Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Nibbles & Bites: Kitchen Tips

Every now and then you find a good way to do things or luck upon a new trick in the kitchen. These aren’t exactly new to me, but they might be new to you.

  • Something too spicy or strong-flavored? Try adding some dairy to temper the over-bearing quality. Mayo is a good foil for a meatball or barbecue sandwich that comes on a bit too strong, cheese can temper a too-spicy soup and milk, cream or butter will dent some other harsh flavors you could encounter in a meal.
  • When you’ve salted all you’re willing to salt but the dish still needs a little something, try adding a splash of lemon or lime juice instead of salt or similar flavorings. The citric acid wakes up other flavors without added sodium.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you’re fresh out, add up to a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of regular milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes for a quick substitution.
  • Another recipe swap: using applesauce in place of oil can make most quick-breads and cake mixes moister without sacrificing flavor–plus it cuts down the fat and those little snack-cup sizes are perfect for your average boxed mix.
  • To make cutting a bell pepper into even strips or julienne easier, lay the pepper on it’s side and cut around the top edge, going through the skin but not the middle. Twist off this top and most of the seeds come with it. Slice off the bottom end, turn the pepper upright (it should be like an open tube, now), cut through one side and open the pepper out flat. Use a paring knife to remove any extra ribs that may be attached and then slice the pepper into perfectly even strips perfect for salads or stir fries.
  • When your knife is dull and you can’t sharpen it right away, cutting through the flesh of a fruit or vegetable is easier than cutting through the skin–turn them “inside out” when possible and you’ll have an easier time of things until you can get to a whetstone or professional sharpener.
  • Wrapping baking potatoes in foil before their baked or even right after, especially if they are moist when wrapped, “steams” the potatoes and gives them an unappealing, waxy texture instead of the fluffy one you expect. It’s best to allow an hour for them to bake, au natural and not pierced, in the oven but if you are in a time-crunch, microwaving them inside an oven mitt (all natural fibers, please, and no metal!) will more closely approximate the longer baking.
  • Always make sure meat is perfectly dry before placing into a pan for browning. Moisture impedes caramelization and you won’t get the results you’re after.
  • Always add vanilla to your pancake batter–even if using a mix, a splash of vanilla will improve the overall flavor of the flapjacks.
  • When doubling a recipe, don’t automatically double the salt or other spices called for. Start with a single quantity and build up.
  • Ground white pepper is easier to digest than black thanks to the outer layer of the peppercorn having been removed. It’s also hotter–there’s no “chaff” to blunt the flavor so use less if you’re substituting!

And one from Todd: To make a quickie grilled cheese sandwich, place a slice of cheese between two loaves of bread and place in the toaster oven (or regular over). No oil or butter and no dirty pan to clean up.

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

  1. I always wondered what “white pepper” was. I’ll give it a try. I personally don’t like the “flavored” peppercorns like lemon, etc. I was in a restaurant recently and they put ground pepper on my salad, at my request, that unfortunately included flavored peppercorns and it ruined the salad. Can it go bad? It tasted spoiled.

  2. I’ve not had any experience with the flavored peppercorns BUT if they flavor them with oils (like oil of lemon), oils and fats can go rancid and that could explain the spoiled taste.

Leave a Reply