Cooking Tips & Spaghetti Gets Better

Note from Joanne: I'm not a stellar chef by any means - I'm not trained as a chef either -
but here I share some cooking tips I've found to be useful in our kitchen. Enjoy!
Food & Cooking Tips

Apples - storage
Keep them in the fridge as it replicates cold storage.

Asparagus - Green and Purple
Store in the fridge standing up with the ends in cold water. When buying – buy from stores that store the asparagus standing up in cold or ice water. You want the most perfect looking pointed ends you can find. (You may need to smell the heads for freshness.)


We cook Asparagus four ways – steam standing up in an asparagus steamer, cook cut up spears in a flat pan in ½-1inch of simmering water, or whole spears microwave on high covered with a tsp of water for a few minutes (depends on thickness and microwave power) 1-2 for thin 2-3 for thicker or saute in cut spears in 50-50 butter olive oil until cooked through.

Asparagus – White
Wow – so not worth all the trouble, in our most humble opinion. If you need them, buy the canned or good quality bottled versions.

Artichokes (globe)
Look at bottom of stem to judge freshness. Frost-kissed (kind of ugly-looking) are usually great, btw.

Golden Beets (or Chioggia)
It took forever to figure out what the great taste was in the beets at Neiman Marcus Rotunda. They serve golden beets cold in their salads – the trick to preserve color is not to peel them until after they are cooked and to add about ¼c of cider vinegar to the water and a little salt. (Btw: We love Golden and Chioggia beets, but dislike red beets.)

Leftover Bread can be kept in the freezer for future reheating or use as breadcrumbs!

Butter - storage
Keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in the freezer if you are not going to use it for a while.

Butter - cooking with
If sautéing in butter then add olive oil to it as the oil has a higher smoking point and the butter won’t brown as quickly.

Always choose the smallest whitest organic ones. They will have the best and most delicate flavor.

Coffee - storage
The latest recommendations are to always store coffee for a short time at room temperature – not in the fridge or freezer. Buy it as you need it.

Lettuce - head
Look on the bottom of the stem – it may give you an indication of how recently the lettuce was harvested. The more rust – the older the lettuce. You want a nice green and white stem.

Potatoes – frying
Soaking potatoes to fry in hot water for at least 10mins – 30 best (couple of hours for cold water) and thoroughly dry them on towels before frying. Also for French fries, fry them twice. First time just till they get some color and are partially cooked and then drain them and fry again just before serving. Extra Crispy!

Potatoes – Eyes
I just read that if you store an apple with your potatoes they won’t grow eyes. I will try it and let you know…

Duck fat vs. Goose Fat
For Duck Confit with potatoes, the Potatoes sent from the heavens are sautéed in goose fat. Duck fat is not as good. It just isn’t. It will do in a pinch.

Purple potatoes – or colored potatoes
Adding cider vinegar to the cooking water helps preserve the color.

Parsley & Cilantro Stems freeze really well and you can just pop them into a stock when you need them – never throw them out!

Don’t keep them in the refrigerator – the cold damages their taste.

Wine for Cooking
Use at least wine you would be willing to drink on its own. Always taste before using. We usually buy a house drinking/cooking wine by the case when we find one.

Joanne's Ten easy ways
to kick Spaghetti
up a notch

March 22, 2005

When you are pressed for time and a quick spaghetti dinner is the menu du jour, consider any or a combination of these…

1) Take mild Italian sausages; slice them open and cook the meat. Add your jar of sauce. Or just add 1 pound of quickly browned ground pork, lamb, beef or veal, or any combination of these ground meats.

2) Add tuna, or high-quality sardines chopped finely.

3) Add sauteed mushrooms or carmelized onions, or olives. Be wild - add all three!

4) Cook sausages or bacon strips, and then slice them and add to the sauce.

5) Add 1/2c of organic Half and Half cream, and ¼c of vodka to any plain tomato sauce

6) Add 1 can of whole tomatoes and the juice to your spaghetti sauce of choice (crushing the tomatoes with your fingers as you add them) and reduce the sauce.

7) Finish the pasta with curls of Grana Pandano or Parmagiana Reggiano using a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler. (Don't use crappy cheese. - Jack)

8) Add fresh mozzeralla sliced or torn or boccocini (small fresh mozzarella balls) to pasta.

9) Add fresh basil to your mundane sauce – or lightly steamed and well drained spinach or even cooked swiss chard! Actually any steamed or lightly cooked vegetable!

10) Add good quality canned or frozen (and thawed - prefereably organic) vegetables – like corn or peppers or a jar of roasted peppers.

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