By Lynn Andriani
Turns out some "tricks" for boiling pasta and cleaning your favorite pan don't work so well after all ... but here's what will do the job.
Add Oil To Pasta Water To Prevent Noodles From Sticking
We've all seen the instructions on the back of the fresh-pasta package: Add a spoonful of oil to the cooking water to keep your fettuccine from turning into a big blob. "That's just a waste of oil," says chef Alfred Portale of New York City's <a href="http://www.GothamBarAndGrill.com/" target="blank">Gotham Bar and Grill</a>. Salt the water (which doesn't have anything to do with sticking; it just seasons the pasta), stir every few minutes while the noodles cook, and once you've drained them, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to keep them separated.
Replace Baking Powder Every Six Months
Leavening agents like baking powder do have a shelf life (old ingredients are often the reason for flat baked goods), but don't automatically assume a canister is useless if it's past the six-month mark. You can test yours by sprinkling a spoonful into a cup of warm water; if it makes the water effervescent, it's fine to use.
Let Hot Food Cool Completely Before Refrigerating It
It's true that putting a big pot of piping hot soup directly into the fridge isn't ideal (it makes the motor work harder), but the other extreme—letting that minestrone sit out until it's cold and then packing it up for storage—isn't great, either (because microorganisms that could lead to foodborne illness tend to multiply in conditions between 40 degrees and 140 degrees). Lisa Yakas, who works in the consumer products division of <a href="http://www.NSF.org/" target="blank">NSF International</a>, a nonprofit public health and safety company, suggests transferring the hot soup to smaller containers, which will help it cool more quickly than it would in the pot. They can sit on the counter, uncovered, for two hours. Then, snap on the lids and refrigerate.
Don't Use Soap On Cast Iron
Although cast-iron pans look tough, they can be high maintenance: The conventional wisdom is to avoid washing them with soap, not to put them in the dishwasher and not to let them air dry (use a towel or they'll rust). Those last two rules are important to follow, but George Duran, Chef Ambassador for the cookware company <a href="http://www.imusausa.com/" target="blank">IMUSA</a>, says if a pan is well seasoned, it's fine to wash it in cold water or with a little bit of soap. The oil you used to season the pan should prevent the cleaner from penetrating too deeply. Duran also shared this nugget: Use kosher salt to scrub off sticky residue, then re-season the pan by heating it in a warm oven and rubbing it with oil.
Don't Drink Red Wine With Fish
Red wines generally have a lot of tannins, which come from grape skins and seeds and are often described as tasting bitter and puckery (tannins are also why strong black tea can taste astringent). So tannic reds—like cabernet or merlot—can react with the fish oil in seafood and make it taste bitter and even metallic. (The proteins in red meat soften the tannins, making the wine taste smooth and fruity.) But Dini Rao, Chief Merchandise Officer at the wine clubs <a href="http://www.Lot18.com/" target="blank">Lot18.com</a> and <a href="http://www.TastingRoom.com/" target="blank">TastingRoom.com</a>, actually recommends some reds with fish. Pinot noir and Beaujolais are two (they happen to be lighter reds) that can beautifully complement any fillets from halibut to salmon. <br> <b>Next: <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Kitchen-Shortcuts-Store-Bought-Dinner-Ideas">Store-bought shortcuts: What's worth it, what's not</a></b>
Earlier On HuffPost: 5 Healthy and Cheap Ingredients To Put In Your Shopping Cart
The Don't-Tell-Anybody Spice Rack Secret
<b>Cost:</b> $1.19 for an 8-ounce container Attention veg-o-phobes: <i>Foodist</i> author Darya Rose has an insanely easy trick for making even broccoli taste great: Sprinkle a tiny bit of garlic salt on top. She learned about this supermarket staple -- which is just a mixture of dried ground garlic, salt and an anti-caking agent such as calcium silicate -- from a veggie burrito shop in Berkeley, Calif. "Their vegetables were always so good, and I finally figured out why: They sprinkled garlic salt on top," she says. Just don't confuse it with garlic powder, which is finer and easier to overdo.
The Super Herb
<b>Cost:</b> Less than $2 for a bunch We're not sure when, exactly, parsley got relegated to garnish status, but Rose says it deserves to be the most-used herb in any cook's repertoire. Go for the Italian, flat-leaf kind (as opposed to the curly variety, which truly is better as a decoration). A bunch will keep for at least a week, if not longer (whereas other similar herbs, like cilantro, quickly become slimy). Parsley's fresh, bright flavor makes good-for-you, if potentially boring, foods (like grilled chicken or fish) taste much more flavorful, and if you chop it finely, it can bring some pizzazz to tired green salads.
Insta-Flavor In A Jar
<b>Cost:</b> $6 for 8 ounces Many Japanese cooks rely on dashi, a stock made with water, seaweed and dried fish flakes, for the savory taste known as umami. Rose is a huge fan, too; she buys it in a powdered form at her grocery store, dissolves a smidgen in some water, and pours a few teaspoons into a stir-fry (the broth makes tofu and veggies taste as if they've been simmering in a delicious sauce for hours). If chicken or beef stocks are more familiar to you than dashi, though, Rose suggests keeping a jar of <a href="http://www.superiortouch.com/retail/products/better-than-bouillon" target="blank">Better Than Bouillon</a> in your fridge; the concentrated paste also delivers rich flavor in just a small amount. It's terrific with beans or lentils, or mashed potatoes, parsnips or cauliflower; just stir a teaspoon in with the butter and milk when you're pureeing the vegetables.
The Misunderstood Little Fish
<b>Cost:</b> $3.30 for a 2.8-ounce jar Poor anchovies -- they just need a little respect. Banish the thought of entire raw ones sitting on pizza or Caesar salad and follow Rose's advice. She thinks of them as seasoning, an ingredient that adds a deeply flavored, salty-in-a-good-way (but not at all fishy) taste to almost any food (they're a revelation with cauliflower). She likes to buy the kind that come in jars, packed in oil. She dices two or three, adds them to a pan with garlic and olive oil, and then tosses in some vegetables. The reaction, Rose says, will be something along the lines of, "Mmm, that's delicious. How did you <i>do</i> that?"
The Condiment That Goes Way Beyond Hot Dogs
<b>Cost:</b> $1.80 for 8 ounces Most people have a bottle or jar of mustard in their fridge but don't realize how versatile it can be. Rose likes the basic yellow kind, which is <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Mustard-facts-and-buying-information" target="blank">mild and creamy and gets its color from turmeric</a>, a powerful antioxidant. Brush some on chicken before roasting for an easy and low-calorie marinade. Or add a small squirt to a jar of oil and vinegar, then screw on the lid and shake to give salad some zip. One more genius idea: <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Grilled-Chicken-Spinach-and-Cashew-Salad-with-Honey-Mustard-Dressing" target="blank">Follow this recipe</a>, where mustard is the key component in a sauce that works as both a cooking sauce and a dressing.