How to Tomatoes
Pick a Tomato:
Lets start with the basics: What are you preparing? For stuffing, choose evenly shaped tomatoes without bruises; for saucing, jamming or making salsa, shapes and bruises are not important.
For salads choose tomatoes that smell fresh, the aroma will pretty much hint you of the taste.
Red tomatoes with deep green stripes are a sure sign that they’ve been left to ripen naturally.
If your tomatoes are still on the vine, check the state of the stem & leaves, do the look fresh? dark? brownish? Remember to discard the stem since the leave & vines are poisonous.
Store your tomatoes at room temperature, NEVER REFRIGERATE or you will loose the great taste; the sugars tend to break down, the juices dry and the consistency becomes overall “gummy”.
Cut a 1 inch cross on the top of the tomato. Prick the stem side of the tomato with a fork, submerge for 15- 20 seconds in a pot with boiling water. Immediately submerge under cold running water or a bowl with ice water. Carefully peel off skin.
Cut tomatoes in 1/2 inch wedges, mix with olive oil, balsamic vinegar salt, pepper and the spices of your choice. Place in a shallow pan and broil in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning. Do not can tomatoes from dead or dying vines. Unripe tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit and can be canned safely with any of the following recommendations. Treat all ripe tomatoes (yellow, green, pink, orange, red, etc.) the same way. To ensure safe acidity levels in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes use the following recommendations:
Acid for 1 Pint / 1 Quart (Choose one of the following):
Bottled lemon juice 1 Tablespoon / 2Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons /4 Tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon1/2 teaspoon
Add acid directly to the jars before filling with product. If desired, add up to 1 Tablespoon of sugar per quart to offset acidic taste. Vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes. The use of salt is optional in all canned tomato products. Salt is used in canning only for flavor or color protection.
Whole or Halved Tomatoes:
Wash tomatoes. Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water. Slip off skins and remove cores. Leave whole or halve. Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars. See acidification directions. If desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars.
Crushed Tomatoes (no added liquid):
Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water. Slip off skins and remove cores. Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter. Heat one-sixth of the quarters quickly in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or back of a knife as they are added to the pot. This will draw off some juice. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning. As soon as the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add remaining quartered tomatoes, stirring constantly, these remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed. They will soften with heating and stirring. Continue until all tomatoes are added, then boil gently 5 minutes. Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars. See acidification directions. If desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars. Fill jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.
The acidity of the tomato will deteriorate many materials like aluminum and non-stick pots & pans. It is highly recommended to use 18/10 steel or enameled surfaces instead . To stir it is best to use wooden spoons, just remember to keep some spoons for savory recipes and some for sweet.
The best way to keep tomatoes frozen is to lightly “stew” them. Quarter your tomatoes and remove the seeds (if desired). Place in a non-reactive pot on medium heat with 1 cup of water or the stock of your choice per every 2 cups of tomatoes. Add basil, oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Let it cook till it reduces to half of the original content. You can use this mix as a base for pasta or pizza sauce. It preserves very well in the freezer for long periods of time.
How to make a great salad
What makes a salad great?
The ingredients of course! Choose the freshest vegetables possible, if you can buy from the local Farmer’s Market and use within two or three days. The freshness will reflect through textures and flavors of the salad.
Greens should be crisp, washed and rinsed, its just awful to eat a “watery” salad. The pre-washed pre-cut are great time savers but they just do not taste the same. An exception are the “mixed greens” because the leaves are left intact.
Tomato cutting is also an issue. Tomato slices are great for layering on bread or mozzarella and onions but they become pulp in a salad with greens. Quarter in sections instead, that way the tomato will retain texture and flavor.
Use fresh herbs, they are aromatic and delicious. Its very easy to grow your own even if you live in a small apartment! All you need is a sunny window. Basil especially is easy to grow and, oh how fragrant and delicious it is fresh cut from the plant!
Make your own dressings. They can be as simple as a vinaigrette or as fancy as a “green goddess type”. The bottled stuff, although convenient, is expensive for what you are given; many contain additives and preservatives that contribute to an artificial taste and gummy consistency. Many use partially-hydrogenated oils which will ultimately turn into ‘bad-fat”.
Remember also to mix your salad well so the flavors blend, but don’t leave it to macerate! The greens will wilt when in contact with acids such as vinegars and lemon or lime juice.
Remember to contrast and compliment your flavors: a tangy mix of greens will pair with sweet flavorful tomatoes, ripe cheese and a freshly made vinaigrette. Crispy lettuce and juicy tomato tidbits.
A little detail: the pepper, pre-ground pepper does not taste or smell like fresh ground. Pre packaged ground is “ashy” and pungent, while fresh ground is aromatic and fruity. There are many types and blends to with which experiment.
Follow these suggestions and your salad will become a delectable item on your menu instead of forgettable side dish.
How to cook RICE
It is said that any cook should know how to execute 10 basic recipes and most other recipes will follow. Think about it, if you know your basic cooking techniques, change the ingredients and you’ll be able to make thousands of combinations! Rice is a tricky thing, it can be made risotto style, sticky style or “steamed/ fluffy” style.
The method we used is easy, simple and will produce a lovely fluffy style rice, excellent for side dishes or as a basis for sauce, or stir fry.
For 4 (1 cup) portions:
2 cups rice
about 8 cups water
1 tsp salt
Rinse rice in water two or three times to get rid of any debris. Place the rice in a pot on high heat with just enough water to cover the rice plus 1/2 inch more, add salt and stir. Let it come to a rolling boil then lower the heat and cover. Let cook for 10-15 minutes DO NOT STIR or else your rice will stick to the bottom of your pot. Check to see if water dried out, if necessary add more.
Start testing for doneness after 15 minutes. The grains will be plump, white and cooked in the center. .
Which Rice to use?
None in particular, keep in mind that some rice types are more flavorful than others. Normal long grain rice is OK for this recipe. It tastes very good with Basmati