This month I want to offer a few of my favorite kitchen tips and tricks. These are all small things that make cooking (and eating) much more enjoyable.
1. Use a Microplane
They are super handy little tools. My number one use for mine is to zest lemons, limes and oranges. The zest of citrus adds so much flavor to food. If a recipe calls for the juice, I often add some zest as well. I also use it to grate fresh nutmeg. It takes about 30 seconds longer than measuring nutmeg from a spice jar, and the difference is worth it. Lastly, a Microplane is great for grating Parmesan and other hard cheeses. It quickly turns the cheese into a fluffy pile of goodness for your pastas, soups, salads, etc. Want to try this tool? Come try it out at The Chopping Block.
2. Toast your Nuts
The difference between a salad with raw walnuts or almonds and one with toasted nuts is undoubtedly worth the time it takes to toast them. If your oven is on 350-375 already, just spread the nuts out on a sheet tray and pop them in. It only takes 4-5 minutes and they go from lightly browned to burned very quickly, so the only challenge is to not forget about them. Set a timer! You can also put them into a toaster oven (which is what I use) or toast them in a skillet, stirring or shaking them a few times until you start to smell the aroma of the nut. That’s the sign that they’re very close to ready. Let them cool and they’re ready to go. I’ll often toast more than I need so I can save them for later.
3. Butter ‘em Up
Save the wrappers from your butter, fold them in half, and store them in a Ziploc in the freezer. When a recipe says to butter the pan, just pull one out and rub it all over the pan. There’s enough butter still clinging to the wrapper to grease your pan, and you’re getting one more use out of it before it’s thrown away.
4. Buy spices in bulk.
How many of you have a cabinet full of old spices? Or how many of you have bought a bottle of turmeric for an Indian recipe you wanted to try and have never used it again? One year I got so tired of this that I bought a set of glass spice jars and started buying all my spices as I needed them at Whole Foods in the bulk section. You can buy as little or as much as you want and it costs way less than the jars do. If you don’t have a Whole Foods or spice shop nearby, another good option is to buy spices in bags rather than bottles. I’ve often seen these at ethnic grocery stores.
I would love to learn more tips and tricks from you, so please share yours in the Comments!