Last Updated on February 8, 2022
Adding pasta cooking water to pasta dishes: Our recipes ask you to save some of the cooking water when you drain cooked pasta. The reason for this is that the cooking water, which has starch in it from the pasta, as well as flavor and some salt, is a much better moistener than, say, the olive oil most people are tempted to use.
If you keep adding oil to a pasta dish to moisten it, you’ll end up with a very oily dish. If you add pasta water, you’ll end up with a dish that is light, flavorful, and the sauce will thicken just the tiniest bit from the starch in the cooking water.
Coring and seeding bell peppers: Slice off the top of the bell pepper. Down inside is the core, a sort of pithy heart that holds all the seeds and is attached by ribs to the pepper. Pull it out. Some of the seeds will drop into the pepper, so turn it over and tap it on the counter so the seeds fall out.
Slice the pepper in half, lengthwise. Those pithy ribs are still there, and they’re not tasty, so trim them out. Trim the stem and any pith from the top of the pepper. The pepper is ready to eat or cook.
When you chop or slice a bell pepper, do it from the inside, rather than the shiny outside – the knife will sink in more easily, making your job easier.
Peel a cucumber and remove the seeds: The peel of cucumbers can be really tough, and if the cucumber isn’t organic, it can be waxed with a fungicide wax, which is awful. In these cases, peel the cucumber. If you’ve got a nice, tender-skinned organic cucumber you don’t need to peel it.
You don’t need to remove the seeds, either, though many people think the seeds are indigestible.
If you want to remove the seeds, cut the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Get a stainless steel soup spoon and run it down the center of the cuke, scraping out the seeds as you go. It’s as easy as that. Now you’re ready to slice, chop, dice, mince, grate or just eat the cucumber!
Peel ginger: Take a teaspoon from your regular cutlery, and use it as a scraper to scrape off the skin from the ginger. It works like magic.
Peeling and removing the pith from citrus fruit :
To remove the peel and the pith from an orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit (or any other citrus fruit you run across), begin by cutting off the peel from each end of the fruit, going deep enough to get to the juicy flesh inside. That way, you’ve created flat surfaces to help balance the fruit on the cutting board, and to make it easy to begin.
Now set the fruit on one of its flat ends. Using your nice, sharp knife and starting at the top of the fruit, cut down towards the work surface through the peel and pith, following the contour of the fruit. When you are finished with your first cut, you should have a strip from top to bottom of the fruit that is without any peel or pith.
Continue doing this until the fruit is peel-and-pith-less. If necessary once you are finished, you can trim away any bits of pith remaining on the fruit.
Peeling and pitting an avocado: Remove the small, hard knob on the stem end of the avocado. Cut the avocado in half, lengthwise, then twist the halves to separate them. Remove the half without the pit, and either cut it in half lengthwise and peel off the skin, or if you want to keep the avocado half intact, use a stainless steel soup spoon to separate the flesh from the skin. To remove the pit from the other half, hit it sharply with a sharp bladed knife so the blade sticks in it, then turn the knife blade and the pit will turn with it (go carefully and may thine aim be true). Lift the knife and the pit will come out. Proceed with peeling this half.
Picking out avocados: An easy way to tell when an avocado is ripe is to give it a push with your finger tip. It should offer about as much resistance as the tip of your nose.
Snapping the root end off of asparagus: Asparagus grows straight out of the ground, with part of its stalk under the soil. This part, attached to the root and called the “root end,” can be very tough. It has to be removed from the stalk. The best way to do that is to hold the tip of the asparagus in your left hand, and the root end of the stalk in your right. Bend the stalk down on both ends, and it will break right where the tough root end meets the tender stalk. You will be left with tender yumminess in your left hand, and tough stringyness in your right. Sometimes the tough stringyness represents a good portion of the entirety, which is too bad. Toss the tough stringy root end (or do as some like to do – peel it, cook it in salted water with some herbs, puree it, add cream, and call it asparagus soup. For our money, though, it’s lots of work for little flavor.)
Squeezing citrus juice: To avoid getting those little seeds in your citrus juice, take a half a lemon or orange (limes don’t usually have seeds), and squeeze them in your right hand, through the fingers of your left hand, so any seeds stay behind. If you’re a leftie, do the opposite. You can also squeeze juice through a strainer.
OVEN: Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes, checking frequently.
MICROWAVE: Spread walnuts in a single layer in a microwave safe plate. Microwave on HIGH for 5-6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.
STOVE TOP: Cook walnuts in a dry skillet on MEDIUM HIGH heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Trimming radishes: You can trim a radish so it stays beautiful, or torture it into submission. Here is how to do the former: Trim off the tiny little root end so the end of the radish stays rounded. Trim away all the leaves except for one or two pretty ones. Voila. A beautiful radish. The leaves are edible, so they can go into whatever dish the radish goes into.
Trimming scallions: Remove any of the outer leaves that look sad, or yellowed, or blemished. Trim off the root end right up to the white part, but don’t cut into the white part – the root end keeps the scallion together so that when you slice or chop it, it doesn’t separate and slip around.