Low Fat and Quick Cooking Tips
- Rather than writing
a shopping list from scratch, keep a list of the usual pantry suspects
in your computer, leaving enough space to write in special items. Print
out the list before you go shopping and circle the items you need. If
you don't have a computer, type or write the list by hand and make photocopies.
- Make your list conform
to the way your market is laid out. For example, at my store produce
is the in front. So my list begins with produce. This will make shopping
faster, and you'll be less likely to forget something. Write down items
as they run out on a pad in the kitchen and refer to it when you make
up your list.
- To save money, buy the ends of the prosciutto for cooking. They don't make great slices but they're fine when cut into strips for dishes like Spaghetti Carabonara with Prosciutto and Peas.
- To stay within the guideline of 12 grams of fat per serving, look for meats, fish, and poultry that are between five and ten grams of fat per serving. The remaining fat will come from cooking oil and other foods. (Vegetables, even herbs like mint, have some fat.)
- To store fresh basil,
try this neat trick I learned from my friend Janet Fletcher, author of
Fresh From the Farmers Market.
- Put a bunch of basil
in a large plastic bag. Blow up the bag with air as you would a balloon
and quickly secure the bag at the top with a twist tie. The basil will
remain in pristine condition at room temperature for a week.
- Despite conventional wisdom, keep onions and potatoes in the refrigerator. Storing onions under refrigeration eliminates tearing when they are chopped. The cold helps neutralize the volatile compounds that make us cry. Refrigeration keeps potatoes away from light, which creates those toxic green blotches. The cold also keeps potatoes longer but it does effect their starch content. However, taking the potatoes out of the refrigerator a few hours before cooking-or perhaps before you leave for work-helps restabilize the starch.
- Don't have a meat pounder? Try a cast iron skillet
Herbs and Spices
order shopping is a good way to get herbs and spices not easily
available from local stores. Herbs and spices purchased this way are
also usually cheaper and fresher than those at supermarkets. If the
amounts you order are more than you can reasonably use, consider splitting
the spices and the cost with a friend who has similar culinary tastes.
(Low Fat Cooking to Beat the Clock contains a list of mail order sources.)
- Label dried herbs
and spices with the purchase date so you'll know when to replace them.
When in doubt, take a sniff. If you can't smell anything, discard them.
- For fresh ginger chopped
by hand, first peel then cut the piece of ginger into thin slices or
coins. Stack and cut the coins into strips. Cut the strips crosswise
into small dice.
- If you don't have
a pepper mill with a coarse setting for dishes like Tuna Steak au Poivre
with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, put peppercorns in a zip-lock bag and
crush with a rolling pin or wine bottle.
- To quickly remove the leaves from a sprig of tarragon or rosemary, hold the sprig in one hand about two-thirds up the stem and with the stem end down. Pull down toward the stem end with the closed thumb and forefinger of the other hand, stripping off the leaves. Then pick off the very top leaves.
- Olives have a lot more fat than most people realize. Capers, which have no fat, can be substituted in many dishes. For example, Couscous Salad originally called for olives. But only ten kalamatas put the recipe over the 12-gram fat limit per serving. Capers solved the dilemma.
- While there is some flexibility in the use of seasonings and vegetables for the recipes in this book, cooking fats should be measured carefully. Similarly, cheese, meat, poultry, and fatty fish should be weighed on an accurate scale. Even when creating your own dish, get into the habit of always measuring fats.
- When a recipe calls
for a piece of meat or vegetable to be cut a certain size, measure one
correct piece with a ruler. Put the piece at the top of the cutting board
as your guide. Eyeball your sample piece periodically as you cut the
rest of the pieces.
- A cheese microplane is a grating tool based on a carpenter's wood rasp. It makes feathery curls of Parmesan, which cover more surface area on pasta than conventional graters. Thus, when diners add cheese at the table, they use less cheese and consume less fat.
- Lisa Callaghan of All-Clad Metalcrafters (which makes nonstick cookware) recommends using pump action rather than aerosol cooking sprays on nonstick cooking surfaces. Nonstick surfaces are not completely smooth, whether from the type of nonstick coating used, inevitable nicks and scratches, or food buildup you can't see because of the dark surface. Aerosol droplets from cooking sprays can get into these nooks and crannies. This can cause a sticky buildup and turn the normal blue-gray or black nonstick surface brown. Soaking the pan overnight in warm, soapy water, or scrubbing the surface with a sponge and baking soda mixed into a paste with a small amount of water can correct the problem. Better cookware stores sell pump spray canisters that can be filled with your own oil.