I’ve got lots of my own tips (etc.) and I know there are many of you who do, too!
I want to know (and share!) many of the things we do, ingredients we use, tools that help and anything else to make the experience of preparing food and eating it better-tastier-easier-healthier (etc.).
Here are a few questions and ideas to get started:
best ways to cut/peel onions? to reduce tears? to produce finer or more precise slices?
how to make produce stay fresh longer? ripen more quickly?
knife sharpening: do you do your own? if so, what method(s)?
weird molecular gastronomy stuff that works even in a home kitchen?
substitutions for common ingredients? for uncommon ingredients?
what kitchen tool(s) do you love/rely on?
how do you lower the GI of a meal (if you do)?
what’s your favourite ingredient and why?
what are some other questions, problems, solutions you have?
Here’s one of mine:
I’ve recently learned how to use mandoline - for a long time I was too freaked out to use it because I thought I’d slice my hands up… Recently I gave it a try, and have been using it to make salads more delish by thinly slicing cukes (lengthwise), carrots and radishes.
Here’s a detailed review with instructions for the model I have: http://www.kitchenaudition.com/?page_id=1659
There are other makes and models around, I’ve only used this one. An extra tip for this model (and others too, perhaps) is that the screw that adjusts the blade height will need to be readjusted periodically while slicing as it can loosen and therefore make the slices thicker; other than that, I love using it.
best way to avoid/reduce tears: turn on running water or bite down on a toothpick
how to ripen veggies quickly: place in a brown paper bag
substitution for ingredients: mashed cauli for mashed taters
what kitchen tools do I rely on: my VERY SHARP J.A. Henkels chefs knife
My favorite ingredient: ok, now that’s a hard one. Currently, I love garden tomatoes and avocados. But as the seasons change, so do my favorites
I love fresh herbs and grow my own. I grow them in pots so I can move them around the garden when the seasons change. I always grow basil near tomatoes as it helps keep pests at bay.
Don’t have many kitchen gadgets, I do have a mandolin, sharp knives are good, I buy quality saucepans and frypans because they are balanced nicely and last a long time.
And I am still (with one month of winter to go) picking my own cherry tomatoes.
It is hard to share kitchen skills without a video or being actually face to face. I’ll try to describe my technique for chopping onions. The video below from Gordon Ramsey shows the basic technique, but I do a few things differently.
So first, my knives are sharp, really sharp. I use a steel to keep my key knives razor sharp. The knife in this video is pretty sharp, but a sharper knife will go through the onion with almost no effort.
My changes to the technique in the video:
I cut the onion in half before peeling skin and I just pull the skin back I don’t necessarily remove it.
Next, I don’t use the knife tip to section and chop the onion, I use the center of the blade. I use a chef’s knife and tip the knife so the top of the blade is slightly elevated (handle slightly down) and cut the sections with quick vertical movements. Tipping the knife keeps it from cutting into the root core, letting the onion stay together after sectioned.
To do the horizontal cut I don’t hold the onion with my fingers, I consider that too dangerous, I press the onion down against the board with my palm and then cut horizontally (usually just once).
Using these changes I can generally chop an onion from start to finish in under a minute, usually faster. Note the tip about curling your fingers and keeping the blade against your fingers the whole time, that is critical to knife control and a consistent result. After that it is just practice and you will get quicker. Gordon slowed down the process, he could probably chop the whole onion in like 15 seconds. I also keep the onion cores and skins for making stock.
My experience with onions is that the gas that comes from the onions causes your eyes to water. If you can complete the chopping quickly and get the chopped onion into a bowl away from being beneath your face you can avoid all that pain.
Here is a video of how to use the mandolin slicer I have:
Last year my food processor gave up the ghost after nearly twenty years of service. So I started using my mandolin. It did an ok job but I have a whole raft of complaints that caused me to end up just replacing my food processor. Here are the problems:
It is dangerous, my wife actually left the room when I used it.
It is hard to do any volume of food, it is slow and a pile of sliced food piles up too fast underneath it.
If is wasteful since you will be left with odd ends that can’t be further sliced
And it is hard to clean
The only reason I use my mandolin anymore is if I want some sort of fancy slices or something really thin.
With your food processor, using the thinnest slicing blade, slice one hothouse cucumber and one halved and peeled onion. Pour contents in bowl and add 2 tbs apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp dill and 1 tsp black pepper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and shake it vigorously. Optionally set it in the refrigerator for an hour or two and then before serving add a tsp salt and a tbs of favorite sweetener, recover and shake again and then serve.
ps. I also make variants with some olives, cubed tomatoes or avocados and even some other spices like paprika.
Combine equal parts chopped tomato, avocado and feta cheese cubes (1/2 - 3/4 inch) in a bowl. Add half as much olives of choice and add 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil (I vary based on salad size), 1 tsp salt (you can tell I like salt) and 1 tsb pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and do the shake dance. Serve immediately.
I like to use a technique called chiffonade with fresh herbs. You stack leaves and/or roll them up and then cut them into thin strips. This is fast, cuts much better than you get with a single leave and works well to get the flavors out of the herbs.
I love Phad Thai! It’s gluten free, and I sweeten the peanut sauce with stevia. That’s not my tip, though I replace half of the phad thai noodles with shredded cabbage. Same consistency and tastes great with peanut sauce