Cooking Tips Once Upon A Tine

Of all the cooking advice I ever heard, the best one I received was: simplify.  I believe in doing things the easy way.  When someone offers cooking tips, I try them.  Below are a few that have worked well for me.  If you have one to add, then please share it by sending me an email using the contact page.


How to Season a Pot

Seasoning, the process whereby the pores in cast iron absorb oil and create a natural non-stick finish, is not complicated and shouldn’t discourage first-time cast iron users.

In order to start the process, wash, rinse and thoroughly dry the new skillet or dutch oven to remove the protective wax coating. I recommend drying the utensil over a low flame to remove all moisture from the porous metal, 2-3 minutes.

Put two tablespoons of liquid vegetable oil in the utensil. Do not use saturated fat, such as butter or bacon fat, because this fat will become rancid during storage. Use a paper towel to coat the entire surface of the utensil with the oil, inside and out — including all corners, edges and lids.

Preheat the oven to 500° F for 30 minutes. Line a large baking pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place the utensils on the sheet, with the pot upside down and the lid right side up, to prevent the oil building up in the concave areas.

Bake the utensils for 1 hour, turn off the heat and allow the skillet or dutch oven to cool completely in the oven with the door closed, 4-6 hours. Remove from oven and wipe with a paper towel. This completes the seasoning process, and you are ready to use your nicely seasoned cast iron skillet.

How to Select a Watermelon

1. LOOK – Your watermelon should be firm, symmetrical and free of major bruises or scars. Some minor scratches are okay, however. After all, the purpose of that thick rind is to protect the delicious contents inside. Ripe watermelons should also be dark green in color.

2. LIFT – The ripest watermelons have the most water. And since watermelons are 92 percent water, your watermelon should be relatively heavy for its size.

3. TURN – Turn your watermelon over and check out its bottom, which should have a creamy yellow spot (also called the ground spot). This is where the watermelon sat on the ground while it soaked up the sun at the farm. If this spot is white or greenish, your watermelon may have been picked too soon and might not be as ripe as it should be.

My grandmother always said you could thump a watermelon and listen to the sound to test its ripeness. While it’s true that the sound test can give you some insight on a watermelon’s ripeness, I don’t endorse or use the test because it’s too subjective and there’s no definitive agreement on which result the test is supposed to yield.  Some say a ripe watermelon will produce a hollow sound, while a solid sound indicates a watermelon is either not ripe or is too ripe.  While some argue just the opposite.  Others maintain watermelon should produce a B-flat sound. (Whatever that is!)

How to Check Eggs for Freshness

Take a deep bowl ( about 4 inches deep) and fill it with water. One at a time, put your eggs in the water. If they sink quickly to the bottom and lie on their sides, they are still very fresh. If they stand straight in the water but still touch the bottom, they are not as fresh but still can be used (I don’t suggest to use them in pastries or any baked goods though). If they float on top of the water, throw them out.

How to Preserve Fresh Herbs

First Method: Start by Selecting some of the herbs you want to freeze. Wash and dry them well. Layer clean fresh herbs on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen, remove the herbs and store in a freezer bag or other airtight container. You can use a Food Saver to make sure there’s not air in the freezer bags.

Second Method: For herbs that you will be using for soups, sauces and stews, use the following way to freeze your herbs. Simply chop clean herbs and drop into sections in the ice cube tray. Fill with water (make sure the herbs are not poking out) and freeze. Once frozen, remove and store in a freezer bag. When ready to use, drop into the soup or sauce and let them melt right in the recipe.