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Week of August 31, 2008

Buying and Storing Tomatoes
Keeping tomatoes at room temperature will all tomatoes piced at a green stage to mature and ripen in supermarkets and after you purchase them. Within a few days, they will soften slightly, turn red and — most important of all — develop their full flavor and aroma.

Place the tomatoes on a counter or in a shallow bowl at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Don't refrigerate them! When tomatoes are chilled below 55° F, the ripening comes to a halt and the flavor never develops.

You can also speed up the process by keeping tomatoes in a brown paper bag or closed container to trap the ethylene gas that helps them ripen. Adding an ethylene-emitting apple or pear to the container can also hasten ripening. Store the tomatoes in a single layer and with the stem ends up, to avoid bruising the delicate "shoulders."

Once they are fully ripened, tomatoes can be held at room temperature or refrigerated for several days. When you’re ready to use them, bring the tomatoes back to room temperature for fullest flavor.

How to Techniques for Tomatoes
To peel: Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover tomatoes; bring to a boil. Immerse tomatoes about 30 seconds; drain and cool. Remove stem ends and slip off skins.
To seed: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half, using your fingers to remove seeds. To reserve the juice for use in dressings, sauces or soups, seed the tomato into a strainer held over a bowl.
Tomato Shells: Cut a 1/2 inch slice off the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp.
Roast: Preheat oven to 450° F. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Place halves, cut side down, on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes; cool. Remove skins and stem ends.
Slow-Cook: Preheat oven to 300° F. Remove stem ends; slice tomatoes. Place slices on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Cook until tomatoes soften and shrink, about 45 minutes.

Tomato Equivalents
1 small tomato = 3 to 4 ounces
1 medium tomato = 5 to 6 ounces
1 large tomato = 7 or more ounces
1 pound of tomatoes = 2 1/2 cups chopped or 1 1/2 cups pulp

Week of August 24, 2008

How to Make a Great Salad

Start with the freshest greens possible.

Don't cut the leaves too small or they will lose their distinctive shapes and a lot of their crunch. On the other hand, you don't want to serve giant leaves that won't fit on the plate or that are difficult to maneuver.

Greens with small leaves, such as arugula, basil, purslane, watercress, and young spinach, should be stemmed but the leaves left whole. Larger leaves, from greens like romaine, large red oak leaf, and escarole, should be trimmed cutting away thick, woody stems. Tear large leaves like romaine and large oak leaf along the central rib; they'll retain more of their character. Use a sharp knife to slice off stems like those found on arugula and watercress.

Trim out tough ribs completely like found on large spinach leaves. Fold the leaf lengthwise and gently pull up on the stalk, ripping the rib out as you go.

Figure on about a large handful of salad per person; double the amount if the salad is a main course.

Wash Greens Gently
Just rinsing your greens under running water won't get rid of all of the dirt. Instead, submerge them in a large bowl or in a sink full of cool water.

Clean your greens with a brief soak. Gently swirl the leaves in cool water to dislodge any grit, and then lift the greens out with loosely splayed fingers. Repeat until all grit is removed.

Dry greens completely
Any excess water on the leaves will dilute the flavor of your dressing. The dressing also will not cling well to wet greens. A salad spinner does a good job of drying greens. If spinning for a large salad, dry them in batches. If you don't have a spinner, spread out the leaves on a clean dishtowel and pat them gently with another towel.

Dress the Salad
Never dress your salad on salad plates. Use a bowl that leaves you plenty of room to toss. Excess oil and vinegar will be left behind in the bowl instead of in a puddle on the plate.

For the best flavor, use the highest-quality oils and vinegars you can find. Experiment with different varieties of each. Stronger-flavored oils and vinegars, such as nut oils and balsamic vinegar, are best reserved for heartier greens, such as watercress, arugula, and the chicory family.

Toss gently but thoroughly. Use your hands or two large spoons to gently turn the greens over in the bowl until they're well coated.

Serve the salad immediately or the dressing will cause it to wilt.

Week of August 17, 2008

Food Safety: Barbecues and Picnics

  • Try to plan just the right amount of foods to take. That way, you
    won't have to worry about the storage or safety of leftovers.
  • When taking foods off the grill, put them on a clean plate, not
    the same platter that held raw meat.
  • When preparing dishes like chicken or cooked meat salads, use
    chilled ingredients. In other words, make sure your cooked
    chicken has been cooked and chilled before it gets mixed with
    other salad ingredients.
  • It's a good idea to use a separate cooler for drinks, so the one
    containing perishable food won't be constantly opened and closed.
  • A cooler chest can also be used to keep hot food hot. Line the
    cooler with a heavy kitchen towel for extra insulation and place
    well wrapped hot foods inside. It's amazing how long the foods
    will stay not only warm, but hot. Try to use a cooler that is
    just the right size to pack fairly tightly with hot food so
    less heat escapes.
  • Wash ALL fresh produce thoroughly. When preparing
    lettuce, break into pieces - then wash.
  • Cook foods to the required minimum cooking temperatures:
    • 165 F > Poultry, poultry stuffing, and stuffed meat.
    • 158 F > Ground Beef, fish, and seafood.
    • 150 F > Pork and food containing pork.
    • 145 F > shell eggs and foods containing shell eggs.
  • Separate raw animal foods from other raw or ready-to-eat
    foods during storage and preparation.
  • Cool leftovers as quickly as possible. Reheat to
    165 F before serving again.

BY ALL MEANS, REMEMBER THIS:
Bacteria on food will rapidly multiply when left at a temperature between 45 F and 140 F. Avoid this danger zone as much as possible.

Week of August 10, 2008

About Honey

To substitute honey for sugar in recipes, start by substituting up to half of the sugar called for. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes.

When baking with honey, remember the following:
Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used. Add l/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Reduce oven temperature by 25 F to prevent over-browning.

Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.

When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.

To retain honey's wonderfully luxuriant texture, always store it at room temperature; never in the refrigerator. If your honey becomes cloudy, don't worry. It's just crystallization, a natural process. Place your honey jar in warm water until the crystals disappear. If you're in a hurry, place it in a microwave-safe
container and heat it in the microwave on HIGH for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Remember, never boil or scorch honey.

Week of August 3, 2008

Grilling Tips

Approximately 30 minutes prior to grilling, prepare the charcoal fire so coals have time to reach medium temperature. At medium, the coals will be ash-covered. To check the temperature of the coals, spread the coals in a single layer. CAREFULLY hold the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height. Count the number of seconds you can hold your hand in that position before
the heat forces you to pull it away: approximately 4 seconds for medium heat. Position the cooking grid and follow recipe directions.

Never place meat directly over an open flame. An open flame is an indication of incomplete combustion, the fire will discolor the meat by leaving a black carbon residue on the meat. Actually an open flame has a lower temperature than coals that are glowing red.

Whenever barbecuing, use tongs to turn the meat. A fork should never be used. For it will punch holes in the flesh and allow the natural juices to escape and loose flavor and become chewy.

Tomato and/or sugar based BBQ sauces should be added only at the end of the grilling process. These products will burn easily and are seldom considered an internal meat flavoring. Once added, the meat should be turned often to minimize the possibility of burning.


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Contents in this web site are in no way intended as a substitute for medical counsel .

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