Simple Kitchen Tips
Photo by Layla Mazdyasni
Carmel Valley Kitchen’s hints, tips and suggestions for food that’s easier, more fun and economical to make, and is absolutely delicious…of course. These kitchen tips, ideas and suggestions pertain to foods that are readily available in all of our grocery stores in the Carmel Valley San Diego community. And please email us with questions as we’re happy to help out anytime.
- Always read a recipe thoroughly before attempting to make it to be sure you have everything necessary and the time required to make it correctly.
- Never try a recipe that you have never previously prepared when you have special dinner guests.
- Organize your kitchen so you know exactly where everything is.
- Any bowl or container used to whip cream, whip egg whites, make an emulsified salad dressing (oil and vinegar) or a zabaglione MUST be wiped clean with a damp dish or paper towel to remove any soap residue or the ingredients will not combine properly.
- To tell if fish is properly cooked, insert a metal skewer or paring knife tip into the center of the fish for about 10 seconds, remove it and touch it to your lips. If it’s warm the fish is done. You will never have dry over cooked fish again.
- Shrimp, fish and most seafood…cook in about 2-3 minutes when used in soups, stews and gumbos; always add at the last minute; oven roast shrimp for about 10 minutes at 325 degrees for scampi and steep in very hot water for about 5 minutes if cooking from raw for salads and shrimp cocktail.
- Spices and condiments…dried thyme, sesame seeds, chili powder, whole pepper corns, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried red pepper flakes, etc can be bought in bulk, “DELISH” at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons have their own brands, in large plastic containers. Vons also has small cellophane bags with a large variety of spices and dried peppers. DO NOT spend $5-$6 for a cute small bottle of Shilling or some other expensive brand.
- Spend $24.95 to register for the America’s Test Kitchen website in order to take full advantage of their recipes, videos, equipment evaluations and all their fabulous cooking related information. It’s a bargain.
- Make a trip to The Vegetable Shop in Rancho Santa Fe and to the 99 Ranch Market on Clairemont Mesa Blvd in Kearny Mesa. You’ll be amazed at what they have.
- Always taste and reseason as you go so the final dish tastes like it should AND meets your approval.
- Meat cooked “on the bone” (e.g. boned vs. bone-in chicken breasts) will be moister and more flavorful than meat cooked “off the bone”.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment and “push the envelope”
- You MUST have one 12”cast iron skillet (buy it “seasoned” from Lodge on the web). It’s a work horse and a milti-tasker.
- DEFROSTING…NO MICROWAVES PLEASE…the best way to quickly defrost shrimp, scallops, chicken pieces, pork chops etc is to put in a sealed plastic bag in a sink or large bowl of room temp water…takes about an hour. Change water and separate pieces after 30 min.
- Roasting concentrates the flavor of vegetables; steaming dilutes the flavor. Try roasting some cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, Brussel sprouts or green beans. Simply toss in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and roast in an oven preheated to 400 degrees on a baking sheet until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Sauce thickener…a teaspoon or two of Wondra flour straight from the container or a tablespoon of regular flour dissolved in water will usually thicken a simmering sauce
- Crushed Ritz crackers are a great substitute for bread crumbs…add any seasonings you want
- A couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice on a salad just before serving really brightens the flavor
- Scallops…there are basically 2 types of sea scallops (the big ones) that are available in San Diego, “wet pack” where the scallops are shipped unfrozen in a container of liquid containing chemicals and preservatives and “dry pack” where they are flash frozen and then shipped. At approx $15-$20/lb always buy dry pack. With the smaller “bay scallops” it’s not an issue
- Any cooked meat should be covered with foil before serving for at least 10-15 minutes to let the juices redistribute.
- Crème fraiche…is simply sour cream.
- Buy pepper in bulk and use a pepper mill, Peugeot is the standard. Pepper has essential oils that are released when its ground that are not present in ready ground pepper
- Recipes (other than baking) are simply guides. Add or subtract ingredients according to what tastes best to you.
- Baking is a science and requires exact amounts by weight and/or volume. It is very precise.
- The weekly sales in our local grocery stores usually go from Tuesday to Tuesday.
- Olive oil…extra virgin is the best and there are hundreds of producers and brands. Experiment with different ones until you find one you like.
Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe creator who has always been inspired by his mom’s great cooking. He has been cooking for over 40 years and has lived in Carmel Valley with his family since 1985. He created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion.
Dave was recently selected as a semifinalist in the “Next Great! News Instructor Cooking Challenge” and his basic cheese cake took third place at the 2011 San Diego County Fair. Dave has a comprehensive knowledge of ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques that he is always happy to share.