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Tips and Tricks
Vegetables


Asparagus (Generic)

1 1/2  pounds asparagus
For 4 servings.

Asparagus is low-calorie and spiked with vitamins A, B & C. To Prepare: Break off tough ends as far down as stalks snap easily. For spears, tie with string. Or, cut each stalk into 1 inch pieces.

Cooking Spears: In deep, narrow pan or asparagus pot, heat 1" salted water to boiling. Place asparagus upright in pot. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover and boil 2-3 minutes longer. Drain.

Cooking pieces: Cook lower stalk pieces uncovered in 1" boiling water for 6 minutes. Add tips, cover, and cook until tender, about 1-2 minutes. Drain.

Steaming: Place steamer or basket in 1/2" water (water should not touch basket). Place asparagus in basket. Cover tightly and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Microwave: Cover and nuke asparagus spears or 1" pieces and 1/4 c water in 2 qt casserole on high 4 minutes. Turn asparagus over. Cover and nuke until tender crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Let stand 1 minute and drain.

Tomato Equivalents

Your recipe calls for three cups of tomatoes. When you get to the market, you wonder how many fresh or canned tomatoes you should buy. Here are some figures to take the guesswork out of shopping.

Fresh Peeled Plum Tomatoes:
2 1/2 pounds = 3 cups seeded, chopped drained = 2 1/2 cups seeded, chopped, cooked = 2 1/2 cups canned peeled in puree or juice

Canned Peeled Tomatoes in Their Juice or Puree:
35-ounce can = 4 cups = 2 1/2 to 3 cups drained
28-ounce can = 3 cups = 2 to 2 1/2 cups drained
16-ounce can = 2 cups = 1 cup drained

Canned Crushed, or Chopped Tomatoes
28-ounce can =3 cups

Canned Tomato Paste
6-ounce can = 3/4 cup

Improvising a Main-Dish Salad

When you're inventing your own salads, it's easy to be inspired by fresh summer produce--and hard to make mistakes if you follow a few general rules.

Match assertive greens (arugula, dandelion, chicory, endive, frisée and radicchio) with strong-flavored dressings and hearty ingredients, such as beef or sausage.

Coat milder greens (romaine, Boston, Bibb and red-leaf lettuces, as well as mung bean, alfalfa and sunflower sprouts) with subtle dressings that won't overpower them.

Play with textures and temperatures--cool, lacy greens with warm goat cheese in crisp phyllo or just-grilled beef with citrus.

For tossed salads, use ingredients of similar size and weight; heavy items will fall to the bottom of the bowl as you toss.

Serve salads based on starches, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, bread or grains, at room temperature, not chilled.

Don't be afraid to use meat, seafood or poultry straight from the grill.

Radishes: World Travelers

Radishes have been cultivated in China for thousands of years and are believed to have originated there before spreading to the Middle East. To this day, radishes are an important part of the many Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Ancient Greek writers made frequent mention of radishes. So highly did the Greeks esteem this vegetable that small replicas of them were made in gold in connection with Apollo worship. On the other hand the Greeks were satisfied with replicas of beets in silver and turnips in lead. The Romans at the beginning of the Christian era were also familiar with the radish and likely introduced it to the Germans. The radish didn't reach England until 1548, but by 1629 radishes were being cultivated by the new world colonists of
Massachusetts.

Making Radish Fan Garnishes

Start with large oval-shaped radishes. Trim the root ends and most of the leaves. Lay each radish on a cutting surface; with a thin sharp knife make closely spaced cuts crosswise along the radish, being careful not to slice through. Chill, covered with ice water, for 30 minutes. Radish Fans are very pretty alongside grilled meats, roasts and Oriental dishes.

Pickled Radishes

1 bag (6 ounces) radishes (about 1-1/2 cups), trimmed
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar

Place radishes in a covered bowl or jar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, ginger, garlic, oil and sugar; bring to a boil. Pour over radishes. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 1 week.

Yield: about 2 cups

Sliced Tomato Salad with Ten Variations
 
***BASIC RECIPE***
4 large tomatoes -- sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

A recipe for this style of salad is not really necessary; you just need to keep a few simple rules in mind. First of all, choose 2 medium or 1 large tomato per person, more if the salad will be the main part of the meal. Many chefs consider it essential that you peel the tomato, but I don't make this a hard and fast rule. When I am making a simple tomato salad for myself, I don't peel the tomatoes. Nor do I peel a bushel of tomatoes when I'm serving a group of a 100 if the tomatoes are of the best quality. Thicker-skinned tomatoes have been developed for commercial reasons, for the ease of storage and shipping, and these should be peeled (actually, they should not be used at all). Salads starring unpeeled tomatoes offer up summer's simplest, rustic pleasures; but if your tastes are more refined, feel free to peel them.

Next, you must slice the tomato through its equator not through its poles -- that is horizontally, not vertically. You are making slices, not wedges. If you look at a tomato as a tiny globe, its blossom end is the south pole, the stem end the north pole. Its fat middle is the center, its equator. Cut the tomato in 1/4-inch slices parallel with the equator. Discard the pole ends and arrange the thick slices on a plate or platter.

Drizzle your sliced tomatoes with a little extra-virgin olive oil and add a sprinkling of kosher salt and a freshly ground black pepper. Be sure to have plenty of good, crusty bread on hand to soak up the delicious juices that gather on the plate. And, finally, vary the color and variety of the tomatoes in each salad for a more visually striking and more delicious effect.

Basic Recipe:

Arrange the sliced tomatoes on 1 large or 4 individual plates. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Let the salad rest for 10 or 15 minutes so that the flavors can mingle, but be sure to serve it within an hour of preparation.

Variations:

Italian Parsley & Garlic: Sprinkle 2 or 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic and 3 tablespoons of minced fresh Italian parsley over the tomatoes before adding the olive oil.

Italian Parsley, Garlic, & Grated Cheese: Sprinkle 2 or 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of minced fresh Italian parsley over the tomatoes before adding the olive oil. Scatter 2 ounces of grated hard cheese (Dry Jack, Parmigiano, Romano, or aged Asiago) over the tomatoes after the olive oil has been added.

Tomatoes with Shaved Parmegiano and Garlic: Sprinkle 2 cloves of crushed and minced garlic over the tomatoes before adding the olive oil. Using a vegetable peeler, make 15 to 20 curls of imported Parmigiano cheese and scatter them over the tomatoes.

Mozzarella Fresca & Fresh Basil: Tuck 8 slices (about 4 ounces) of mozzarella fresca here and there between the slices of tomato before adding the olive oil. Cut 10 to 12 leaves of fresh basil into very thin, lengthwise strips and scatter them over the surface of the salad.

Peppers & Cucumbers: Before adding the olive oil, scatter 2 or 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic over the tomatoes. Cut 2 medium or 1 large lemon cucumber into very thin slices and tuck them in between slices of tomatoes. Cut 1 medium-sized, medium-hot pepper, such as a pasilla, into thin rounds and tuck them here and there between the tomatoes and cucumbers.

Lemons: Slice 1 lemon (Meyer's, if available) very thinly and tuck the slices here and there in between the slices of tomato before adding the olive oil.

Lemons, Chilies, and Cilantro: Cut 1 lemon into very thin slices and tuck them here and there between the slices of tomato. Remove the stems and seeds and cut 1 jalapeno pepper or 2 serrano peppers into thin julienne and scatter the peppers over the surface of the salad before adding the olive oil. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then sprinkle 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves over the salad.

Tuna & Lemon: Drain a 6 1/2-ounce can of imported tuna and scatter the tuna over the tomatoes before adding the olive oil. Add 2 or 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil and squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the salad before adding salt and pepper.

Anchovies, Onions, and Olives: Peel a medium-sized sweet red onion and slice it into 1/8-inch rounds. Add the onion slices randomly on top of the tomatoes and then drape 6 to 8 canned anchovy fillets, cut in half, over the onions and tomatoes. Cut the anchovy fillets in half and drape them over the vegetables. Scatter 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata, Nicoise, or salt-cured olives over the salad, and then add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Feta Cheese, Oregano, Olives, & Anchovies: Soak 8 anchovy fillets in 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar for 30 minutes. Cut 2 ounces of feta cheese into small cubes and scatter it over the tomatoes before adding the olive oil. Add 1/4 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives to the salad. Drain the anchovies, cut them in half, and arrange them over the tomatoes, cheese, and olives. Scatter the feta cheese and the olives over the tomatoes. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of minced fresh oregano leaves over the salad.

Baked Potato Tips
•Avoid buying wrinkled potatoes, ones that have begun to sprout, and ones with green patches.

•Choose potatoes with uniform shapes and sizes; they'll cook more evenly.

•Store fresh, whole potatoes loose in a bin or rack (to allow air to circulate around them) in a cool (45(F. to 50(F.) dark place that is well ventilated. Kept this way, they should last for several weeks.

•Always scrub potato skins well under cold, running water.

•Prick potatoes with a fork before baking to shorten the baking time.

•Bake at 400(F. for about 1 hour, or until tender.

•Do not wrap potatoes in aluminum foil for baking. Foil holds in moisture and steams potatoes, resulting in a "boiled" taste and texture.

•Turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time to prevent browning of the undersides where they touch the baking tray or oven rack.

•To "bake" potatoes in the microwave, wash but don't dry them. Pierce, then wrap them in microwave-safe paper towels and place 1 inch apart on a microwave rack. Cook according to your oven's guidelines, turning potatoes once during cooking. Don't exceed the recommended cooking time because potatoes will continue to cook after they're removed from the oven.

•A baked potato is ready when a fork easily pierces its skin. If the potato is hard, bake it a little longer. However, be careful not to overbake, or the underskin will dry up.

•If potatoes baked to doneness are being held for over 10 minutes before serving, wrap them in foil. This will enhance the appearance of the skin by reducing shriveling.

•Great potato toppers include: leftover stews, cream-style soups, butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, gravy, chili, and lightly cooked vegetables. Even frozen and canned veggies are topping winners.

•By themselves, potatoes are low in fat and calories. You can keep them that way by serving them with low-fat toppings such as: plain nonfat yogurt with chopped scallions, low-fat cottage cheese and chives, stewed tomatoes, steamed broccoli florets or julienned carrots, spicy mustard, and salsa.

Freezing Vegetables

Start with just-harvested vegetables at the peak of flavor, and prepare amounts to fill only a few containers at a time. Discard damaged produce. Wash and drain before peeling or shelling.

For the best quality frozen product, most vegetables require blanching (exposure to boiling water or steam for a few minutes) to inactivate natural enzymes that cause loss of flavor, color, and texture. Blanching also gives vegetables a brighter color, helps retain nutrients, and destroys surface microorganisms.

It's important to follow the recommended blanching time for each vegetable. Over-blanching causes a loss of color, flavor, and nutrients, while under-blanching stimulates rather than inactivates enzymes.

Vegetables need to be cooled immediately after blanching to stop the cooking process. Then drain the vegetables well before packing to eliminate extra moisture, which can cause a noticeable loss of quality during freezing.

Follow these directions for blanching: Heat 1 gallon of water to boiling for each pound of prepared vegetables. (Use 2 gallons per pound for leafy green vegetables.) Place vegetables in a blanching basket, and submerge in boiling water. Cover and begin timing when water returns to a boil.

To stop the cooking process, plunge the basket in ice water, using 1 pound of ice for each pound of vegetables, or hold the vegetables under cold running water. Cool vegetables the same number of minutes recommended for
blanching. Drain.

Blanching can be done in the microwave oven or by steaming, but these methods aren't as good as boiling. Research shows that enzymes may not be inactivated in microwave blanching. However, if you plan to use the microwave method, work with small quantities, and use the directions that were designed for your microwave oven.

After blanching, freeze vegetables in a dry pack or a tray pack. For a dry pack, place cooled vegetables in freezer containers, leaving the recommended headspace, and freeze.

In a tray pack, vegetables are frozen individually so that they remain loose in the package. Simply spread the vegetables in a single layer on a shallow tray, and freeze until firm, checking vegetables every 10 minutes after 1 hour.

Package, leaving no headspace, and freeze.

Vegetable Freezing Chart

Beans (butter, lime, and pinto): Choose tender beans with well-filled pods. Shell and wash; then sort according to size. Blanch: Small beans, 2 minutes; medium beans, 3 minutes; large beans, 4 minutes.

Beans (green, snap, and waxed): Select tender young pods.  Wash beans, and cut off tips. Cut lengthwise of in 1- or 2-inch lengths. Blanch: 3 minutes

Corn (on the cob): Husk corn, and remove silks; trim and wash. Blanch: Small ears, 7 minutes; medium ears, 9
minutes; large ears, 11 minutes

Corn (whole kernel): Blanch ears first. Then cut kernels from cob about 2/3 depth of kernels. Blanche: 4 minutes

Corn (cream-style): Blanch ears first. Cut off tips of kernels. Scrape cobs with back of a knife to remove juice and hearts of kernels. Blanch: 4 minutes

Greens (beet, chard, collards, mustard, spinach, turnip): Select tender, green leaves. Wash thoroughly, and remove woody stems. Blanch: Collards, 3 minutes; other greens, 2 minutes

Okra: Select tender green pods. Wash and sort according to size. Remove stems at end of seed cells. After blanching, leave pods whole or slice crosswise. Blanch: Small pods, 3 minutes; large pods, 4 minutes.

Peas (blackeyed and field): Select pods with tender, barely mature peas. Shell and wash peas; discard hard immature, and overly mature ones. Blanch: 2 minutes

Peas (green): Select tender young peas. Shell and wash. Blanch: 1 1/2 minutes

Peppers (green and sweet red): Select crisp, tender, green or red pods. Wash peppers; cut off tops; remove seeds and membrane. Dice peppers; cut in halves, or cut in 1/2-inch strips or rings. Pack raw or blanch, if desired. (Blanching is optional.) Pepper halves, 3 minutes, dice or strips, 2 minutes.

Peppers (hot): Wash peppers; remove stems. Place in containers leaving no headspace. Blanching not required.

Squash (summer): Select young squash with small seeds and tender rind. Wash and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Blanch: 3 minutes

Tomatoes Raw: Dip tomatoes in boiling water 30 seconds to loosen skins. Core and peel tomatoes or leave whole. Pack leaving 1-inch headspace.

Stewed: Remove stem end and core from tomatoes; peel and quarter tomatoes. Chop or quarter tomatoes, or leave whole. Cover and cook until tender (10 to 20 minutes). Place pan containing cooked tomatoes in cold water to cool. Pack, leaving recommended headspace for liquid pack.

How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

Experts say you'll need a mason jar, a pair of clean pantyhose and broccoli seeds.

1) Put 2 Tbsp. of broccoli seeds in jar; cover with water.

2) Spread pantyhose in one layer over mouth of jar and tape to secure; screw on lid.  Lay jar on its side near a window overnight.

3) The next day, drain water from jar.  Continure to rinse seeds twice a day with fresh water; drain.  Sprouts will be ready on day three.

Amazing new research has shown that brocooli sprouts offer up to 50 times the cancer protection of their grown-up siblings...and you can raise them yourself. You can get all the benifits of broccoli, by eating an ounce of the sprouts once a week.

Snipping Fresh Herbs

Put the fresh herb in a container, such as a 1-cup glass measure, and snip it with kitchen shears. To substitute fresh herbs for dried, use three times more of the fresh herb. To freeze fresh herbs, wash young tender leaves thoroughly in several changs of cool water. Pat the leaves dry with paper toweling. Seal small amounts of the leaves in freezer bags, foil, or clear plastic wrap. Staple all packages of the same herb to cardboard; label and freeze.

Quick & Tasty Tips for Sweet Potatoes

1. Top cooked sweet potatoes with sour cream or yogurt and pepper for a unique flavor combination.

2. Mash cooked sweet potatoes and parsnips together; season with allspice and garnish with green onions.

3. Swirl hot mashed sweet potatoes with browned mushrooms for a change of pace.

4. Add a refreshing twist of grated lemon and lime or orange and lemon peel to cooked sweet potatoes.

5. Mash together the scooped-out pulp of two white baked potatoes and two baked sweet potatoes, then re-stuff into shells.

6. Season a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon for a different taste treat.

Chopping Onions

Cut onions in half; then use the cut side as a stable base. Slice the onion in one direction. Then holding onion slices together with one hand, carefully slice in the other direction. Use a very sharp chef's knife to make the job easier.

This technique also works well for chopping other vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots.

Potatoes

A humble tuber, the potato was keenly cultivated by the Incas thousand of years ago.  Like the tomato and eggplant, the potato belongs to the nightshade family which was considered throughout Europe be to poisonous. Instrumental in its European acceptance was Sir Walter Raleigh who planted potatoes on his Irish property. The rest, they say, is history. The potato flourished and commands respect as a complete and nourishing food.

A potato low in moisture, low in sugar with high starch, is termed floury. Floury specimens bake and mash perfectly and will render golden coloured chips or roast potatoes. Because of their low sugar they are harder to brown and tend to collapse with boiling.   On the other hand a waxy potato high in moisture with low starch, holds its shape and remains firm when boiled. These potato varieties are best for salads or scalloped.

Potato Shapes: Our tuber assumes some facsinating shapes. Generally speaking the shape often relates to the starch content. Fortunely this makes identifying the use easier.

Ovals--
Long oval: Long and slighly rounded they include the Russet varieties and the New Potatoes. Low moisture and high starch makes them floury and therefore superior baking potatoes that are excellent for French fries, crisping and roasting. Examples: agria (yellow), desiree (red)

Short oval: With more moisture and less starch their waxy quality produce good boiling potatos. They are usually a good all purpose potato. Ex: bildatar, draga, fianna, fresia, ilam hardy, iwa,  jersy benner, nadine, peru peru, rua, sebego, stroma

Rounds--
Red and White: They ar a waxy potato and often referred to as boiling potatoes. Good roasters and some are great for mashing. (Rima is a good New Zealand example)

Kidney shaped--  Not so common and obviously shaped like a lambs kidney, these waxy  potatoes are boulers and not suitable for frying or crisping. In New Zealand Cliff Kidney occasionaly appears at the greengrocer.

Storage: Store potatoes in a cool dark, well ventilated place for up to six weeks. Use new potatoes within 4 days of purchase. Refrigerating  potatoes
causes them to sweeten and turn dark when cooked. Warm temperatures encourage sprouting and shrivelling.

Steaming Vegetables

Place desired vegetables in a steamer basket. The steamer basket will prevent the vegetables from coming in contact with the water.

Then, place the basket of vegetables over (but not touching) boiling water in a saucepan. Cover the saucepan and steam vegetables for the time specified in the recipe or till tender.

Carrots

Here are two spreads that can be made in two minutes, if you have a blender or food processor, and they are versatile since they can be shaped into little balls to garnish your fruit salad or made a bit creamier for use as a dip.

The first is a honey-carrot spread. Scrub 3 carrots with a stiff brush, then pass them over a fine grater. Add 2 tablespoons orange juice, the grated rind of 1/2 an orange and 3 to 4 tablespoons cream cheese. Mash and blend. To make it clearer add a bit of sour or rich cream. In the blender, put the orange juice, rind, honey and the grated carrots on top, then blend; remove and add the cream cheese by hand.

The second is a carrot-nut spread. This can be used as a sandwich spread; to garnish a consomme with a teaspoon in each dish; as a dip with sour cream added; or mixed with a cup of cottage cheese to serve with lettuce. For this spread, scrape and grate finely 2 medium carrots, then add 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, 1 tablespoon peanut oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 sprigs fresh dill chopped or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley. Mash and blend in the bowl and use.



 

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