Published December 22, 2012
For many, food preparation is less than alluring. The time commitment and hassle can send even the most patient human straight to the pre-made section of the grocery store.
Peeling potatoes with a peeler? Forget it. I’d rather spend that time happily munching on a store-bought pre-peeled potato salad.
The food-filled holiday season doesn’t nurture those who find prepping a hassle, either. The pressure to cook a large amount of food in a small amount of time is intimidating and overwhelming. Luckily, there are some simple, clever tricks to use when preparing the delicate foods listed below.
Pomegranate is one of the messiest fruits out there and if you’re not careful, it will stain everything in your path. To easily release the perils from a pomegranate, Alonzo Villarreal, chef instructor and dietician at Johnson and Wales University, recommends using a wooden spoon or mallet.
First, cut the pomegranate around the equator (you don’t need to cut the stem off). “Flip the pomegranate halves upside down over a bowl and take the wooden spoon or mallet and bang it on the back of the pomegranate,” says Villarreal. The perils and some pith will release into the bowl. To separate the pith from the perils, Villarreal recommends filling the bowl with cool water. The perils will sink to the bottom of the bowl, while the membrane will float to the top. Scoop out the floating pith and dump the remaining contents of the bowl into a strainer so the strainer catches the perils and drains the water.
Hulling strawberries with a knife takes concentration, coordination and lots of time, especially if you do so by the bucketful. To hull a strawberry quickly and easily, take a wide, sturdy straw and push it through the center of the strawberry from the bottom up.
Cakes and other soft foods
Use a string of unscented floss to cut cake, cheese, and other soft foods quickly and cleanly. Wrap the ends of the floss around your fingers as though you are about to floss your teeth. Slide the floss through the food to cut and gently slide it back out.
To effortlessly peel a potato, take the skin off after it boils. Using a sharp knife, cut a line around the center of each potato, just through the skin. Boil the potatoes and then place them in a bucket full of ice-cold water for a minute or so. Take one potato out at a time, hold it with both hands and twist the skin while pulling outward. The peel will slide off.
“Garlic is one of the foods that many of my students have trouble with,” says Villarreal. To safely and easily separate the skin from garlic cloves, Villarreal recommends using a sandwich bag and rolling pin instead of a knife. “Put garlic cloves in a sandwich bag and place onto a cutting board. Take a rolling pin and bang the garlic a few times until you see the paper part come away from the clove,” says Villarreal.
To keep poured white wine chilled, place frozen white grapes instead of ice cubes into each glass. The grapes won’t water down the wine and you’ll end up with some appreciative guests.
Cookie dough is delicious and surprisingly versatile. For a twist on a dessert, flatten cookie dough on the outside of the greased cups of a muffin pan (you’ll want to flip the muffin pan over to do this). Spread the dough thick enough so that when you bake it in the oven, you have a sturdy cookie dough bowl that you can scoop ice cream or fruit into.