Kitchen Tips - July 2011

A few easy tricks can simplify your preparation time when it comes to cutting and chopping. We offer suggestions for some common food items that are staples for summer recipes. Investing in quality tools is of utmost importance as well. A good set of knives is a great place to start as you build your repertoire.

  • Minced ginger can add an exciting flavor to a variety of dishes, but this strange-looking root can be intimidating for first time users. However, it is quite easy to use. Start by scraping off the paper-looking skin with the edge of a spoon. A spoon will create less waste than a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Then rub the peeled ginger along the tiny, sharp blades of a Microplane grater. This tool is also great for grating cloves of garlic, hard cheeses and zesting citrus fruit.
  • Don't like the seeds in fresh tomatoes? An easy way to eliminate them is to start by quartering your tomato. I like to use plum tomatoes because of their flavor. Using a paring knife, scoop just under the pulp in each quarter and discard it. Then, with the skin side facing down, cut each quarter into thin strips. Line up the thin strips and cut across them to dice the tomato. You are well on your way to making fresh salsa or bruschetta, two summertime favorites.
  • When cooking a thick cut of meat such as a boneless pork chop or steak, it is easier to cook the center without burning the outside by butterflying the meat before beginning to cook. To do this, start with a boneless center-cut pork chop at least one inch thick. Cut into the middle of the fat side to within a half inch of the other side. Open up the meat like a butterfly and flatten with the palm of your hand. Trim off any excess fat. Lay the chop between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, flatten the meat to an even thickness of about one-fourth inch.
  • To make kabobs that cook evenly, cut chunks of meat at least one inch thick in all directions. Smaller chunks tend to overcook and turn dry quickly. When threading meat and vegetables onto skewers, don't cram them together. The food will cook more evenly when you leave a bit of space in between them.
  • To dice an avocado, cut it lengthwise around the pit and then twist the halves in opposite directions to separate the two halves. Take a chef's knife and tap the pit with the heel of the knife. It will pull out from the avocado and can be easily removed from the blade of the knife and discarded. The avocado can be diced right in the skin and then scooped out with a spoon.

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