they don't get freezer burn.

                                                                                                                          I honestly don't know because I usually use them up pretty fast!

                                                                                                                      2. Candy May 18, 2007 02:17 PM

                                                                                                                        A tip I picked up from Damon Lee Fowler's book, New Southern Baking is to always shake your can of baking powder before using it. The portion on top is going to be a bit stale and by shaking it up or mixig it up you get more even results.

                                                                                                                        1. danhole May 18, 2007 12:04 PM

                                                                                                                          Whenever I make a pot roast or a brisket, I slice some fresh garlic in slivers and then cut little pockets in the meat and insert the garlic. It gives a terrific flavor to the meat.

                                                                                                                          Another thing I learned from a cowboy - when you want to add a rich flavor to a stew, or chili, add a cup of leftover black coffee. It really deepens the flavors of the meat.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: danhole
                                                                                                                            PhoebeB May 18, 2007 09:05 PM

                                                                                                                            Coffee is another magic ingredient in lots of things. Use it as part or all of the liquid in a chocolate cake sometimes, or a prune cake, or gravy/frostings/chocolate pudding.

                                                                                                                            1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                              Mawrter May 21, 2007 06:34 AM

                                                                                                                              Ooooh, I'm serioiusly into using coffee as a "secret trick" ingredient, too. You can use it as a liquid, but if you don't want any more liquid in whatever you're making, add dried instant espresso. I do that in most anything chocolate. It gives it that nice tannic backbone.

                                                                                                                              I brt I'd like it in chilis and suchlike, too - great idea, thanks!

                                                                                                                          2. chef chicklet May 18, 2007 11:30 AM

                                                                                                                            For fluffy mashed potatoes, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Best ever!

                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: chef chicklet
                                                                                                                              foiegras May 18, 2007 12:28 PM

                                                                                                                              I always use Yukon Gold, leave the skins on, and "mash" in my Kitchen Aid (with the paddle). Most of the skins wrap around the paddle ... (I add butter and milk or cream and/or chicken stock)

                                                                                                                              1. re: foiegras
                                                                                                                                PhoebeB May 18, 2007 09:00 PM

                                                                                                                                Same w/redskins. (skins wrapping around the beaters). Isn't that handy? Sure easier than peeling.
                                                                                                                                I've settled on redskins for mashed potatoes; they just have more flavor, IMO. I've tried Yukon Golds and they don't taste "potato-y" enough. Did I maybe have a headcold or something? Should I give them another chance?

                                                                                                                                1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                  foiegras May 21, 2007 08:39 AM

                                                                                                                                  Well, I love the way they taste & know lots of other people who do too ... I find that golden potatoes have a richer flavor. I also like banana fingerlings when I can find them. If you see those, don't pass 'em up!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: foiegras
                                                                                                                                    PhoebeB May 21, 2007 10:20 AM

                                                                                                                                    You're right that everyone seems to love the Yukon Golds. I should try them again. And are "banana fingerlings" potatoes? From where?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                      foiegras May 22, 2007 09:57 AM

                                                                                                                                      Yes, they are potatoes. I got mine at Central Market in Texas ... presumably you might find them at either a gourmet grocery or farmer's market ... or grow your own ;)

                                                                                                                                2. re: foiegras
                                                                                                                                  LizG May 25, 2007 11:00 AM

                                                                                                                                  To get creamy mashed potatoes without adding the fat, add some hot potato water (assuming you cleaned your potatoes well) to the hot potatos. Doing this brings out the starchiness. Use the same trick when making potato salad (german style) to avoid mayo altogether. And, its so delicious!

                                                                                                                                3. re: chef chicklet
                                                                                                                                  marisabeast Jul 23, 2007 05:57 PM

                                                                                                                                  i do this too! they're fantastic. another recipe i have is to throw in grated smoked gouda and a bit of horseradish...tastes JUST like cheesecake factory mashed potatoes.

                                                                                                                                4. l
                                                                                                                                  Louise May 18, 2007 10:57 AM

                                                                                                                                  Mint with beets, peas, or goat cheese.

                                                                                                                                  Unsweetened cocoa, just a little, in a dark sauce/gravy, esp with chicken. Adds richness & depth. But don't add so much it's like hershey's.

                                                                                                                                  Anchovy filet or Thai fish sauce, just a little, in a soup or sauce instead of salt. Adds depth & savoriness. Go light, this is not pizza or pad thai.

                                                                                                                                  Whole peeled garlic cloves in a stew. They cook down soft & mild--can leave them as anonymous vegetable bits or mash them to thicken the gravy.

                                                                                                                                  The pasta trick too--it's a great one but mentioned in exactly one cookbook I own. Really it only works with the longer cooking hard eggless pasta. The fresh eggy stuff would moosh in a New York second.

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Louise
                                                                                                                                    AmyH May 21, 2007 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                                    A little bit of anchovy paste is also great in egg salad. It adds that umami flavor, like fish sauce would. Just make sure there aren't any vegetarians planning on eating your egg salad.

                                                                                                                                    I got this hint from Cook's Illustrated and tried it yesterday: If you have a lot of eggs to fry sunny side up (I have 4 teens so when we have eggs for breakfast it can be a dozen or more), break all the eggs into two shallow bowls. Then, when the pan is hot, pour the eggs carefully into the pan. That way they all cook at the same rate and you're not frantically trying to break eggs right into the pan while the first ones are cooking. This really works great, even though it means 2 more dirty bowls.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: gourmanda
                                                                                                                                      soupkitten May 21, 2007 09:26 AM

                                                                                                                                      egg salad w/o anchovies would be appropriate for an ovo-lacto vegetarian (these vegs eat eggs and dairy and are the most common vegetarian subgroup in the u.s.a.), but not a vegan. depending on the other ingredients, the salad could theoretically be eaten by folks following an ovo-veg diet (uncommon group who don't eat milk products but do eat eggs).

                                                                                                                                  2. p
                                                                                                                                    pamd May 18, 2007 10:35 AM

                                                                                                                                    If a (baking) recipe calls for nuts, and you want to omit them, add some extra flour for the same results.

                                                                                                                                    1. p
                                                                                                                                      Pistou May 18, 2007 10:22 AM

                                                                                                                                      Not a cooking trick, per se, but since summer is nearly upon us . . . I learned a couple of years ago to store fresh basil 1) in a cup with water (like flowers-strip leaves below water line) 2) on the counter (never in the fridge--it hates the cold) and 3) with a plastic bag tented over it. Change the water every couple of days. The combination of these things keeps my fresh basil beautifully for a week, sometimes more.

                                                                                                                                      1. Sarah P May 18, 2007 09:15 AM

                                                                                                                                        When I cook corn on the cob whether it is sweet corn or just regular I always add a pinch of sugar or now I use splendid to the pot of water to make the corn more sweet.

                                                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sarah P
                                                                                                                                          monavano May 18, 2007 09:29 AM

                                                                                                                                          I just did this last night. The corn was nice and firm, but not exactly sweet. I cook corn in water with enough milk added to make it look the color of milk. Add sugar as needed depending on how sweet the corn is to begin with.
                                                                                                                                          Don't ask me why the milk. Mom did it and now so do I!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                            PhoebeB May 18, 2007 10:13 AM

                                                                                                                                            I posted on another thread that an old Jewish lady, best cook next to my grandmother I've ever known, told me years ago that the best way to make any vegetable taste garden-fresh is to add a pinch of sugar.

                                                                                                                                            The natural sugars in veggies start turning to starch almost immed. after picking, so unless you "have the water boiling before you pick your corn", as the saying goes, it has lost some or most of its sweetness. The "fresh" produce in the grocery might have been in cold storage for several weeks.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                              valerie May 18, 2007 10:51 AM

                                                                                                                                              My mother does the milk thing with corn too. I have no idea why!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: valerie
                                                                                                                                                soupkitten May 18, 2007 11:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                i think that's an old fashioned way of faking the "corn milk" you get when you slice fresh corn directly off of the corncob. the moms & grandmas could remember eating country corn sliced off of the cob, so they added milk to canned/frozen to make it more of a familiar food. of course, now, kids don't even know that corn grows on cobs & would think cooking corn in milk strange.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                  PhoebeB May 19, 2007 08:14 AM

                                                                                                                                                  How interesting and probably exactly right! I never thought of that--how the corn "milk" squirts from really fresh corn when you cut or eat it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                    alkapal Oct 10, 2007 06:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                    i use the milk with baby limas, too. plus butter. yum.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Sarah P
                                                                                                                                              macca May 18, 2007 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                              My grandmother used to put a bit of sugar and lemon juice when she cooked corn on the cob.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sarah P
                                                                                                                                                corabeth May 19, 2007 06:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                I add just a dash of sugar to some of my cooked vegetables- green beans(cooked southern style),corn, peas. If I leave it out , I can tell the difference. The veggies are just missing "something" without the sugar.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: corabeth
                                                                                                                                                  PhoebeB May 19, 2007 08:18 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Corabeth, I fell in love with Marion Cunningham when I read this in her "Supper Book" (WONDERFUL little book, BTW!):

                                                                                                                                                  "For the last few years most of us have been following the recommended way of cooking green beans until barely tender, because we believed that long cooking destroyed flavor and vitamins. But Southern Green Beans with potatoes and a hint of bacon have a fullness of flavor and depth of character that crunchy beans don't have."

                                                                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                                                                misterbrucie May 18, 2007 08:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                Baking a cake:

                                                                                                                                                If the cake is starting to brown on top but isn't done in the middle yet (knife comes out with batter on it), then turn off the oven and leave the cake in there for 15-20 minutes. The inside gets done but the outside doesn't burn.

                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: misterbrucie
                                                                                                                                                  xnyorkr May 18, 2007 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                  I wish you would have posted this last night! I burned a cake!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: xnyorkr
                                                                                                                                                    PhoebeB May 18, 2007 10:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I keep a circle of foil cut the size of my bundt pan (the burnt tops are almost always the bundt cakes, it seems) and lay it on when the top starts getting too brown. But I'm going to try the oven-off way too.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                      demimonde May 18, 2007 02:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                      I put a circle of foil around the edges of my pies so that the crust on the edge doesn't get more done than the middle. Same concept.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: demimonde
                                                                                                                                                        PhoebeB May 18, 2007 04:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                        I did that for years, then saw one of the aluminum pie rings somewhere for next to nothing and is such a snap you won't believe it. Fits 8-10" pies, I think.

                                                                                                                                                        I hang it on a hook on my pot rack. (I've finally learned not to buy kitchen gadgets I can't easily store.)

                                                                                                                                                2. monavano May 18, 2007 08:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Keep parmesan rinds on hand for soups and sauces to add flavor.
                                                                                                                                                  When adding eggs to soup, as in egg drop soup or wedding soup, first make a slurry of water and cornstarch to add to the soup prior to adding eggs. It will allow the eggs to hold together when added and keep them silky. Otherwise, the eggs will separate and look crumbly.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                    cherrylime May 21, 2007 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Yes the cheese rind trick! Parmesan is great but it really great but itcan be gruyere pecorino or sheeps milk cheeses..I save all my cheese ends and add them to soups and sauces..Remember that the saltier cheeses will make it salty too so you kind of gotta watch it in that way..

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cherrylime
                                                                                                                                                      NeNePie May 31, 2007 05:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                      But don't forget to take the rind out before using the immersion blender. I'll deny first hand knowledge of this mistake if you ask me in public.

                                                                                                                                                  2. puppymomma May 18, 2007 06:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Alton Brown gave a trick for Thanksgiving Turkey, which can be use with baked chicken.

                                                                                                                                                    If you don't have one of those oven racks to elevate it from the pan, make a tin foil snake and use that! It works really well.


                                                                                                                                                    1. jinet12 May 18, 2007 05:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                      Think I may have posted this before, but one of my best tricks for cooking chicken breast that are ultra tender, ones I use for salad, casseroles, anything that calls for cooked chicken breasts, is to put boneless chicken breasts in a baking dish, cover them with heavy whipping cream, and baking them for 40 minutes at 350 degrees...When they are cooled, discard the cream...Perfect every time....

                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jinet12
                                                                                                                                                        missmasala May 18, 2007 06:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                        are those breasts boneless or on the bone?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: missmasala
                                                                                                                                                          jinet12 May 18, 2007 08:25 AM


                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jinet12
                                                                                                                                                          Produce Addict May 18, 2007 06:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Any idea how much fat gets absorbed?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Produce Addict
                                                                                                                                                            PhoebeB May 18, 2007 07:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                            I can't imagine how fat could be absorbed into a whole chicken breast.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Produce Addict
                                                                                                                                                              jinet12 May 18, 2007 08:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Not much if you meticulously wipe off all of the cream

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Produce Addict
                                                                                                                                                                monavano May 18, 2007 08:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                                If your worried about fat, soak the chicken breast in low fat buttermilk for 15 minutes or so prior to cooking. It tenderizes the meat and lends moistness too. Don't overcook as well. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, use milk with a tablespoon of vinegar, or the juice from half a lemon.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                  Gooseberry Aug 9, 2007 03:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  I stick chicken breasts in a tupperware of buttermilk the night before I cook them. It's good to know that even fifteen minutes before day of cooking can also make a difference!

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: jinet12
                                                                                                                                                                foiegras May 18, 2007 12:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                I have also done this with skin-on, bone-in whole breasts, except butter smeared on the skin. Once baked, you just peel off the skin ...

                                                                                                                                                              3. k
                                                                                                                                                                kleinfortlee May 18, 2007 05:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                thank you posters (and future posters)!

                                                                                                                                                                here's another trick:

                                                                                                                                                                to give a buttery flavor to your fried eggs (without much added fat) put a pat of real butter in your pan...when it melts swirl it around to coat and pour off any extra...much better than "butter flavored" sprays

                                                                                                                                                                29 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kleinfortlee
                                                                                                                                                                  PhoebeB May 18, 2007 07:18 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  An old caterer's trick my grandmother gave me is to put a little good mayo into scrambled eggs. Makes them creamy/glossy-looking instead of dried out, and they will stay that way on the steam table. (~ a scant tsp. per egg. )

                                                                                                                                                                  Some people use sour cream to do the same thing, and I do it either way depending on what's on hand. Commercial sour cream wasn't commonly available in my grandmother's day.

                                                                                                                                                                  And re: fat. Isn't it strange how many fewer overweight-to-obese people there were back in the days when no one worried about butter/cream/eggs/etc. ?

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                    Will Owen May 18, 2007 11:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    We walked a lot, we worked harder and longer, we did more gardening and cut our own grass. We also did not sit around in front of the TV for hours scarfing Goldfish or popcorn and swilling beer. It's amazing what a difference a little activity can make: when we were in France we ate hugely and well, but we also walked several miles every day...and when we came back home we'd both lost about ten pounds each!

                                                                                                                                                                    Back on topic: I've gotten into the habit of pre-seasoning every kind of flesh I cook, whether it's meat, fish or fowl, and usually letting it sit in a seasoned olive oil bath before cooking as well. This works particularly well for grilling or pan-grilling things like lean pork chops or skinless chicken. I grilled some chicken legs and thighs last night, bathed for about an hour in a highly seasoned mixture of olive oil, chile oil, salt, pepper and some cayenne, then put into the hinged grilling basket and deliberately overcooked slightly (a notion I got from some grilled Mexican stuff I've had lately). It came out a little chewy and very tasty.

                                                                                                                                                                    And speaking of cayenne, I discovered a long time ago that a dash of that added to lots of different kinds of soups, stews, casseroles and pasta dishes has much the same flavor-enhancing qualities as MSG. You don't add enough to make the dish spicy, just enough to sort of slap the taste buds awake. Using sweet-but-hot peppers such as poblanos instead of bell pepper in cooked dishes has very much the same effect.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Will Owen
                                                                                                                                                                      PhoebeB May 18, 2007 01:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Hear, hear! I used to spend a month every summer at my uncle's farm in western OK. Breakfast was huge-- eggs/biscuits/pancakes/gravy/grits/ham, honey, jams, preserves; noon "dinner" even huger: a 12' table filled with vegetables (and I mean creamed spinach, greens with lots of butter/bacon/salt pork, mounds of mashed potatoes made w/cream & butter, a squash casserole that was the best thing I ever tasted--I still have the recipe and make it often, corn on the cob drenched in butter), a big garden salad, Jello/fruit salads, sliced tomatoes, trimmed scallions, the remainder of yesterday's enormous cold ham , a hot beef roast and gravy, always a heaping platter of fried chicken and CREAM gravy, hot yeast rolls by the sheet full, 2 or 3 fresh rhubarb pies, 4 or 5 other pies/cakes leftover from the day before (all pastry & frying done with with home-rendered lard).

                                                                                                                                                                      Supper was generally leftovers but with fresh hot rolls, chilled watermelon and a freezer of hand-cranked ice cream. Once a week we'd meet at some neighboring farm (every farm family for several miles was related some way) for a fish fry (cornmeal-breaded crappie/perch/sunfish caught by the women & kids that day in the various stocked ponds), hushpuppies, more huge salads, more freezers of ice cream, more outrageous cakes.

                                                                                                                                                                      Not a person in the family with an ounce of fat on them. They worked it off, slept like babies at night, lived into their 90s.

                                                                                                                                                                      And I agree about cayenne. It's my 3rd favorite seasoning after S&P. And I keep a package of Penzey's dried Chipotles in the fridg and throw them either whole or crushed into just about everything.

                                                                                                                                                                      I also order whole flame-roasted, peel-on NM Big Jim & Sandia chiles from New Mexican Connection. They come frozen in 1 lb. heavy freezer bags, and an order of 10 lbs. lasts me about a year. I put them in everything I don't put the chipotles in (sometimes put both of them in :o).

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                        Tatania May 18, 2007 07:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        PhoebeB, would you be willing to share the squash casserole recipe? Thanks in advance!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Tatania
                                                                                                                                                                          PhoebeB May 18, 2007 07:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Sure. It's so easy and so good. My girls and I have tried several other squash casserole recipes through the years--twice the ingredients and steps, water chestnuts, white wine, etc.--and keep coming back to this old farm recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                          This fills an 8X8" sq. Pyrex baking dish.

                                                                                                                                                                          Parboil about 2 lbs. of yellow summer squash (sliced about 1/4" thick) til just tender. Drain & mash.

                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 stick (1/4 C.) melted butter
                                                                                                                                                                          1/4 C. minced onion
                                                                                                                                                                          1 beaten egg
                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 C. grated sharp cheddar
                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 C. sour cream
                                                                                                                                                                          S&P to taste (keep in mind the topping is salty)

                                                                                                                                                                          Mix and pour into buttered baking dish. Top with crushed buttery cracker crumbs (Ritz, Town House) or potato chips.

                                                                                                                                                                          Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                            bethd127 May 24, 2007 07:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            I love that you use Ritz. I use Ritz in my meatloaf, and though I have tried other variations, the one with the Ritz is always the best!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                              niki rothman May 25, 2007 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                                              Bless you, Phoebe!
                                                                                                                                                                              I just called my husband to bring home the ingredients for the squash casserole!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                foxy fairy May 26, 2007 06:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                PhoebeB --- Thank you! Your summer squash recipe is such a delight. I couldn't wait to try it and by a stroke of luck, squash went on sale yesterday! I followed your recipe almost exactly - only change was I added in some zucchini with the summer squash. The casserole is divine - definitely add the Ritz on top. YUM. I know I will make this one again and again - easy and lovely, a great complement to my other dishes too (lemony scallops and garlic-roasted fingerlings!)

                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks again, Phoebe B. One request: I would love to see more of your vegetable side dish recipes on this idea - simple to make, divine to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: foxy fairy
                                                                                                                                                                                  PhoebeB May 26, 2007 11:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'll do that, Foxyfairy. Stay tuned.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: foxy fairy
                                                                                                                                                                                    niki rothman Jun 4, 2007 01:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Oooh! lemony sea scallops! I cannot think of a better accompaniment to Phoebe's wonderful sounding recipe. I had to post becuae I obtained all the ingredients and am making it tonight! just let me ask - how much in the way of Ritz goes on top? Would you say a light sprinkling? Also, would I want to, say, use a olive oil spray to help crisp the top? You know, Boston Market sells a creamy squash custard casserole that is divine EXCEPT it is too salty for me, and therefore I'd say too salty for ANYONE, because I do love to use the salt shaker. Has anyone else tried this Boston Market version? But, back to the issue at hand:I will report back after I serve Phoebe's casserole!
                                                                                                                                                                                    Phoebe - you should know your prose style in describing your incredible farm family feasts still linger pleasureably in my chow-centered mind! I printed that post and think it is classic. You should publish a memoir of those wonderful bygone rural American memories of a life we all wish we might have experienced.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: niki rothman
                                                                                                                                                                                      PhoebeB Jun 4, 2007 04:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                      Niki, a good topping of the Ritz. Say 3/16-1/4 inch. It adds a nice little crunch. I don't know about the olive oil. Try it on half the casserole and see if it makes a difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for the kind words about my nostalgic meanderings. Whenever I start trying to put those memories into words I probably need someone by me to hit the "period" key.

                                                                                                                                                                                      And Foxy Fairy, I started a draft on the other simple veggie ideas you asked me for. I'll get it posted, I promise. It's short; I'm pretty basic in the way I cook vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                        foxy fairy Jun 4, 2007 07:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Phoebe -- I can't wait! :) I wonder how you do radishes, especially because I have a sweet little bag of them waiting to be transformed into rosy magic. I think I'm going to braise them with shallots. I like simple vegetable dishes and I can't wait to try more of yours!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                          niki rothman Jul 22, 2007 01:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi Phoebe,
                                                                                                                                                                                          I made the yellow squash dee-lite and it was sooooo delicious - custardy, slightly sweet and rich - yet light enough to make you feel virtuous you were still getting a good serving of vegetables. I'd like to recommend a book to you that reminds me of your wonderful down on the farm food memories and that is an all time favorite, "The Egg and I" by Betty Macdonald. For some reason I've never seen it mentioned in the threads about favorite food writing here, but next time one inevitably comes up I will. If you do not have this wondeful food/farm memory book please trust me and get it - it is also hilarious - takes place in the 1950's I think. my best book bargains (food oriented and other) these days are obtained at alibris.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                  corabeth May 19, 2007 06:35 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                  Your uncle's farm sounds like my grandparents' farm in West Virginia. they had a dairy farm, hand milked 4 Jersey cows morning & evening. My grandmither cooked everything with cream & freshly churned butterr. Fresh eggs, home-cured ham or sausage for breakfast. The best hot rolls ever. Fresh fruites & veggies spring, summer & fall. Canned, frozen & preserved fruits & vegggies in the winter. I can't begin to list all the great pies, cakes, cookies and desserts my grandmother made. I would give a million dollars to go back & spend a summer week with them!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: corabeth
                                                                                                                                                                                    PhoebeB May 19, 2007 07:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    You know, I think those farm visits were the highlight of my childhood. My mother was a good cook and we had our own two acres of chickens/goats/garden in a Dallas suburb, but preparing meals was just another chore to her and she didn't like us underfoot when she was cooking. All I knew how to cook, when I got married, was cookies.

                                                                                                                                                                                    (The Girl Scouts used to make the cookies they sold. Did you know that? Each girl in a troop was given a recipe for "Sand Tarts": round rolled-and-cut sugar cookies with three almond halves arranged like the GS emblem, brushed w/egg white and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. We each had to make 12 dozen to sell.)

                                                                                                                                                                                    It was the OK relatives who gave me my love for cooking. I still dream of that big farm kitchen with my Aunt Edith and 2-3 of the daughters/daughters-in-law bustling around making those incredible meals with such efficiency, such practiced & lavish hands, having so much fun with each other, never minding me hanging around tasting and asking questions.

                                                                                                                                                                                    These were people who'd lived through the Depression years in the very heart of the Dust Bowl and survived through incredibly hard work, thrift, family, and faith. They had experienced hard times and they knew how to respect, rejoice in, and be grateful for an abundance of good food, and they communicated all that to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                    niki rothman May 25, 2007 11:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Phoebe, your post deserves a love letter! Most delicious one I have read in a long time! Oooooh! Sounds so delicious. May I beg you to post that most delicous squash casserole recipe on home cooking? Please, please, please...
                                                                                                                                                                                    And not being one with chile experience, could you expound a bit on foods that enhanced most by the cayenne, NM chiles, and chipotles?

                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                  Val May 18, 2007 05:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  Cream cheese bits in your scrambled eggs is pretty awesome too, someone told me and it's true... a few bits in 2 large eggs gives the eggs a delicious taste...I'll bet neufchatel would work pretty nicely too, even less fat!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Val
                                                                                                                                                                                    PhoebeB May 18, 2007 08:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Cream cheese is great in scrambled eggs and lots of other things. It will keep any number of casseroles from being either too dry or too watery--mac & cheese, tuna noodle (don't laugh; you've never tasted my famous tuna casseroles with sauteed onions/garlic, duxelles, sometimes Brie, sometimes green chile; Pennsyvania Dutch Homestyle Noodles, 3-4 cans of tuna. My grandkids time their visits to coincide with when I make one.)

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Val
                                                                                                                                                                                      soupkitten May 20, 2007 08:16 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                      or sour cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                        PhoebeB May 20, 2007 08:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh always sour cream AND cream cheese. I hope no one ever tells me how many calories in those delicious concoctions. I like to put in one can of chunk light to 2-3 cans of albacore for some tuna flavor. Albacore can taste almost like chicken by itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Val
                                                                                                                                                                                        Megiac May 23, 2007 10:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        I use sour cream, creme fraiche, or regular goat cheese in my scrambled eggs all the time. I stir a spoon or two in as soon the eggs are done.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                        ickster May 23, 2007 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Along the same lines I add one or two tablespoons of cream to eggs before scrambling. In a pinch I will use milk. Makes them a little creamier, especially when cooked over a low low heat.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                          niki rothman May 24, 2007 06:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          True, but a lot of those thin folks also kicked the bucket early because their cholesterol was so high. Years ago, before cardiology became the science it is today, people ate higher fat diets and often "looked" healthy, i.e. thinner, but lived shorter lives. I wonder if the fact that now 2/3 of the US population is overweight will lead to the life spans becoming shorter again?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: niki rothman
                                                                                                                                                                                            optimal forager May 25, 2007 06:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                            I read/heard from multiple major news sources several weeks ago that this is the first generation that is not expected to have longer life spans than their parents, and yes, it's associated with obesity and obesity-related health problems.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: niki rothman
                                                                                                                                                                                              PhoebeB May 26, 2007 10:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Niki, it's true that lots of factors contribute to a long life in good health. Genes might be the most crucial, but it's a wild card and out of our control.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I think the most important thing is contentment with your life. That's what lets you sleep at night and go about your business in peace.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Mental and emotional stress--frustration, anger, resentment, unresolved conflict, hyper-sensitivity (taking the slings & arrows of life too personally) & so forth--is a killer.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Next worst peril after unhappiness is not using our bodies enough. They're made to move and work, eat good food & burn it off before it can stick to us.

                                                                                                                                                                                              If those two factors are in place, I know about as surely as I know anything at 71 years old, that plenty of eggs/butter/cream/lard/bacon drippings/etc. in a balanced diet eaten with moderation never killed anyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                              My mom died last May at 97, her mother at 94. (Her mother, BTW, had 12 siblings. The only one who didn't live into his 90s was killed when he was kicked in the head by a horse at age 22.)

                                                                                                                                                                                              My husband's father, who--I swear to you--ate a giant slab of ham at every meal and scoffed at all veggies except corn & potatoes--died 6 weeks short of his 90th birthday, never sick a day in his life, felt like a million dollars up to a few weeks before he died.
                                                                                                                                                                                              (He was pretty chubby, but that's because he moved slow and didn't have much to do in his late years.)

                                                                                                                                                                                              These are people of three-four generations ago, of course; and not many of us have the physical demands on our bodies they had. But I think jettisoning one after another of the delicious, wholesome, natural foods we've been blessed with (and that make us happy :o) is not the solution and has often turned out to be part of the problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                              (I'm thinking of the "healthy" move to hydrogenated fats in place of butter and lard. Now they're calling lard "the new health food". When will we ever learn?)

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                                Sam Fujisaka May 26, 2007 12:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Fee Bee Bee, theres a lesson there: stay away from horses with unresolved issues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                                                  PhoebeB May 26, 2007 12:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  But the horse resolved HIS issue, apparently. Maybe there's a lesson there too.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                              oakjoan May 25, 2007 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              You're right, but nobody ever ate 5 Big Macs and fries and shakes a week...or pizza with pepperoni and tons of cheese all the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                              The latest thing to really make me sick is the fast food joints' ads touting their "meals" - pizza with a side of deep fried crust and cake for dessert; or fried chicken, fries or mashed spuds and a cake for dessert. Talk about BALANCED! Whooeeeee.

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: kleinfortlee
                                                                                                                                                                                              chicgail May 21, 2007 04:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Similarly, my mother-in-law taught me to use mayo instead of milk or cram for the best texture in my quiche.

                                                                                                                                                                                            4. d
                                                                                                                                                                                              damadchef May 17, 2007 09:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              I wrap lean cuts of meat (tenderloins, breasts of fowl, some roasts) with caul fat prior to roasting...people wonder how the meat stays so moist...

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: damadchef
                                                                                                                                                                                                Doreen May 20, 2007 06:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                You could try thinly sliced panchetta. I'm sure some people couldn't even get caul fat. Plus the panchetta gives the lean meat a great flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Miss Needle May 17, 2007 08:47 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Stole this tip from Mario Batali. When I make pasta, I stop boiling the pasta 5 minutes before it's supposed to be done and cook it in my sauce. The sauce gets infused in the pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                                                                                                                                  bryan May 20, 2007 10:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I always do this too. It makes a huge difference. I learned it from a great, but very tempermental, Italian chef. But not with ravioli of any other stuffed pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bryan
                                                                                                                                                                                                    cherrylime May 21, 2007 09:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    yup this one is a great tip..reduces the risk of soggy pasta too..

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cherrylime
                                                                                                                                                                                                      garbanzobean May 23, 2007 02:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry in advance if this is a stupid question--I'm a novice cook. How long do you cook the pasta in the sauce and at what temperature? Obviously you don't want the sauce to be boiling like the hot water the pasta came from, so wouldn't it require more time to finish cooking the pasta? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: garbanzobean
                                                                                                                                                                                                        bryan May 23, 2007 05:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not a stupid question at all. You cook the pasta as you normally would but drain it before it's al dente - about 2-3 minutes before you would take it out. Add to a large pan on medium-high heat (I use a big saute pan made for restaurant use) and ladle on your hot sauce. For a pound of pasta, about 3 cups of sauce is good. You can eyeball it. Stir well for a couple of minutes and taste the pasta to see if it's cooked to your liking. Finish with more sauce if you want. And then cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        This method works best on non-stuffed pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bryan
                                                                                                                                                                                                          niki rothman May 24, 2007 06:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Usually the Italian cooks will also add a knob of butter or a goodly squirt of evoo at this point also. It's the unctuousness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: garbanzobean
                                                                                                                                                                                                          julietg Jul 23, 2007 05:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Also, (a Lydia teaching, and what they do at Babbo per Buford) add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                                                                                                                                      notmartha May 24, 2007 02:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Especially great for delicate stuff like spaghetti with clams, where you want the pasta to be infused with all the great wine/garlic, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: notmartha
                                                                                                                                                                                                        garbanzobean May 25, 2007 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks, everyone! Very helpful. Next time I make pasta, I'll use this method.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                                                                                                                                        MSK Aug 9, 2007 09:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Does this technique work for fresh as well as dried pasta??

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I know everyone confirms that it is best not to do this with stuffed pasta but I have tried a recipe that it does work with (it does create a more of a "pie" or casserole however):

                                                                                                                                                                                                        This a recipe for a Tortellini Torta. It involves cooking tortellini's almost all the way in the sauce (with a bit of broth) until the sauce is almost absorbed. Add a bit of jack and parmesan cheese to thicken. You then pour 1/2 the mixture into a breadcrumb lined springform pan and layer with eggplant that has been boiled in chic broth until mashed. Bake for about 20 min.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        This a wonderful dish for bringing to pot lucks, etc since you can make it ahead, remove it from the pan to display and serve it in slices like cheesecake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That's the only other time I have seen cooking pasta in the sauce. I would love to know if it's best with dried pasta or works for both.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's a great idea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. p
                                                                                                                                                                                                        PhoebeB May 17, 2007 08:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm grateful for your suggestion. I'm always looking for a way to add a smoky flavor to soups and beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        My trick is handful of rather finely chopped cauliflower florets in all my vegetable soups including dried bean/pea soups. It dissolves, but gives the most wonderful depth of unidentifiably rich flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Louise May 18, 2007 08:56 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's a good one. And thanks for the tea bag idea. Bean soup is on this week's menu so I'll be giving these ideas a test drive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Louise
                                                                                                                                                                                                            PhoebeB May 18, 2007 09:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Louise, it's surprising what it can do. Best I can describe it is that it makes a freshly-made soup taste like one that's had time for subtle flavors to fully develop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            One morning 20 or so years ago our inn cook (best one we ever had; he had the "jeweler's tongue" for flavor and perfect seasoning) brought me a cup of a new soup recipe he'd just made a small test batch of. A very delicate pureed squash soup, as I recall--shallots, maybe a little mint.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It was so incredibly good my eyes crossed, and I said, "Do it!", and he said he would be serving it that very night. All day I anticipated having a big bowl of it for dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            But when dinnertime came and I went in to get some, he had a long face and told me it wasn't as good. I took a spoonful and had to agree. The difference was astounding. Compared to the first batch the soup had no character, tasted flat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            He said, "It's the cauliflower. I didn't have any more, it only calls for a little of it and I didn't think it would matter much".

                                                                                                                                                                                                            From that time I've seldom made soup without cauliflower. The frozen is handy and works as well as fresh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                                              elizabeththinks Jun 4, 2007 01:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Also, there is a product called liquid smoke, and a very little bit, infuses quite a bit of flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                bards4 Jul 22, 2007 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Instead of cauliflower, I add parsnips to my chicken soup. Then I take out most of the veggies (carrots, onions, celery, parsnips), and puree them and put them back into the soup. I also roast a second chicken while I make the soup in order to have juicy, not worn out chicken to put in the soup. I find that the bird that's been sitting in the soup pot for hours is stringy and has given up all its flavor for the good of the soup. The soup is very rich and wonderful with the thickened broth and juicy chicken.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bards4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  niki rothman Jul 22, 2007 02:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My mother does something similar that probably goes back to her Jewish relative's Russian roots - i.e. poverty. But a lot of good cooking comes out of making do - i.e. poverty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  She starts out her chicken soup typically with the bird in it. then after about 40 minutes when the soup is nice and brothy she removes the bird and roasts it. She claims the soup is not harmed and the roast bird comes out better than just roasting from the raw state. And you know, although I've never done it, it makes sense. When one roasts a raw bird, so much flavor leaks out and winds up as liquid under a bird that, lets face it, more often than not if one is an average cook - is rather dry any way. Her way, my mom gets a big pot of excellent soup - to which she can add all the leftover roast chicken after serving soup with veg. matzoh balls and noodles, and main course of stewed then roast bird. I believe her when she says it is the best way to do it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  BUT...I elimimated the dry chicken problem by making probably my best kitchen gadget purchase - the compact countertop rotisserie - so juicy, so perfect every time - all that crisp skin AND perfectly juicy bird. That is heaven!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: niki rothman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pistou Jul 23, 2007 09:18 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I cut the breasts off my chicken before I put it in the soup pot, then dice them and add them after the soup is made and cook just long enough for the breast meat to cook through. A chicken carcass stripped of all useable meat will still produce delicious stock, so this doesn't hurt the flavor of the soup any.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: niki rothman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Morganna Oct 10, 2007 09:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Brining poultry before roasting makes them much more forgiving for the average cook, and it is hard to make them come out dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PhoebeB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                gyozagirl Oct 10, 2007 07:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The cauliflower idea sounds really interesting- can you please tell me if there's a certain time that it should go in? It sounds like if it is going to dissolve over the cooking time, it may be one of the first things to go into the pot?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. Quine May 17, 2007 07:54 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Whenever I made a salad that uses mayo, I use mayo, sourcream and yogurt in equal measure. When I boil my potatoes for salad, I throw a couple cloves of garlic as well. Depending, these can either be discarded or mashed into the dressing. Adds the garlic flavor without the fresh harshness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Quine
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  malenky May 18, 2007 08:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do that same trick of mixing mayo, sour cream and yogurt. It really makes a difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: malenky
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    JoLi May 18, 2007 02:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do you guys mix the three for better flavor or healthier alternative?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JoLi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Quine May 19, 2007 11:26 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Quine
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        JoLi May 21, 2007 06:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have to try it! I assume it works with tuna salad too?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: JoLi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          odkaty May 21, 2007 10:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          works with anything calling for mayo ... but then I leave the mayo out altogether (I can't stand it!) But no one has ever questioned the ingredients ... well, except once when I used silken tofu and yogurt. Did I mention I can't stand mayo???

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Quine
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          oakjoan May 25, 2007 02:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I use a mix of mayo and yoghurt and no sour cream for tuna, deviled eggs, salad dressings, dips for pakoras, etc. I even used it in place of creme fraiche in the Suzanne Goin's horseradish sauce served with the famous braised short ribs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you get Greek yoghurt, even the non-fat is pretty great.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: JoLi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          malenky May 21, 2007 01:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I like the flavor of the 3 mixed then just using any one of them by themselves. And it does make it somewhat more healthy. it is really good with tuna salad and spreads for sandwiches

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