It’s been a frustrating week over here at Mischief Central. I’ve cooked every night this week, and not one thing has been blog-worthy. Seriously—my food has been about as attractive as your sixth-grade yearbook picture. Out of respect for your eyes, I decided to forgo the usual recipe today. Check out this palmful of advice that will make your kitchen experiences more mischievous…in a good way. 😉
Zest is the Best
One rule I try to live by in the kitchen is to never cut a piece of citrus without zesting it first. Primarily, this is for flavor reasons, but secretly, I am obsessed with zesting. I’ll run just about anything over my microplane: garlic, ginger, cheese, nutmeg, chocolate, the cat—anything. But seriously…there’s no reason to waste citrus zest. If a recipe calls for juice, zest it first, then go ahead and add it. Why not? It doesn’t add acidity or liquid, so your proportions stay intact. It’s simply a flavor boost. From marinades, dressings, and vinaigrettes to chicken, tuna, or any kind of salad, you can’t go wrong with zest. It’s the best.
OMG I LUV TURKEY SAUSAGE!
I hope scientists don’t find some hidden carcinogenic chemical in turkey sausage, cause if they do, I’m DEAD. We eat this ALL THE TIME. What could possibly drive me to such fanaticism? It’s cheap! (you can often find them BOGO) It’s healthy! (like, 60% less fat than pig sausage) It’s already cooked! (sear it or grill it to add flavor and you’re done!) Seriously—it goes in anything: Black-Eyed Pea Stew, Jambalaya, Chili, Lentil Soup, etc. It’s also great when you’re in a hurry and all you have is leftover veggies. Just grill some turkey sausage while you microwave your leftover peas and BOOM—dinner’s done. I’m all about effort, but I do love a shortcut!
Vanilla Beans—Yes, You Can!
When I’m at the grocery store in the spice aisle, I always feel bad for the vanilla beans. There they sit, two lonely beans in a little glass jar, like the pretty girl at the party who everyone’s afraid to talk to. But really, $8.99 for two shriveled little beans? We’re in a recession, dammit! That’s why I’m so excited to share this awesome link with you, given to me by my friend James Schend who used to work in the Southern Living Test Kitchen. It’s a website that sells vanilla beans BY THE POUND. Click here to check it out: www.saffron.com. I got ¼ pound for $9.50, which was like 25-30 beans. It’s insane! I don’t know if it’s legal and I don’t care. All I know is now I can put vanilla beans in anything I want—cookies, cakes, whipped cream, sugar—it’s like I’m Marie Antoinette over here. “Let them eat vanilla cake!” I LOVE IT. And the best part…I have tons of leftover husks for making vanilla sugar (read about how here).
Seriously: Read the Directions
Let’s be honest—I never do this. Not really. I mean, I skim the directions. And I do a lot of “assuming” that I know what I’m doing. Case in point—that nasty gravel jambalaya that I made last week that I ranted about? I just now read the directions on the bag of brown rice that I used. “Cook 45-50 minutes” it says…not the normal 20 for regular rice, like I’d assumed. Oh. Hmm. Well. Solves that.
That’s all the kitchen wisdom I have for today. I’m working on a Tuscan Chicken and White Bean Stew for next week…if it works out, I’ll tell you all about it on Thursday. Or if it blows up—you’ll hear about that, too. Have a good weekend! 😉