Twelve Cooking Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Meal

Katie Workman wrote . . . . . . . . .

We all love getting kitchen tips, those little tricks we should be doing to make us better cooks. But sometimes it’s the things we should stop doing that matter.

A dozen common kitchen mistakes, and how to easily correct them:

Not reading the recipe all the way through

Before you start cooking, make sure you a) have all the ingredients, b) think through the timing of the steps and c) look up directions that might be confusing. This way, you don’t find yourself staring at the recipe in dismay when the words “marinate overnight” or “chill for at least four hours” pop up at the same moment your kids yell, “What’s for dinner?”

Using too small a tool

Ever try blending dough in too small a bowl? Transferring a casserole into a too-tight baking dish? Chopping a pound of spinach on a tiny cutting board? Using a paring knife to dismantle a squash? Bigger is mostly better when it comes to kitchen prep. It means less mess, less overflow in the oven and, often, more safety.

Not prepping ingredients

As you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you will learn to multi-task, so you are mincing fresh herbs while the chopped onions are browning. But if you’re still getting your kitchen sea legs, have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking. The French call this mise en place, or everything in its place. It means that when the recipe says, “add onions, garlic and oregano to the pan,” the onions are chopped, the garlic is minced and the oregano leaves are pulled from the stem before you start cooking any of them.

Working with a dull knife

Sharp knives are safer than dull ones that slip and slide. If you don’t have a knife-sharpening tool, or feel intimidated by the task, “there are lots of stores and services that can help you out,” says Alison Cayne, founder of Haven’s Kitchen cooking school in New York City. “You are not expected to know how to sharpen yourself!” Many kitchen stores, like Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table, will sharpen knives, and you can look for other places online. You might even be able to get your knives picked up and dropped off.

Fiddling with the food as it cooks

“Leave it be!” Cayne says. “So many people feel the need to poke and stir and flip way too early. Let your meat char on the grill before trying to flip it. Let your broccoli sear in the pan before tossing.” Only when food has some sustained time up against direct heat will it brown and caramelize.

Taking the suggested cooking time on the package as gospel

“When I cook pasta at home, I never follow the cooking times on the package. I generally cook it two minutes less. This way, after you strain it and it sits a little, it won’t overcook,” says Bill Telepan, executive chef at Oceana Restaurant in New York. “Even better,” he says, “if you put slightly undercooked pasta directly into the sauce and let it simmer for a minute or two, it will flavour the pasta better.”

Overcooking

Remember to account for “carryover cooking” — the fact that when you take food from the heat, it will continue to cook. Carry-over cooking is often discussed with meat, since meat’s internal temperature will continue to rise even after you pull it from a hot pan. Pork chops can go from just done and juicy to dry and tough. But carry-over cooking also applies to lots of foods, including baked goods and vegetables. Roasted asparagus that comes out of the oven tender can get too soft upon sitting, so pull it out a few minutes before it’s reached the doneness you are looking for.

Cutting meat before it’s had a chance to rest

Allowing meat and poultry to sit for a while after it is removed from the stove, grill or oven not only lets it finish cooking but ensures that the juices stay inside, where they belong. When meat cooks, its protein fibres contract, and if you cut into it right away they won’t have had a chance to relax and reabsorb the juices. This is why you might cut into a steak right off the grill and see it perfectly cooked to a beautiful rare or medium rare, and then a few minutes later it seems to have lost its rosy hue, and all its juices are on the cutting board. Let thick steaks rest eight to 10 minutes before cutting. Big roasts or whole birds should rest between 20 and 30 minutes before carving. This may seem like a long time, but rest assured the meat will still be warm.

Getting distracted

Dana Cowin, editor in chief of Food and Wine Magazine for more than 20 years, and author of Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, says that after working with numerous chefs and experts, “Here’s what I learned not to do: don’t get distracted. Don’t answer your email, help your kid with homework or catch up on the news. When you’re distracted, that’s when the pine nuts burn, the butter blackens, the caramel hardens, the chicken dries out, the meal gets ruined.”

Seasoning the dish only once

Don’t just salt the onions you are sautéing for the sauce and call it a day. Conversely, don’t make the whole sauce recipe and add salt at the end. Add a bit of salt, and adjust other seasonings as you build the dish, tasting as you go, if possible.

Forgetting to salt the cooking water

Add salt to the water — whether for pasta, vegetables, poaching shrimp or chicken — until it actually tastes salty. Your food won’t absorb all this salt by a long shot, but it will become seasoned and more flavourful. For pasta, grains or some vegetables like potatoes, this really makes a difference, as the starch is absorbing the salted water as it cooks.

Skimping on the time it takes to fully preheat your oven

The beep indicating your oven has reached the desired temperature is probably a bit premature, says Dorie Greenspan, author of the cookbook Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook. Says Greenspan: “An oven-repair person once told me that when the light on my oven indicated that it had reached temperature, I should wait another 15 minutes before putting in whatever I was baking. The oven needs that time to be truly at temperature, and to be able to hold its temperature when you open the door. This is particularly important with cookies because they bake for such a short time.” She advises keeping a thermometer in your oven.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper

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The Complete Guide to Marinating Tofu

Tofu masters Tofuture are often asked what the best way to marinate tofu is, so we asked them to share their top tips on how to marinate tofu to ensure each bite is bursting with flavour!

Tofu is often unfairly thought of as being bland and tasteless, but as tofu masters Tofuture show us, that’s certainly not the case when you get to grips with the best way to marinate your block.

Preparing your tofu

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating a good marinade, but there are some general guidelines which are helpful to follow. It should be a liquid and a marinade is essentially made up of ingredients taken from 4 different categories.

  1. Before you marinade, press your tofu according to this pressing guideline. If you don’t own a tofu press: drain the tofu for at least 15 minutes, then wrap the tofu in kitchen towel and place on a hard, flat surface like a chopping board. Place another chopping board on top of the tofu, and balance something heavy, like a cast iron pan, on top to press the block of tofu. Leave for 15 minutes.
  2. When pressed, cut the block into cubes (good for stir-fries and salads) or strips, about ½ cm thick.
  3. Mix the ingredients for your marinade together in a sealable container and add tofu pieces, making sure they are fully covered by the liquid. Leave in the fridge and return to the marinating tofu at least once to shake the container.

How long to marinade?

As a general rule, the longer the better – ideally from a few hours to overnight, but if you only have half an hour that’s still better than no time at all.

Making your own marinades

Play around with the ingredients, however choosing at least one from each group below gives a perfect balance of flavours. Adjust your choices to cater for your own taste preferences, or those of your guests, the region around the world your dish originates from, or at times (if you are anything like us) simply whatever you can find in the cupboard!

Oil

The oil, olive, sesame, ground nut or other fat such as soya yoghurt or coconut milk will help the other flavours infuse and help the tofu to crisp when cooking

Acid

Acts as an enzyme which allows the ingredients to mingle citrus juices such as lemon, lime, orange, wine, or a vinegar for example balsamic, red wine, apple cider.

Salty/Sweet

Salty: tamari or soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, capers, miso paste. Sweet: maple syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, molasses, date syrup

Aromatic

Onion, garlic, ginger, mustard, or kelp. Sauces: hot pepper sauce, liquid smoke, hickory, tomato purée, olive paste, or nutritional yeast. Herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, or oregano. And spices like paprika, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper flakes can all work really well and bring serious flavour

Additional tips

You are now ready to start cooking, you can cook the tofu any way you like; bake, grill, barbeque, shallow or deep fry or griddle.

  • If you are baking, think 180 deg C. for 35 minutes, turning halfway through. You can also add the marinade to the dish you’re cooking to act as a sauce; the tofu will continue to absorb flavour as it cooks. If you are barbecuing or grilling, brush your tofu with the extra marinade as it cooks to increase the flavour.
  • Avoid adding salt directly to your marinade, use tamari or soy sauce, capers, miso or olives, as an alternative way to provide the salty taste as regular salt can quickly overwhelm your marinade and extract moisture from the tofu rather than introduce flavour.
  • If you have any marinade left, the good news is, as all the ingredients above are plant-based, you can re-use it for another few days so you are covered for tomorrow’s kebabs, and the next day’s roasted veg (just keep it in the fridge). Hooray.

Customise your marinades

There are no exact quantities here, play around with them starting with 1 tbsp for liquids and 1 tsp for powders and increase from there. Add a little water if you need more liquid but not too much as this will dilute the intensity.

 

Type Ingredients
Asian Mirin, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic granules, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, agave nectar
BBQ Tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke (a dash, it’s very strong), onion powder, garlic powder, sumac, smoked paprika, ground black pepper
Canadian Chipotle smoked hot pepper sauce, a dash of Bourbon, maple syrup, smoked paprika
‘Chicken’ Red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, hot chili powder, olive oil
Ethiopian Olive oil, ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, chili, cloves, all spice, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, ginger, dried apricot
‘Fish’ Soy milk, kelp flakes, lemon juice, crushed garlic, black pepper
French White wine vinegar, olive oil, white wine, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic, black pepper, fresh or dried thyme
Greek Natural soy yogurt, chopped spring onion, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, fresh oregano
Indian Warm water, ground coriander, turmeric, ground cumin, ginger, all spice, cinnamon, celery salt, chili powder
Italian Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano, fresh or dried Italian herbs, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar, pepper
Malagasy Natural yogurt, tomato ketchup, lemon juice, finely chopped green chilies, dried parsley, mild curry powder, ground cumin
Mediterranean Balsamic vinegar, red wine, shallots, dried rosemary, dried thyme, olive oil, minced garlic, pepper
Mexican Chipotle sauce, lime juice, tomato purée, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper
North African Olive oil, lemon juice, cumin seeds, sweet paprika, fresh coriander, fresh parsley, cayenne pepper
Polish Groundnut oil, juniper berries, black pepper, crushed garlic, onion powder, sweet paprika, brown sugar, oregano, thyme, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds
‘Pork’ White wine, lime juice, tamari, apple cider vinegar, crushed garlic, agave nectar
‘Sausage’ Rapeseed oil, onion powder, nutritional yeast, celery salt, ground coriander, ground black pepper
Scandinavian Lemon juice, mustard seeds, dill, dried parsley, chives, agave nectar
Spanish Hot chili sauce, olive oil, tomato ketchup, crushed garlic, pinch of saffron, dried oregano, cayenne pepper
‘Steak’ Veg stock diluted in hot water, vegan Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, ground white pepper
Tandoori Natural soy yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper
Teriyaki Soy sauce, molasses, or Hoisin plum sauce, lemon juice, crushed garlic, grated ginger, 5 spice powder
Thai Coconut milk, tamari, kelp flakes, sugar, lime juice, crushed garlic, freshly grated ginger, crushed lemon grass
Tropical Pineapple juice, rice vinegar, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, maple syrup
Turkish Tomato paste, hot pepper sauce, water, chopped onions, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic
Zesty Orange Orange juice, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger

Source: Vegan Food and Living

Video: How to Make Colourful Pasta

Watch video at Business Insider (4:50 minutes) . . . . .

How to Make Toast Even Better: Fry It

Marian Bull wrote . . . . . . . . .

You know how to make toast. Your 6 year old cousin knows how to make toast. You just pop the thing in the toaster, you are saying to me in your brain right now. And yes, you’re right: that’s a completely viable way to make toast! It’s perhaps the easiest task you can accomplish in a kitchen without a microwave. You can even do it under a broiler if you’re lacking in counter space for single-use devices.

But that is not, unfortunately, the best way to make toast. That is not the most delicious way to make toast! That is not the way to make yourself yearn for your toast the way you yearn for a stupid pair of expensive sneakers or an all-expenses-paid trip to Tulum. For that kind of toast, you’re going to need a bottle of good olive oil, and a pan—yes, a pan! Like the one you use to make eggs!—on the stove. Because the best, tastiest, most perfect toast is toast that is fried.

Anyone who does things like crossfit or counting calories will probably stop trusting me at this point, and I understand that. There are people who don’t want to go adding a tablespoon or two of (“good”) fat to their diets. Toast that has been fried until glossy and golden in a pan full of hot oil is not the basis of a “low-cal breakfast”. It’s not going to give you the same effect as, say, a smoothie. But it is fucking delicious.

Here’s what happens: When you fry a thick slab of bread in olive oil, the insides get soft—for this reason it’s a great way to use up a loaf that’s almost stale—and the outsides get golden and crunchy. (My former boss, who is the person who exposed me to fried toast, likens it to a “[very large crouton].”) It is the perfect base for a cooked egg, or some vegetables, or beans, or even something like sliced fruit—anything that’s not too, too fatty. (Avocado is pushing it.)

And the process is easy, albeit slightly more laborious than your standard toast production. Get yourself a thick slice of crusty bread. Heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a pan, until it’s shimmering but not smoking. Then add the bread, and flip when it’s golden, and cook the other side until it looks good too. Sprinkle the thing with salt, and then eat it plain, or underneath whatever leftovers are sitting in your fridge. You will not necessarily feel virtuous, but you will feel happy, and that is important, too.

Source: GQ Magazine

Video: 3 Minute Standing Ab Workout

You don’t have to go down to the floor to work your abs, and this quick workout proves it. Get ready to work your core while keeping your feet on the floor, all in three minutes!

The Three-Minute Standing Ab Workout consists of four ab exercises done for 45 seconds each:

1) March and Squeeze – Start with both hands straight up in the air and bring one knee all the way up while bringing your arms down, keeping your hands above your elbows and near your body, so your elbows and knee line up, with your knee in between both arms. As you do this, squeeze your abs. Return to the starting position and do the same thing with your other knee, and continue to alternate knees.

2) Elbow to Opposite Knee – Bring one arm up so your elbow is at chest height and your hand is above your elbow, and bring your opposite knee up while bringing that arm down so your elbow meets your knee (don’t hit them together hard). As you do this, squeeze your abs. Return them back to their starting point and do the same thing with your other knee and elbow, and continue to alternate.

3) Straight Leg Raises – Keeping your leg a straight as possible, raise it up in front of your body with bringing the opposite arm down, reaching out your hand to touch your foot (or as close as you can get). Return them back to their starting point and do the same thing with your other leg and arm, and continue to alternate.

4) Rotate and Punch – Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart and rotate your upper body, throwing a jab out with your arm. Then rotate the other direction and jab with your other arm. Your feet should stay in about the same location the whole time, with just a little twist of the same foot of the arm that is jabbing to allow the body to rotate.

Do each of these exercises consecutively, for a total of three minutes, and you will have got an awesome ab workout while never going to the ground.

Watch video at You Tube (3:35 minutes) . . . . .