Category Archives: Tips

Those Prosciutto Asparagus Bundles—Some Tips

Blog posts for bundles of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto are ubiquitous. Some are roasted until the prosciutto is crispy and some are wrapped at the last minute, after only the asparagus are cooked. I’ve even seen some that have cheese either under or on top of the prosciutto. Whatever kind you’re looking for, here are a few tips to save you some headaches:

  1. Precook the asparagus before roasting. Just a 2-3 minute simmer will cook the asparagus enough that it won’t be tough after a short time in the oven to crisp up the whole bundle. I don’t think I would use the very fat stalks, but if you have to, you should probably peel them before simmering.
  2. If like the prosciutto I always find, yours tears into pieces just trying to separate them—even when they have paper or plastic between the slices—don’t panic. Prosciutto pieces will stick to themselves and you can easily piece them together. Every single one of my slices tore into three identical pieces, one small square, one long straggly strip, and one nice looking rectangle that was large enough to go around the bundle itself. So I put the ugly duckling pieces on the inside and wrapped the big rectangle around the whole thing. No one would be the wiser, if I actually had company, instead of being in self-quarantine with just my husband.

I brushed mine with olive oil and roasted them at 400º for about 20 minutes.

Weep no More, My . . . Yogurt?

I hope you’re not throwing out that yogurt or sour cream or ricotta, etc. that is only a few days old, just because it seems to have developed a puddle of watery liquid where you last spooned some out. I know it doesn’t look appetizing, and I usually just pour it off, but you can stir it back in, too, and move on with your recipe.

That liquid actually has a name—whey—and it’s full of nutrients and fine to stir back in. The process of the weeping has a name too—syneresis. Read more about it here.

But if you just can’t stand seeing that liquid, there’s an easy way to prevent it. After you spoon out what you need, use the back of your spoon to smooth out the top of the remaining food, as you might do when frosting a cake. Just smooth it to the point of having no large craters where the whey can seep out.

Here’s what happens when you spoon out some yogurt and just put it away. The next day, the space is filled with watery whey:

Here’s how to prevent that puddle:

Here’s that container after a week of spooning out and smoothing—no whey!

So, if you’re grossed out by that weeping, and you know you’ve been throwing out good food, just smooth it out after using and you’ll be surprised at how brand new it looks every day.

My Love Affair with Parchment Paper

I can’t imagine a day in the kitchen without parchment paper

Here’s more than you probably want to know about how parchment paper is made from Wikipedia:

Modern parchment paper is made by running sheets of paper pulp through a bath of sulfuric acid (a method similar to how tracing paper is made) or sometimes zinc chloride. This process partially dissolves or gelatinizes the paper, a process which is reversed by washing the chemicals off followed by drying. This treatment forms a sulfurized cross-linked material with high density, stability, and heat resistance, and low surface energy—thereby imparting good non-stick or release properties. The treated paper has an appearance similar to that of traditional parchment.

Mostly I use the parchment that comes in rolls, tearing off pieces to fit into and up the sides of rimmed sheet pans. Sometimes I use the rolled paper to line cookie sheets, but I also keep a box of the pre-cut paper on hand for such things as biscuits or cookies. I use a paper cutter to cut smaller pieces to set between layers of roasted vegetables, like tomatoes or peppers, to store in freezer containers, and I have even used squares of parchment to line muffin cups, where it does a much better job than those purchased paper liners.

I use it in the prep stage, to line pans that I’m carrying out to the grill, especially those carrying foods to be drizzled with olive oil, and to line pastry crusts for blind baking:

I use it for roasting vegetables and meats:

I use it like a funnel to pour foods, like after I’ve toasted the oats and coconut for my muesli:

And, of course, I use it for the typical things you would bake—cookies, muffins, biscuits—and even such things as breaded veggies and pastries, like empanadas:

 

Organizing Your Grilling Stuff

Especially when you have to run back and forth to the kitchen to tend to things on the stove—note to self: move the patio door—you can help yourself by having all your grilling items available and organized. I used to keep most of the stuff in the little room that leads to the patio, but, darn, those patio sliding doors are heavy and annoying to open and close 25 times during one meal prep.

So, two years ago, I bought a folding prep table, and then re-purposed a big 25 gallon Rubbermaid® Roughneck™ storage box to hold the charcoal. I don’t just throw a bag of charcoal in the box or store a large bag in it, though. When I get a new bag, I divvy it up in 50-briquette paper bags, enough for a typical quick grilling of burgers and veggies. If I need something for long cooking, like a charcoal snake for a whole chicken or ribs, I can use two bags. For anything in between, I keep one bag to steal from. That means I seldom have to deal with those heavy charcoal bags, and I always know how far one bag will go. I get about 6-7 bags of 50 briquettes from a 15 lb bag, and I usually divide two of those bags at one time. I think a lot of people waste coals by just pouring from the bag. Fifty to 60 briquettes is a typical amount to put in the chimney I use to start the fires—I keep the cooled chimney in the box, too.

Tip: Wear plastic gloves when filling the bags of charcoal 😉

That helped some, but didn’t help with all the cooking tools, heavy cast-iron or oversized pans, and cleaning supplies. So this year, I splurged on a Keter storage/prep station with a nice stainless steel top. It was easy to put together, as most  of the sturdy resin pieces just snap together, and it holds everything I need.

I still wish the kitchen were closer to the patio, though.

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