Kitchen tips

We are entering the best time of year for cooking, at least in my opinion.  There is an abundance of fresh produce.  The fruits and vegetables are so flavorful  you can cook them simply so their flavors are amplified and don't reuqire much embellishment.  Here in SC we are on the verge of lots of local produce, but some is still coming from FL or other places with an earlier warm season. There was a late freeze here this year so I think things are a little later than usual.  When vegetables are fresh, you really just need to know a few basic techniques for cooking.  Here are some of my favorite: 

  • Blanched vegetables:  Boil water and then put chopped or sliced vegetables in one at a time, cooking them from 15 seconds to a minute or two depending on the vegetable.  Lay out on a large plate to cool.  Toss with a light vinaigrette for a delicious salad. This works great on carrots, broccoli, snap peas, greens.  You can also use these vegetables mixed with lettuces and other traditional salad items to make a nice raw and cooked mixed salad. 
  • Pressed salad:  Thinly slice vegetables like cabbage, beets, carrots, onions, greens, and toss them in a bowl with a pinch of salt.  Massage them briefly with your hands to distribute the salt and start to soften the vegetables.  Put a heavy plate or bowl on top of the vegetables and leave for 30 minutes.  Pour off any water than accumulates.  Toss with some dressing or eat plain. 
  • Make a quick soup.  Chop vegetables, cook with vegetable broth or water until tender.  You can add some rice or pasta, and some beans to make this more substantial. 

In this wrap above I layered humus with blanched carrots and broccoli for a delicious sandwich. I also added some red onion that I quickly pickled by adding umeboshi vinegar to some thinly sliced onion and letting it sit for about 20 minutes.   Here is the link for the yummy lemon humus I made. It is from my chef mentor Rachel who is a macrobiotic chef from school.  You can make this with canned chickpeas but I recommend cooking your own.  The taste is so much better.  

Lastly here are some great tips that my friend Peri sent me.  She found them in Cooking Light.  They are spot on so I decided to share them with you! 

1.  Don't put basil in the fridge because it is highly sensitive to cold. Put in cool shady spot in your kitchen with stems submerged in glass of water. Put Baggie over too to keep leaves moist until you use.  (CC notes:  you can keep any herb in a glass of water like you do a bouquet of flowers.  You can put them in the fridge and they will last longer. Woody herbs like rosemary do not need to be put in water, just loosely wrapped in papertowels and put in the fridge.) 

2. When choosing a watermelon, look for a deep cream or yellow ground spot. That shows melon sat on the ground and ripened adequately before harvesting. Also light free or whitish ground spots indicate melon is underripe as does a shiny rind. Dull rinds can be overripe. (CC note: I think this also applies to cantaloupe!) 

3. Keep cucumbers at room temp or the outside develops pits and the inside gets watery. Store away from tomatoes, melons and bananas because of the ethylene gas those give off. Store your unripe avocados next to those melons, tomatoes and bananas because the ethylene gases will help them ripen.

So that's all I have for today!  I am off to Winston-Salem to start checking things out.  The first step to deciding what comes next!