After my cooking buddy Genna hinted that I might have a good-sized collection of useful kitchen pointers buried in my brain, I've decided to go digging for these acquired nuggets and bring them out into the daylight for public consumption. Thus, I shall start a running list of cooking shortcuts (and no, I don't mean web links, you internet fiends! Just plain old tricks you can use around the kitchen), which I've picked up here and there and, along the way, have allowed to sink into that homogeneous soup of implicit knowledge. I'll post a link to it on the WCIYA homepage and update it as things occur to me, which tends to happen when they fly out my mouth and into the hungry minds of other cooks. If you have some tips to add (and I know you do), please leave a comment and chime in!
Shortcuts to Use in the Kitchen
1. To avoid crying over your cutting board when slicing onions, store them in the fridge. I swear, it's the only trick that actually works!
2. To finely grate ginger (or any other stringy substance) without totally messing up your grater (the fine hairs never come out), lay a piece of plastic wrap over the tool and grate as you normally would. When you are satisfied with the amount of ginger that's been grated, simply remove the plastic wrap from the grating and scrape the ginger bits off the plastic with a dull knife. The plastic wrap is intact, but the ginger is not! It's magic.
3. To pit an olive, press down on it with the side of a wide chef's knife (as you would to smash a clove of garlic) until you feel it pop. The pit will have either shot out the side or can be easily removed from inside the split-open olive meat.
4. To keep a pot of liquid from boiling over, lay a wooden spoon over the top of it. The bubbles will stop at the spoon, thus saving you a big hot mess.
5. For cooling soup or stew quickly, put a glass or durable plastic bottle filled 3/4 full with water in the freezer and, once frozen, use it to stir and chill stuff without diluting it, as ice cubes would.
6. Instead of buying a funnel for filling pepper mills, etc, just cut out the corner of a ziplock bag or envelope and pour the stuff into the bag/envelope opening.
7. Peeling beets stinks. So try this less-messy method: boil the beets in salted water for a good long time (till easily pierced with a knife), then drain the water out and put the beets back into the empty pot, covered, for another 20-30 minutes. What you're doing is essentially steaming the beets, so the skin rubs right off in a pinch.
8. I've discovered the most amazing way to make slow-cooked oatmeal...without any cooking! You just soak one part oatmeal to two parts liquid (milk, water...) overnight, covered, in the refrigerator, then the next morning you scoop it out, heat it up in the microwave for a minute or two and BLAM there you have it. Seriously. It's amazing, especially if you put raisins in with the oats to "cook" overnight - the raisins get big and fat and release their sweet goodness into the oatmeal. It makes breakfast so much easier and it's just such a fascinating method: the NON-COOKING method!