The best basic cooking tips I've gleaned from Food Network shows
When baking cookies, be sure your dough is thoroughly chilled when it goes on your baking pan. This will allow the leavening ingredients to work before the butter flattens out and your cookies lose their textural distinctions. (Norman Van Aken)
Always start with a smokin' hot pan! (Cat Cora)
Don't be afraid to ask the butcher or fishmonger to see the products up close and to smell for freshness. Fish should never smell fishy. (Eric Ripert)
Whenever you cook pasta, remove some of the pasta-cooking water (about 1/4 or 1/3 cup) just before draining. When you add the sauce of your choice to the pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid. This helps sauce to amalgamate; the starch in the water adds body and a kind of creaminess. An old Italian friend of mine instructed me in this finishing touch early on, and I would never, ever leave it out. It makes all the difference. (Nigella Lawson)
Caramelize onions very quickly by cooking them in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. They will caramelize beautifully in a lot less time than with traditional methods. (Michael Mina)
When cooking eggplant, I like to use the long, skinny, purple Japanese kind because you don't have to salt it to pull out the bitter liquid like you do with the larger Italian variety. (Andrew Carmellini)
Cook more often. Don’t study; just cook. (Masaharu Morimoto)
Use good oil when cooking. Smell and taste it: If it doesn't taste good alone, it won't taste good in your food. (Michelle Bernstein)
Want to know if your oil is hot enough for frying? Here’s a tip: Stick a wooden skewer or spoon in the oil. If bubbles form around the wood, then you are good to go. (Aaron McCargo, Jr.)
Fry eggs the Spanish way: Get a good quantity of olive oil hot. Before you add the egg, heat the spatula (if it's metal) in the oil first. That way the egg won't stick to it. Add the egg and fry it quickly, until it gets "puntillitas," or slightly browned edges. (José Andrés)
Keep flavored vinegars near the stove so you won't always reach for the salt. Acid enhances flavor. (Art Smith)
Always buy the freshest garlic you can find; the fresher it is, the sweeter it will be. The best garlic has firm tissue-like skin and should not be bruised, sprouted, soft or shriveled. If you find cloves that have green shoots, discard the shoots — they will only add bitterness. (Todd English)
For perfect vegetable soup, start with diced carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes sautéed in oil or butter before you add any liquid. This brings out the taste and caramelizes the sugars. (Shaun Hergatt )
When made properly, risotto's richness comes from the starchy rice and the stock. As the risotto cooks, stir it with a wooden spoon in rhythmic movements that go across the bottom and around the sides of the pan. The rice should constantly be bubbling, drinking up the liquid as it cooks. (Suzanne Goin)
If you don't have time to brine your chicken, use this simple trick: Heavily salt the chicken (inside and out) about an hour before you cook it. Then pat it dry and roast. This ensures crispy skin and juicy meat. (David Myers)
When making mashed potatoes, after you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. This allows the potatoes to dry out so they'll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the butter and cream more easily. (Wolfgang Puck)
Add cheese rinds to vegetable or meat broths for another dimension of flavor. (Paul Virant)
To cut pancetta or bacon into lardons, put in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will firm up the meat and make it easier to cut. (Chris Cosentino)
For safety, put a wine cork on the tip of a sharp knife before putting the knife in a drawer. (Giuseppe Tentori)
Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta: It will keep the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta. (Missy Robbins)
Anytime you are using raw onions in a salsa and you are not going to eat that salsa in the next 20 minutes or so, be sure to rinse the diced onions under cold running water first, then blot dry. This will rid them of sulfurous gas that can ruin fresh salsa. It's really important in guacamole, too. (Mark Miller)
After cutting corn off the cob, use the back side of a knife (not the blade side) to scrape the cob again to extract the sweet milk left behind. This milk adds flavor and body to any corn dish. (Kerry Simon)
Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about 3 minutes on high heat. (Donald Link)
For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight. (Ina Garten)
When chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around. (Joanne Chang)
For rich, creamy dressings made healthy, substitute half the mayo with Greek-style yogurt. (Ellie Krieger)
When you deep-fry, hold each piece of food with long tongs as you add it to the oil. Hold it just below the oil's surface for five seconds before releasing it. This will seal the exterior and stop it from sticking to the pot or the other food. (Michael Psilakis)
If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredient being cooked, it will be heated. (Anita Lo)
Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce. (Mario Batali)
Use a coarse Microplane to shave vegetables into salads or vinaigrettes. You can create an orange-fennel dressing by adding grated fennel and orange zest to a simple vinaigrette. (Paul Kahan)
Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor. (Rick Tramonto)
The smaller the item, the higher the baking temperature. For example, I bake mini chocolate chip-toffee cookies at 500 degrees F for only 4 minutes. Perfect end result. (Jim Lahey )
Bake your bacon! Heat hits from all sides, cooking more evenly. The result: consistently flat strips. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make cleanup easier. Set a wire rack on the pans so the bacon doesn't sit in fat. Place bacon slices in a single layer on the rack, and bake at 400º for about 20 minutes (depending on bacon thickness and how crispy you like it). You don't have to flip the bacon or turn the pans. You can even put the bacon in while the oven preheats—the gradual temperature increase will render the fat more slowly and won't shrink the meat as much.
For non-lumpy gravy: Don't put your thickener (flour, cornstarch, or other thickener) directly into the hot stock or broth. Also, don't add broth too quickly into your roux. In any starch-based sauce, the thickener needs to be gradually introduced to the hot liquid it's supposed to thicken. The easiest way is to whisk a flour slurry into the broth mixture, then keep stirring until the gravy comes together.
If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it's still cooking, drop in a peeled potato. It will absorb a lot of the excess salt.
To determine whether an egg is fresh, immerse it in a pan of cool, salted water. If it sinks, it is fresh. If it rises to the surface, toss it in the compost.
Freeze leftover wine into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.
Potatoes will take food stains off your fingers. Just slice and rub raw potato on the stains and rinse with water.
If you have a problem opening jars: Try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a non-slip grip that makes opening jars easy.
How to sauté garlic: Start with a cold pan, add olive oil, then garlic, and turn burner to low heat. Through the gradual increase of temperature, you'll infuse the oil with the flavor of garlic while it turns slightly brown.
Salt draws moisture out, so season just before sautéing meat or fish. If you salt too early, the surface of the flesh will become wet and will not get that nice golden crust. And if you marinate meat, remember to pat dry and season it just before you sear.
How to cook a lobster: Use water that's as close to seawater as it can be - extremely salty or, better yet, seawater itself. And don't use much: Put three or four inches in the pot, and when the water is steaming like mad, add the lobster. A pound-and-a-quarter lobster takes about nine minutes. Afterward, don't shock it in ice water. That makes the meat tougher. Just let it cool down.
How to sear a scallop: Make sure the scallop is totally dry - use a paper towel for this. Season it with salt. Get your (small) pan very hot and add cold oil. This way, the scallop will never stick. Once the scallop is in the pan, do not touch it. At all. It will caramelize. Flip it once and serve.
Instead of boiling corn on the cob, dot it with a little butter, salt, and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast (350 degrees) until tender. Caramelize a little honey in a sauté pan and, when the corn comes out, brush with the honey.
After you've breaded a piece of meat for panfrying (dip in flour, dip in a water-and-egg-white mixture, dip in bread crumbs), spray the breaded meat with a little water from a spritz bottle. The moisture will prevent the crumbs from absorbing too much oil while still preserving that crispy crunch.
To add garlic flavour to a dish without risking burning the garlic, put unpeeled cloves into your pan or pot and remove them when the cooking is finished. (Me, I'd just leave them alone and eat the sweet-as-candy cloves whole, slipping the peel off with my teeth!) The skin prevents the clove from getting burnt.
When mixing brownies (or any cake) don't stir the batter too vigorously. Overmixing develops the gluten - the protein - in the flour. Just mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. Doing too much will make the finished product heavier than you want.
A great way to easily add bits of butter to things like apple crisp is to use a stick of frozen butter and a cheese grater. Works like a charm!
For easy poached eggs, swirl the water before inserting each egg. The egg will get caught up in the swirl and stay together!
When making donuts, let them sit for awhile after you've cut them out. A coating will form on the dough that will keep the donut from absorbing the hot oil as it fries.
Do you have flour in an unlabeled container and don't remember if it's pastry or regular flour? Take a small amount in the palm of your hand and squeeze it. The pastry flour will clump together, the regular flour will not. (Anna Olson)
For fluffy, not gummy, mashed potatoes, always beat them by hand -- and not too vigorously. Overbeating breaks down the cells and releases their starch, resulting in pasty spuds.
Roll your lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits before squeezing them. You'll get more juice!
Don't overwork your meat when mixing meatloaf or meat balls!
Never press down on your hamburgers on the BBQ! All their moist juices will run out. (Rob Rainford)
If you squeeze your teabag before removing it from your cup, you're adding bitter oils to your tea.
Overcrowding your skillet when you're cooking fish or meat reduces the temperature and changes the cooking process. Same with deep-frying.
Garlic and onions turn beautifully sweet when you cook them. Remember this if you've avoided them before. They're delicious.
Let meat rest for around 20 minutes after removing it from the oven. This redistributes the juices and doesn't make them run out when you cut into the meat.
Root vegetables (potatoes, beets, turnips) are added to cold water to cook. Above-ground vegetables (zucchini, beans, peppers) are added to boiling water. Don't forget to salt the water!
Canned tomatoes are picked at their ripest, so they taste far better than "fresh" tomatoes shipped in from some far-off place where they were picked before ripening.
Add vegetable oil to butter on a pan so the butter won't burn.
Slice off the tops of peppers about a half inch to an inch below the stem end. Lift out the seeds in one motion!
Salt pasta water like "a day at the beach" -- meaning more heavily than you'd think. Don't forget to wait for the water to boil before adding the pasta.
Drizzle balsamic vinegar on ice cream for a great-tasting dessert.
To remove the stone from an avocado, hit it sharply with the blade of a large knife and give it a little twist.
Keeping tomatoes in the refrigerator will destroy their flavor.
Remove the peel from garlic with no fuss by first banging the flat side of a knife on it
Garlic will become bitter if you let it burn.
My Cheap Thrills
Slow-cooked sauerkraut and cabbage
Raja, every time she comes home
New York Times' Sunday crossword puzzle
My own clean car -- if only I had one!
Making all the green lights
Lauri on the trumpet
Laine's paintings and drawings
Järvi's name on the company website
Hot coffee from Timothy's
Freshly fallen snow
Free beverage coupons from Starbucks
Cream of wheat steaming in your bowl
Computer keyboards where the keys feel really good and click just right
Coca cola with crystallized ice in it from the bottle being in the freezer