Tina's Tidbits

Kitchen & Cooking Tips from Tina Wasserman


Have you ever read a cooking or kitchen tip and thought "wish I had know about that one" – it would have made preparation of the recipe so much easier.

We at KosherEye love cooking tips and hints and knew when we read Tina Wasserman's  cookbook, Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora, that we had hit the "mother lode"! The book is beautifully written and shares the histories and recipes of the great Jewish Diaspora communities around the world. There are 275 recipes and each one has several cooking and/or kitchen tips. We loved reading Tina's Tidbits so much that we decided to write a feature on them.

The Tidbits are presented with each recipe but are timeless and most can relate to any recipe. There were so many that we loved that it was difficult to just pick a few; below are several of our favorites:

  • Microwaving dried foods submerged in water for 2 or 3 minutes allows them to hydrate significantly faster than letting them soak at room temperature for several hours or overnight.

  • The best way to tell if a citrus fruit has a good flavor is to scratch the peel with your fingernail. Even if the fruit is tart, the scent should be sweet and full-bodied; a lemon will smell like a lemon lollipop if good.

  • If you hold asparagus spears in the middle and at the end and bend them slightly, they will always break where they start to be tender. However, for formal presentation it is better to cut your spears all the same length.

  • To chiffonade an herb, lay the leaves on top of each other, roll them up tight like a cigarette, and slice very thin slices through the roll crosswise. The result will be thin wisps of herbs that float through the air like chiffon.

  • Spices, especially brown ones, should be stored in the freezer to retain their flavor.

  • When making meatballs, do not squeeze the meat together heavily or the meatballs will be tough.

  • When browning meat, always pat your meat dry first or it will not brown.

  • Unless you buy paprika in very small quantities, it is best to store your paprika in the freezer to retain its flavor and color.

  • There is no substitute for fresh lemon juice, so throw away the green bottle!

  • Rice wine vinegar is not as tangy as other vinegars and makes a perfect base for a fruit-flavored dressing.

  • To seed a tomato, cut it open horizontally, hold it over the sink cut side down, and give a squeeze and a shake and it's seeded.

  • Coconut milk in not made from milk. It is the pulverized meat of the coconut and water, and the Jews of India and Thailand utilized its parve properties to the fullest.

  • Always keep herring in a glass container; plastic will absorb the order and metal will change the flavor or color of it.

  • The dull side of foil should always be facing up when roasting in the oven because the dull side absorbs the heat and helps the roasting process. However, never use the dull side up on a turkey, because it will dry out the white meat - use shiny side up that.

  • When making challah, to let the dough rise overnight, spoon 1 tablespoon of oil inside a 2-gallon ziplock bag and rub to distribute. Place the dough in the bag, squeeze out any excess air, seal, and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the bag from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before processing to the shaping step.

Tina Wasserman is a renown cooking instructor and cookbook author. She lives in Dallas, Texas, teaches her popular cooking classes throughout the U.S., and has been the food columnist for Reform Judaism magazine since 2003. Please visit Tina's website, CookingandMore.com.

To read the KosherEye feature on Entrée to Judaism, A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora, click here.

October 17, 2011

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