Category Archives: This and That

Have You Tried This Measuring Cup Yet?

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As a cookbook author I am a stickler for accurate measuring devices…and for using the right measuring cup for the designed ingredients.  You might wonder why you need special measuring cups for liquids; can’t you just use the metal scoop-like ones you use for flour and sugar?  The answer is that the liquid and dry measuring cups do hold the same amount, but if you are measuring liquids in a dry measuring cup you must fill it to the tippy top and the problem is  you will most likely spill some of the liquid on the way to the bowl or pot – making them less accurate than using the liquid measuring cups which are deep enough to prevent spillage and have a spout to make the pouring easier.

Ever since I could remember liquid measuring cups looked like this:

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You fill the cup to the proper line, but here’s the trick – you have to look at the cup at eye level or you won’t get the measurement right.  The angled measuring cup allows you to pour in the liquid and look down to see the proper measurement.  Much easier than the old fashioned kind, they’re also lighter as they’re made of plastic and most of the traditional ones are made of glass.  Both types are dishwasher safe.

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The 1 cup angled measuring cup costs about $7.00; 2 cup about $9.00;  4 cup $10.00, and 8 cup $18.00.  It also comes in sets of 3 sizes 1, 2 and 4 cups for about $20.00

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Though I have both types of measuring cups in my cabinet, I find myself reaching for the angled measuring cup much more often than the traditional one.

I think you’ll really like it.

How to Peel and Seed a Tomato

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Good Morning, it’s Friday time for This and That.  Since I’ve been making recipes using fresh tomatoes for the last few posts (and probably will for the next few posts as well), it only seems right to show you how to prepare them for cooking.  Now to be honest…in all my recipes I don’t bother to peel or seed tomatoes because the skin and seeds don’t bother me in the final products.   But, if you want to be really sophisticated, skinning a tomato really does improve the dish.  Seeding the tomato can change slightly the consistency, so unless the recipe writer suggests that tomatoes be seeded, assume that they should not.

I know of two ways to skin tomatoes.  The most popular is to place the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or two and then immediately plunge them into an ice water bath.  I don’t love this method because the tomatoes feel cooked and mostly I don’t like to have to mess up pots and bowls when I don’t have to.  Here’s how I do it (but you need a gas range):

Peeling a Tomato

Pierce the blossom end of the tomato with a fork

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Turn your burner onto high and hold the tomato in the flames, rotating it, until all the skin has blistered (it’s okay if it chars in places)

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Using your fingers or a knife, pull the skin from the tomato until all the skin has been removed

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Seeding Tomatoes

This can be done to tomatoes that have been skinned or unpeeled tomatoes

Cut the tomato in half, through the middle (not the blossom)

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Put half into the palm of your hand and squeeze over a bowl or garbage can to catch the seeds you want discarded

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The tomato is now ready for chopping, dicing or whatever the recipe calls for.

Toys for Lemons

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The Duane Reid a block from my apartment just closed.  The week before DR closed it put all sorts of stuff on sale – not just a measley 10 or 20% off – I mean 90% off. Cheap.  When I see sales like that I just can’t help myself.  I buy all kinds of stuff I would NEVER think of buying and one of those objects was a citrus spritzer. It was only $.59 – how could I resist (and to tell the truth I bought three – such a bargain -who could resist???)

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I tried it today and I am totally in love and just had to share it with you.  Here’s how it works:  The bottom of the green part is serrated

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and just screws into the lemon.

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Then you just press the pump and it spritzes lemon juice onto whatever you want (I used it on baked turbot).  But I can see it being great on salads, or on cut fruit like apples that brown if unless you put a little lemon juice on them.  When the pump stops spraying, just move the spritzer to another part of the lemon.

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This gadget really works!

But as long as I’m talking about lemon toys, here are a few more you might want to know about:

Microplanes

when a recipe calls for lemon zest, microplanes are the gadget to use.  They are so much easier to use than trying to zest a lemon on a 4 side box grater and they remove a thinner layer of zest.  You can also use them for fine grating things such as ginger.

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Juicers

I have 2 juice gadgets that I love.  The reamer and the old fashioned juicer.  I use the reamer (the wooden gadget) when I only need to juice one or two lemons.  For bigger jobs, like 1/2 cup lemon juice or when the lemons are just filled with pits and I want to keep them out of the juice I use this juicer that fits over most size cups or bowls.

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Zesters

for making decorations or fancy lemon slices or wedges I use this zester

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You can also make lemon zest with the end that has the smaller holes

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I’m sure there are millions of more lemon gadgets on the market but these are my favs – and, of course, you can use these for all kinds of citrus fruits.

Have Fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Need Cream of Tartar in Your Kitchen

Just 3 days ago I announced I wasn’t going to post on Fridays and here it is, Friday, and here I am.  I changed my mind about posting, but not about posting Friday recipes.  Fridays will be be devoted to This and That.  Food talk.  Maybe product evaluations, or cookbook reviews, or equipment suggestions, or cooking techniques, there may even be a recipe or two, but they will only be basics – coconut milk, white sauce and the like.

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So that brings me to Cream of Tartar.  I finally used up my last jar after about 20 years and buying a new one made me wonder just what it is and why bother to replace it.  Cream of tartar (scientifically known as potassium bitartrate) is most often used in cooking to stabilize and increase the volume of beaten egg whites and in candy making to prevent crystallization of sugar.  You may think you’ve never used it, but if you’ve ever used baking powder, you’ve used cream of tartar.  Baking powder is a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda (and if you want to make your own at home just mix 2 teaspoons cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  If you want to  make a bigger batch and store it, stir in a little cornstarch to prevent clumping).

It’s also a favorite with people who prefer to avoid chemical cleaners as it is reported to be a great stain remover (http://www.mrsjanuary.com/simple-living/cream-of-tartar-uses/  http://www.stain-removal-101.com/cream-of-tartar-uses.html )

I also learned that cream of tartar is that white stuff you sometime find on corks in wine bottles or even sometimes on grape jelly.  Who knew?

But all that is hardly a really good reason to buy a (relatively expensive – about $6/bottle) bottle of cream of tartar.  My number one reason (one I haven’t found on any other blog/website) is:

It’s a rescuer of pots burnt beyond recognition by sometimes distracted cooks.

You know, the time you put up spaghetti to cook then got started on a project and didn’t remember the spaghetti until the smoke alarm went off.  Or more frequently in my home, when the popcorn burnt because I wasn’t sure I had let it pop enough.  Those pots that no matter how hard you scrub with steel wool or Comet, or how much you scrape with a knife, still have these incredible black patches all over the bottom.  Here’s the answer:

1.  Fill the pot/pan with about an inch of water and stir in about 1 tablespoon cream of tartar.

2.  Boil 3 to 5 minutes, then take the pot off the heat.

3.  With the water still in the pot, scrape the bottom with a metal spatula.  Like magic that black substance is now floating and can just be poured out with the liquid – you will still want to use some steel wool just to polish it up.

That bottle of cream of tartar has just saved you the cost of a replacement pot/pan!

Hope you’ll enjoy the interesting tidbits in the Fridays to come.