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Thyme for Cooking: Miscellaneous Kitchen and Cooking Info

Asparagus:

To store:  Slice off the dried ends, enough to give a fresh 'cut', stand upright in a small bowl or large glass of with an inch or two of water in the bottom and refrigerate.  Will keep for several days.

Avocado:

To store:   Avocados are ripe when soft to the touch.  It's a subtle thing - it should just give slightly, like a ripe peach.  If it is too soft it is too ripe - don't buy it. Brown spots on the inside of an avocado are not pretty but perfectly harmless - unless it's all brown, which is too ripe and yucky!
If it is not ripe when purchased (and they are usually not) leave on the kitchen counter until ripe and then refrigerate. It will keep several days in the refrigerator. 
You can store half an avocado by removing the pit, leaving it in the shell and putting it cut side down on a plate.  Refrigerated, it will keep a day or two.
To remove an pit:  Cut it in half around the pit and twist halves - they come apart neatly.  Remove pit by inserting a medium-size spoon gently under the avocado, on the large end, as if you are lifting the avocado out of the shell. You will see the pit loosen; just tip the avocado over and it will fall out.   Remove each half by scooping, carefully, with a large spoon.  
You can also whack it with the blade of a sharp knife (embedding the blade in the pit) and twist, but this runs the risk of cut fingers and/or hands.

Lining pans: 

I normally use waxed paper and butter it, as well.  Buttered parchment paper will also work. 
You can get the shape you want by putting the bottom of the pan on the paper and drawing or cutting around it - this works great for squares and oblongs. 
The trick for circles is to take a square slightly bigger than the circle you need.  Fold it in half, and in half again, and again, and again, always keeping the point of the triangle the same.  When you can't fold it any more cut the edge opposite the point the length of half of the circle you want - unfold. 

Mushrooms:  

To clean: It's best not to wash mushrooms.  They are porous and will soak up any water (or, heaven forbid, soap) that you use making them impossible to sauté - they will just steam.  Brush them off with a mushroom brush or crumpled paper towel.  Slice off a bit of the stem end or break it off the cap, if you prefer and follow recipe directions to slice, chop or not. 
If you do choose to wash do so very briefly under clear, cool water and pat dry with paper towels.
To Store:  Mushrooms can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.  Do not store in plastic bags but, if the come prepackaged, the original container is fine.

Olives: 

To remove pits:

Method one:   Use a specially designed olive pitter.  Place olive in circle, press handle and pit pops out... hopefully where you want it.

Method two:   Place them on a board, lay the blade of a heave knife flat on top and smack the knife with your hand, smashing the olive.  This cracks the olive and the pit can easily be picked out.  You could use a meat pounder, too.  This is a much faster method.

Peppers:

To Clean:

Bell Peppers:  Cut peppers in half the long way starting at the end opposite the stem (blossom end) Cut almost to the stem, then pull apart.  The stem and most of the seeds will remain on one half.  Cut around stem and seeds and discard.

Other Peppers: Follow the same basic technique.  For hot peppers you should wear gloves and avoid touching your eyes.  The seeds and ribs contain more heat than the flesh; use according to taste.

To Store: They will keep several days on the counter and up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Potato:

Sizes:

  • New or very small: 1" round (2.5cm) 1 - 2 oz (45gr)
  • Small: about the size of a golf ball or 1.5" x 2" (3 x 5cm)  4oz (125gr)
  • Medium: about the size of a woman's fist - 2" x 3" (5 x 7.5cm) 5oz (150gr)
  • Large: bigger than medium -  2.5"x 4.5" (8 x 11cm)  7oz (200gr)

We don't have anything the size of the monster 16oz (500gr) 'baking potatoes' one can get in the U.S.

Cutting techniques referred to:

  • Salad:  Slice potatoes - the long way, first in half, then in half again.  Now slice (the short way) about 1/4 inch thick.  We are aiming for bite size so if you have a huge potato, adjust accordingly.
  • Roasted:  Slice potatoes - the long way, first in half, then in half again, then in thirds or fourths the short way.  If small potatoes cut in half the long way then in half or thirds the short way.  Very small potatoes leave whole or cut in half.

I don't peel potatoes.  I think it's a waste of time and nutrition (exception for garlic-mashed).  Peel if you want to.

To store:  Keep potatoes in an open container in a cool, dry place away from onions and garlic.  Do not refrigerate. 

Wine:

For Cooking:

Never cook with a wine not fit for drinking. It doesn't need to be the same quality as you will drink with the meal, but it should be decent.
Normally white wine is paired with fish, seafood, poultry, veal and red wine with beef, but not always.  Pork is either, or beer.  
Coq au Vin, chicken braised in red wine, is a classic example of red wine with chicken.

If the recipe calls for 'white' or 'red', it is referring to a decent, table wine, on the dry side.  If sweet wine or something slightly different is called for it will specify.

For small quantities, especially if it is going to be used as a marinade with vinegar or soy sauce use dry sherry and/or dry, white vermouth.  They keep better than table wine and can substitute for white or red in a pinch.

I do not recommend cooking wine.  It tends to have salt added... and it tastes awful!  Why would you want to cook with it?

Wine substitutions for cooking

Red wine: for 1 cup (250ml)

  • 3/4 cup (175ml) red grape juice plus 1/4 (50ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (250ml) beef stock
  • 1 cup (250ml) liquid from soaking dried mushrooms
  • 1 cup (250ml) beer
  • 1 cup (250ml) Madeira, tawny or ruby
  • 1 cup (250ml) port, tawny or ruby
  • 1 cup (250ml) sherry, oloroso

White wine: for 1 cup (250ml)

  • 3/4 cup (175ml) white grape juice plus 1/4 (50ml) white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) apple juice or cider plus 1/4 (50ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (250ml) dry sherry
  • 1 cup (250ml) white vermouth
  • 1 cup (250ml) sake
  • 1 cup (250ml) Madeira, pale or dry
  • 1 cup (250ml) chicken or vegetable stock

Sparkling wine: for 1 cup (250ml)

  • 1 cup (250ml) sparkling cider or grape juice
  • 1 cup (250ml) grape juice

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