Authors > Richard Lewis > Joy of Cooking Food Tips

Joy of Cooking Food Tips

<b><b><big><big>Food Tips</big></big></b></b> <br> <ol type="1"> <li>The ice with which a drink is shaken, stirred, or served is an important ingredient. If the water used to make ice has a strong taste before being frozen, this will be carried into the drink. For the clearest and best-tasting cubes, start with filtered water, if possible, or let the water sit for several minutes before freezing.<br> </li> <li>When making sandwiches to be eaten later (as for a lunchbox), keep them from becoming too soggy by packing additions like tomato, lettuce and pickle slices in separate plastic bags. Add the extras to the sandwiches just before eating.<br> </li> <li>To extract citrus juice easily, first roll the fruit firmly beneath your palm over a hard surface, exerting pressure. Cut the fruit in half crosswise. When juicing only one fruit, the most efficient tool is the citrus reamer. When juicing several fruits, use a citrus hand press or an electric juice extractor.<br> </li> <li>To shell hard-cooked eggs, crack the shell and roll the egg between the palms of the hands to free the thin tough skin from the egg and make shelling easier. If eggs are very fresh (less than 3 days old), they are more difficult to shell. Quickly cooling hard-boiled eggs and then thoroughly chilling them before peeling helps, as does holding eggs in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days before hard-boiling. Hold the egg under a stream of cool water as you peel to remove any bits of broken shell. <br> </li> <li>To test scallops for freshness, see that they have a sweetish odor. Those that are sold shucked may be soaked in a bath of water and preservatives such as tripolyphosphate; this process both extends their shelf life and artificially increases the weight of the scallop. You want to make every effort to buy unsoaked or "dry" scallops. They have a cleaner taste, and they brown better when saut&eacute;ed because they contain less water. Be suspicious of any sea scallops that are pure white, a good indication that they have been soaked; the natural color of sea scallops ranges from white to off-white to pale shades of orange, pink, and tan.<br> </li> <li>To adapt standard recipes for the slow cooker: estimate 2 hours on low or 1 hour on high in a slow cooker for every 30 minutes of cooking time in the original recipe. Just as for a meat stew or roast, brown the meat and saut&eacute; the vegetables to maximize flavor before combining them in the insert. Vegetables, especially root vegetables, cook more slowly than meat and should be placed in the bottom of the insert so they can heat directly in the cooking liquid. To compensate for the steam that will collect, decrease the liquid called for in the oven or stovetop recipe by 1/2 cup. Add dairy-based ingredients such as milk, cream, or cheese during the last thirty minutes of cooking, as they will curdle if cooked too long.<br> </li> <li>To test mussels for freshness, try to slide the two halves of the shell across each other. If they budge, the shell is probably filled with mud, not mussel. Discard any mussels with broken shells or shells that will not close after putting into the freezer for a minute or two.<br> </li> <li>To minimize fish tastes and odors, use lemon, wine, vinegar, ginger, spring onions, or garlic in the marinating or cooking. To remove the odor of fish from utensils and dishcloths, use a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda to 1 quart water. Pans may be washed in hot suds, rinsed and dried, and then rinsed with a little vinegar. Rinse again with water. To remove the odor of fish from the hands, rub them with lemon juice, vinegar or salt before washing.<br> </li> <li>To store a cut avocado, allow the seed to remain embedded, spread the edges with lemon juice or mayonnaise, cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. <br> </li> <li>Fresh or frozen pineapple, kiwi, papaya, honeydew, figs and ginger -- and their juice -- cannot be added to a gelatin salad. They contain enzymes that will inhibit jelling. Canned pineapple has been cooked and may be used as is.<br> </li> <li>All cream soups, whether bound with egg or not, are ruined by boiling, so be sure to heat just to the boiling point, or cook them in the top of a double boiler [arrow] over -- not in -- boiling water. Reheat them this same way. Many cream soups are equally good served hot or cold; when serving cold, adjust the seasoning before serving.<br> </li> <li>Avoid turning pancakes more than once, and continue cooking only until the second side is lightly browned. Pancakes are best served at once, but if this is not possible, keep them on a baking sheet, separated by paper towels, in a 200&ordm;F oven. Never stack one on the other without the protection of a towel -- the steam they produce will make the cakes flabby.<br> </li> <li>Always fill out a baking sheet, placing cookies of even size and thickness about 1 inch apart, unless otherwise indicated. On a partially filled sheet the heat is drawn to the area where the cookies lie, and the batch may burn on the bottom. If you haven't enough dough on your last baking to fill a whole baking sheet, reverse a pie pan or turn a small baking pan upside down.<br> </li> <li>The placement of the pans during baking is very important. Bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time, at least 2 inches from the oven walls and on the center oven rack. If using two smaller pans, see that they are spaced evenly from the walls and from each other. Heat should circulate all around the pans. Few ovens are so nearly perfect that they will brown a large sheet evenly. During the baking process, do rotate the sheet halfway through cooking for even baking. Oven thermostats are also variable, so watch closely, especially when baking molasses and brown-sugar cookies, which burn easily. When cookies are done, remove them from the baking sheet at once or they will continue to cook. Should they harden on the pan, return the baking sheet for a moment to the oven before trying to remove them.<br> </li> <li>Whenever foods show the slightest signs of spoilage, such as leaking packages, off-odors, mold, bubbling or unnaturally cloudy liquids, bulging or rusty cans, or liquid that spurts out when a can is opened, please accept the best advice we know: <b>If in doubt, throw it out.</b> Do not taste even the smallest bit. It is not worth the risk getting sick or worse.<br> </li> <li>Some foods simply do not hold up to freezing well, and the changes it causes in them make them undesirable for later use. Freezing, for example, will ruin gelatins, mayonnaise, and many meringues. Cooked pastas and rice, if frozen alone, will turn mushy and develop a warmed-over taste. Milk sauces may separate or even curdle, as will sour cream, custards, and cream fillings. Vegetables that are very high in water content will have a significant change in texture upon thawing, becoming quite limp and water-logged. This includes lettuce, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, endive, and radishes.<br> </li> <li>Any fruit dried outdoors must be brought inside at sundown at night to protect it from night dews. No food should be dried outdoors in air-polluted areas.<br> </li> <li>For best results, it is imperative that vegetables and fruit for pickling are in prime condition and are harvested no more than 24 hours in advance. If cucumbers have been held longer, they tend to become hollow during processing.<br> </li> <li>When washing fruits and vegetables, scrub particularly around the stems, blossom ends, and crevices -- these are hiding places for bacteria.<br> </li> <li>The flavor of almost all pickled produce is improved if it is stored 6 weeks before using.<br> </li> <li>The Sundae is a variation of the ice cream soda. Nineteenth Century frowners did not approve of drinking soda water on the Sabbath, but the treat was so popular, a dish of ice cream and syrup (or sauce) without the soda was created and named for the sacred day. Frowners continued to be offended by the name and eventually it was changed to sundae.<br> </li> </ol>

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