This Cooking Tips series is all about making cooking easier- right from buying and storing groceries / produce to kitchen hacks, time saving shortcuts and tips to make your life easier in the kitchen.
BUYING AND STORING TIPS
1) Fresh chilies last for longer in the fridge if stored with their stems removed, and kept in an airtight box.
2) To store coriander, cut off the roots and place in an airtight box or ziploc lined with thick kitchen tissues. Do not stuff the box. Leave some breathing space for the leaves.
3) Add a few cloves (the spice) to groceries like rice and dals or place dried neem leaves when storing them in airtight boxes to keep them free of insects.
4) Store ready to eat bananas in the fridge to prevent it from ripening further. The peel may blacken, but the bananas will be fresh.
5) To ripen avocados fast, wrap each in a newspaper, and store along with the bananas in the fruit basket on the kitchen counter. Check everyday if the avocado has softened (ripened) and place in the refrigerator once it has ripened or use immediately.
6) Save large quantity of fresh herbs by drying in microwave. Spread washed and dried herbs in a single layer on a thick kitchen paper. Cover with another layer of paper. Microwave on high for 1 minute and then in 20 second bursts until you can see that they are dry. Cool for 5 minutes. In case of larger leaf herbs like basil / mint, crush and save in an airtight glass jar. Rosemary / thyme can be saved as it is.
7) Fresh herbs like basil can also be ground into pesto with some garlic, olive oil and toasted nuts, frozen in ice trays and used up for pastas, in sandwiches or as soup toppings.
8) Buy small quantity of spices or spice powders as they lose their flavour and freshness rapidly. Avoid placing in direct light or near the heat source. Grinding your own spice powders just before using in the recipe gives maximum flavour.
9) If you tend to stock up on a variety of flours, they are best kept in sealed packets in the refrigerator especially Indian humid weather conditions. This prevents infestation and the flours from going rancid.
10) Do not store honey in the refrigerator. Honey can stay indefinitely in your kitchen cabinet. If it gets crystallised, place in a pan of gently boiling water and stir through to break crystals.
11) Store paneer or tofu in a box filled with lightly salted water. Change water everyday. This will keep the cheese soft and fresh for 3-4 days.
12) When you buy vegetables for the whole week, use them in the order in which they will spoil – for example, green leafy vegetables to be used first as they will wilt the fastest.
13) If you have bought lots of fresh spinach, remove the stems, wash and clean the leaves. Blanch them in hot water, refresh in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, chop the spinach and store in freezer for use in dals/ curries or pasta. This will save a lot of fridge space and you can use the spinach through the week.
14) Bread is best not stored in the fridge as it loses its freshness and flavour. However in humid conditions it catches fungus when stored outside for more than 2-3 days. To avoid this, you can store bread in a sealed bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
15) Store onions and potatoes in separate baskets in a cool dark place in the kitchen. Mixing up the two makes the potatoes rot faster.
16) Roast semolina (rava) in the microwave for 2 minutes / stove top in a kadai for 5-6 minutes or in a moderate oven for 5 minutes. When cooled, store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
17) Tomatoes are best left to ripen on the counter top in a basket. Use in cooking as and when they ripen. It is best not to refrigerate tomatoes as they lose flavour and acquire a not-so-pleasant floury texture.
18) To revive biscuits or cookies that have lost their crunch, place on a paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds. Wait for it to cool and they would have turned crisper than they were to start with.
19) Slightly stale (<12 hours old) chapatis can be refreshed by sprinkling a few drops of water over the muslin cloth they are wrapped in and microwaving this along with the cloth for 20 seconds.
20) Fruits like chikoo or guava that are quite raw can be made to ripen speedily by burying them in the rice bin.
21) If you have any tried and tested food buying-storing tips, do share in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to add them to the list with due credit to you!
Dr. Nandita Iyer, a nutrition expert and food blogger from Bangalore, whose blog Saffrontrail.com has been featuring healthy vegetarian recipes since 2006.
This post first appeared on SEPTEMBER 26, 2016 (https://www.saffrontrail.com/cooking-tips-series-food-buying-and-storage-tips).
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