One-pot meals have always offered cooks the chance to create healthy, delicious, economical meals with minimal cleanup. Today, they are a perfect culinary solution for a variety of contemporary concerns. One-pot meals are the ideal answer for cooks faced with less and less time to spend in the kitchen and increasing evidence of the need to address health and diet concerns. They are a freezable, easy-to-prepare, stressless, reheatable alternative to TV dinners and fast food. One-pot meals require only minimal cooking skills and little attention from the cook once they are in the pot.
One-pot cooking requires only a few appliances and utensils. When shopping, buy the best you can afford. Durability and reliability should be your primary concerns, since you'll be using the equipment for many years.
POTS AND PANS
Invest in high-quality cookware made of heavy-gauge materials that will quickly respond to changes in cooking temperature and equalize the flow of heat on the cooking surface.
To determine the weight of a piece of cookware, look at the thickness of the walls and base, and rap it with your knuckles. You should hear a dull thud. The best choices are pots of anodized aluminum, enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and copper. Many brands of cookware combine several of these materials.
A Wonderful Basic All-Purpose Pot The most important utensil you can own is a 4-quart nonstick Dutch oven with a removable ovenproof handle and a well-fitting, break-resistant, ovenproof glass lid. (Most glass lids are only ovenproof up to 350 degrees.) The pot should have a nonreactive surface and you should be able to move it from stovetop to oven to refrigerator. You can make most of the recipes in this book in such a pot.
You may also wish to add the following:
Large Soup Pot An 8- to 10-quart soup pot is useful for preparing large quantities. Soup pots should have heavy bottoms and well-fitting lids.
Saucepan The most practical saucepan you will use is one that will hold 3 to 4 quarts. Saucepans should have straight sides and well-fitting lids.
Wok Woks are wide, round-bottomed pans used extensively in Asian cooking. Woks can be used for stirfrying, steaming, braising, and stewing. Professional-weight woks made from carbon steel offer the best heat control. If you have an electric range, buy a flat-bottomed wok for even heat distribution. Gas ranges can use either a flat- or round-bottomed wok. Round-bottomed woks should be used with a ring stand placed narrow side up over a large burner.
Skillet Skillets should be made of materials that conduct heat rapidly and evenly and that respond to changes in temperature. They should be of sufficient weight to prevent them from buckling or bending over time. Choose a 12-inch skillet with a nonstick finish, high sides, an ovenproof handle, and a well-fitting lid. Electric woks and skillets with nonstick finishes are also available.
Casserole Dishes Flameproof casseroles in a variety of sizes (they range from 1½ quarts to 3 quarts) are useful for one-pot cooking. You can check the capacity of a casserole by measuring how much water it will hold.
Baking Pans Baking pans may be made of ovenproof glass or stainless steel with a nonstick finish. The most useful size is 9 × 13 inches.
Expandable Metal Steamer Insert A metal steamer insert will fit inside your Dutch oven or large saucepan. You can also use a bamboo steamer inside your wok.
Blender Blenders are great for pureeing soups and sauces and chopping small amounts of food. The blender's tall, narrow container makes it ideal for liquids. When working with soup mixtures that have just been cooked, allow them to cool slightly before blending. Do not fill the container more than half full, cover the top with a dish towel or cloth before you put on the lid, and press down on the lid before turning on the motor. When blending hot liquid, increase the speed gradually to prevent it from splattering. If food gets caught on the blades, stop the machine. After the blades have come to a complete stop, use the handle of a spoon or a narrow spatula to dislodge food. If the mixture is too thick, add a bit of liquid. When ingredients are too heavy to allow the blades to move, try increasing the blender's speed. If this fails, divide the mixture into several batches.
Food Processor A basic food processor with a large motor and bowl capacity that can chop, dice, slice, shred, and grind can significantly reduce the preparation time of one-pot meals. Blenders, however, are more efficient for pureeing soups. If your space or budget makes a food processor impractical, you can easily cook your way through this book without one.
Measuring Cups You will need dry measuring cups (¼-cup, ⅓-cup, ½-cup, and 1-cup sizes) and liquid measuring cups (2- or 4-cup size). For dry measuring cups, metal is better than plastic, since plastic tends to become misshapen in the dishwasher.
Measuring Spoons You will need spoons in and 1-teaspoon and 1-tablespoon measures.
Mixing Bowls You will need a set with flat bottoms in sizes ranging from 1½ to 8 quarts. Stainless-steel mixing bowls are a good choice.
Soup Ladle Look for a metal ladle with a 4- to 6-ounce bowl and 12- to 15-inch handle for serving soups and stews.
Long-Handled Spoons A collection of 12- to 15-inch long-handled wooden spoons, a long-handled slotted stainless-steel spoon, and a long-handled solid stainless-steel spoon are essential.
Spatulas Rigid wood spatulas are great for scraping the sides of pots and turning foods, while more flexible plastic or rubber spatulas are better for folding ingredients in curved bowls and removing pureed mixtures from blenders.
Knives A set of good sharp knives is a vital tool for any cook. Invest in knives with blades made of forged carbon or high-carbon stainless steel that resist stains and rust. The bottom end of the blade should be riveted to the handle. The most versatile is a broad, tapered 10-inch chef's knife for chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. A 6- to 8-inch utility knife is useful for cutting up small vegetables and herbs. A serrated knife makes cutting softer foods like bread and tomatoes a simple task. A small, short-bladed paring knife should be used to remove the skin of fruits and vegetables and cores. You will also need a sharpening steel and stone or an electrical knife sharpener.
Cutting Boards These can be made of wood or plastic. For sanitary purposes, have one board for fruit and vegetables and one (preferably wood) for poultry and fish. Use hot water and detergent to scrub boards after each use. Plastic boards can be washed in the dishwasher. Wooden boards can be cleaned with a mild solution of bleach and water or with lemon juice.
Cheesecloth A lightweight natural cotton cloth that will not flavor food or fall apart when wet can be used for straining liquids and for forming a packet for herbs and spices that can then be dropped into a soup pot. It is available in most supermarkets.
FOOD PREPARATION TIPS FOR ONE POT COOKING
Prepare and measure ingredients before you start to cook.
Keep in mind that the way ingredients are cut up affects not only their cooking time, but also the look and texture of the dish itself.
Chopped ingredients: Ingredients should be chopped in small pieces between ¼ inch and ½ inch square. If finely chopped pieces are called for, their size should not exceed ¼ inch. Chopped ingredients need not be absolutely even in size.
Diced ingredients: Diced ingredients should be cut into neat, even ¼-inch cubes.
Sliced ingredients: Thinly sliced ingredients should be sliced ⅛ inch thick. Coarsely sliced ingredients should be ¼ inch thick.
If you put raw poultry or fish on a dish or counter surface, wash the surface with soap and water before using again.
Boiling, simmering, reducing, sautéing, and stirfrying are the cooking techniques most often used in preparing one-pot meals.
Boiling: Cooking food in liquid that has been heated until bubbles break the surface. At sea level water boils at 212 degrees. A full rolling boil cannot be dissipated by stirring.
Simmering: Cooking food just enough for tiny bubbles to break the surface. Food simmers at about 185 degrees. If a soup boils too hard for too long, it will evaporate and burn. However, if a simmer is not maintained, the ingredients may not cook through in the allotted time. Simmering mixtures should be checked frequently, since they have a tendency to break into a boil as the temperature of stove and pot increases. If you can hear a simmering mixture bubbling, it is often an indication that the heat needs to be turned down.
Reducing: The process of boiling a liquid until at least half of the moisture evaporates. The concentrated liquid that remains has a more intense flavor and is thicker.
Sautéing: To cook food quickly in a small amount of stock, water, or oil. For the best results, be sure food you sauté is as dry as possible and heat the cooking liquid before adding the ingredients. Room-temperature foods brown faster and more evenly and absorb less liquid than cold foods. When sautéing, shake the pan often so the ingredients get evenly browned.
Stirfrying: Cooking small pieces of meat, seafood, or vegetables in a large pan over very high heat while constantly stirring. You can use a wok or large deep skillet that has enough room for you to rapidly stir and toss ingredients.
SAFETY TIPS FOR ONE POT COOKING
To keep a pot from boiling over, give the steam an outlet by placing a toothpick between the pot and the cover. Do the same thing when baking a covered casserole.
When stirring, be sure to reach down into the pot and redistribute the contents to prevent sticking and burning.
To prevent burned hands, make sure oven mitts and potholders are dry before you handle a hot pot or pan.
Before removing a pot or pan from the stove, make sure the burner is turned off.
Rest spoons and spatulas on a saucer or spoon rest to keep counters and stovetops clean.
Clean up as you go. While your meal is cooking, wash utensils, cutting boards, and so forth. Soak the pot you used before you sit down to dinner.
Scrubbing pots and pans will be an easier task if you wipe them out with paper towels before washing.
Don't scour pots and pans with metal sponges and abrasive cooking materials. Use soft cleaners. Soak pots and pans before cleaning. Wash with soap and very hot water. Dry completely to prevent rust.
If you end up with burned-on residue in a pot, scrape the area and add a few inches of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Bring to a boil, cover, and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes.
After using a wok, clean it well and dry it over a low burner.
Before disassembling a blender for cleaning, make sure the blades have stopped running before removing the jar from the base. Don't let food dry on the blades; soak them in hot water if you can't clean them immediately.
To clean your blender quickly, add a few drops of detergent to a container half filled with hot water. Turn on the blender for half a minute, then disassemble.
STORAGE AND FREEZING
To save on cleanup time, store leftovers in the pot or casserole in which you cook them and reheat them in the same container whenever possible. Use refrigerated leftovers within 2 or 3 days.
To prevent overcooking soup when you reheat it, reheat only the amount you expect to eat, rather than the whole pot.
If you are going to freeze a dish, do not overcook it. Warming it up in the oven will continue the cooking process.
To freeze one-pot dishes, first cool quickly and thoroughly. When filling freezer containers, leave an inch of space at the top to allow for expansion.
When warming up a frozen one-pot dish, check the seasoning during and after reheating, since some flavor is lost in freezing.
If you intend to freeze a baked casserole, before you begin, line a casserole dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving several inches of overhang on all sides. Fill with assembled ingredients. Bake, cool to room temperature, and freeze. Use the foil overhang to lift the frozen casserole from the container. Wrap in foil and seal the package airtight. Place in a freezer-proof plastic bag, label, and freeze.
To thaw, remove the foil and place the frozen food back in the casserole in which it was baked. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight or place frozen in a 350-degree oven, doubling the original cooking time. Test by inserting a dinner knife into the center of the casserole for 10 seconds until the food is warmed through.
Serve soups, stews, and other one-pot meals in broad, shallow bowls. Serve thick, hearty dishes with knives and forks as well as spoons.
Any of the following garnishes can be added to one-pot entrées immediately before serving.
½ cup chopped spinach, kale, or other leafy vegetable sautéd in 2 tablespoons chicken broth or 1 tablespoon chicken broth and 1 tablespoon olive oil
Minced fresh chives, dill, coriander, chervil, parsley, rosemary, mint, fennel, scallions, or watercress
Diced or slivered carrots, turnip, potatoes, celery, red onion, red or green bell peppers, green beans, leeks, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus tips, artichoke hearts, or beets blanched or lightly browned in chicken broth or olive oil
Raw diced or slivered radishes, red or green bell peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, or cucumbers
Grated raw carrots, zucchini, jicama, beets, or onion
Slivered toasted almonds
Chopped hard-boiled egg white Fat-free sour cream beaten with paprika to taste
Dollops of fat-free yogurt
Grated fat-free cheese
Cooked rice or pasta
Lemon slices or lime slices
Minced lemon peel
To make croutons, cut whole-wheat, rye, French, or Italian bread into ½-inch squares. Place on baking sheets and bake in a 200-degree oven until dry. Toss 3 cups dried bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and either 2 tablespoons fat-free Parmesan, ½ teaspoon paprika, 1 minced clove garlic, and 1 teaspoon minced onion; or 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 minced cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon crumbled dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper; or 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel, and ½ teaspoon paprika. Brown in a 300-degree oven, stirring frequently.
Serve whole-grain, French, Italian, or rye bread, rolls, crackers, or English muffins.
To create your own special toasted rounds, squares, and triangles, thinly slice bread, remove crusts, and cut to the desired shape, allowing to dry for 1 day. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with curry powder; a mixture of fat-free Parmesan and paprika; poppy, caraway, or sesame seeds; minced fresh parsley; or paprika. Bake in a 200-degree oven for 1 hour.
Apple Juice Always buy unsweetened apple juice.
Apples When buying apples, look for ones that are free of bruises and firm to the touch. If you are going to serve them raw, choose crisp, crunchy, juicy apples, such as Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, or Gala. Store in a cool place. Before putting them in the refrigerator, place in perforated plastic bags or containers to keep them from drying out. Apple corers and apple cutters make preparing apples easy. Since the flesh turns brown quickly, dip slices or wedges in lemon juice mixed with water to preserve their color.
Apricots Choose apricots that look ripe and are on the firm side. They should be smooth-skinned and blemish-free. Ripen them at room temperature, but refrigerate once ripe. When the fruit is soft to the touch, it is ready to eat. Cut them in half and remove the pit. If you wish to remove the skin, plunge them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then in cold water. Dried apricots are available year-round. They should be soft and tender when purchased. They store extremely well.
Arrowroot Arrowroot is a delicate thickener for sauces that has no flavor. It reaches its maximum thickening power before boiling and results in very clear sauces. Two teaspoons arrowroot can replace 1 tablespoon cornstarch; 1½ teaspoons arrowroot can replace 1 tablespoon flour. Combine arrowroot with 2 tablespoons cold water before adding to sauce, then add gradually. Arrowroot can be found on the spice rack in most supermarkets.
Artichoke Hearts Canned artichoke hearts are baby artichokes with tender leaves and bottoms in which the bristly choke is undeveloped and therefore edible. Buy only artichoke hearts packed in water. They can be stored unopened on a cool, dry pantry shelf for a year.
Asparagus Select firm, straight green spears with closed, compact tips or buds. The optimum size for an asparagus stalk is ½ inch in diameter. Purchase spears of uniform thickness. Refrigerate uncovered spears and use them as soon as possible.
Baking Powder Buy low-sodium double-acting baking powder. Don't expose baking powder to steam, humid air, wet spoons, or moisture. Store it in a tightly sealed container for no more than 6 months.
Bamboo Shoots The tender-crisp, ivory-colored shoots of a particular, edible species of bamboo are cut as soon as they appear above ground. Canned shoots are available in most supermarkets.
Bananas Bananas should be stored at room temperature until they are ripe. After ripening, they can be refrigerated for 3 or 4 days. Since bananas will discolor after cutting, dip pieces into a mixture of lemon juice and water to preserve color.
Barley A hearty grain with a chewy texture and nutty taste, barley looks like rice and puffs up when cooked. The soluble fiber in barley is believed to be just as effective as that in oats for lowering cholesterol levels. Barley is commercially hulled to shorten the cooking time. Pearled barley is the most common variety.
Bean Sprouts Sprouts are the infant plants that grow out of beans in a moist, warm environment. Look for moist and crisp-looking sprouts with a fresh scent. The shorter the tendrils, the younger and more tender the sprouts. Fresh sprouts will keep for 7 to 10 days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should be kept moist, but don't allow a lot of free water to build up on the inside of the bag. Canned bean sprouts are also available.
Beans Beans used in these recipes include black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, split peas, and wax beans. Beans are high in fiber and low in fat. They are rich in protein and vitamins and contain no cholesterol. You can store cooked beans in the refrigerator for 1 week. They can be frozen in individual serving containers and quickly microwaved as needed. Slightly undercook beans you are planning to freeze.
Beets Choose fresh beets that are firm and have smooth skins. When trimming off beet greens, leave 1 inch attached to prevent a loss of nutrients and color during cooking. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Just before cooking, wash beets gently, taking care not to pierce the skin. Peel after cooking.
Bell Peppers (Green, Red, Yellow) Buy plump, firm, brilliantly colored, well-shaped peppers with healthy-looking stems. Avoid those with soft spots, cracks, or soft stems. Refrigerate for up to several days in the crisper drawer. Red and yellow bell peppers will not keep as long as green peppers because of their high sugar content. When preparing bell peppers, halve them lengthwise. Remove seedy cores, stems, and white pith along ribs.
Blueberries When buying blueberries, avoid those that are very soft and show signs of mold or bruises. Use them within a day or two of purchase for best flavor. Look for firm, plump berries with a healthy color. Store in the refrigerator, unwashed in a shallow plastic container covered with paper towels. Use within several days. Gently wash blueberries in a strainer or colander before serving and pat dry, discarding any that have gone bad.
Bok Choy Look for bunches with firm, white stalks topped with crisp, green leaves. Bok choy should be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
Bread Breads used in these recipes include bread crumbs, croutons, French bread, melba toast, and white bread. Look for breads that have been prepared without added fat.
Broccoflower A cross between broccoli and cauliflower, broccoflower looks like a light green cauliflower. Shop for a firm head with compact florets and crisp, green leaves. Avoid any that are browning. It should be stored unwashed and tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Wash before using.
Broccoli Select unwrapped heads of broccoli that are firm, with tightly closed buds. The buds may show a bluish-purple cast but should not have opened to show yellow flowers. Store in a perforated plastic bag, or spray lightly with cold water and wrap in a damp cotton kitchen towel. Broccoli will keep for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator.
Broth Chicken Broth: Look for low-sodium nonfat or reduced-fat canned chicken broth. If you cannot find nonfat canned chicken broth, pour a can of regular broth in a glass or plastic container and refrigerate overnight (or place in the freezer for 30 minutes) until fat congeals on the surface. Skim fat off before using.
Vegetable Broth: Commercially prepared nonfat vegetable broth can be found at your supermarket. You can also make vegetable broth from leftover raw and cooked vegetables. Strain it and freeze in an ice-cube tray for easy measuring.
Brussels Sprouts Choose brussels sprouts that have firm, tight heads. The core end should be clean and white. Sprouts that are small, green, and firm will taste best. Store unwashed in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days. Cut an "X" in the base of each sprout before cooking.
Bulgur Bulgur is made from whole-wheat kernels. The wheat kernels are parboiled, dried, and partially debranned, then cracked into coarse fragments to make bulgur.
Cabbage Cabbages should be heavy for their size, with crisp, fresh-looking leaves and no brown streaks or spots. Green cabbages should have deep green leaves. Red cabbage leaves should have no black edges. Wrap cabbage tightly in plastic bags and store in a refrigerator crisper for 4 to 7 days. Don't cut or shred cabbage until you are ready to use it. Discard old or wilted leaves, then cut in half and core.
Cantaloupe A ripe melon should be firm but should give slightly when pressed at the stem end. Ripe cantaloupe should also have a fragrant, musky scent. Melons should be free of dents and bruises and should have dry rinds. If the melon is slightly unripe, store it at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Refrigerate ripe melons and use within a few days.
Capers Capers are the flower bud of a bush native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. They are picked, sun-dried, and pickled in a vinegar brine. Capers should be rinsed before using. Look for capers near olives in your supermarket or in the gourmet foods section.
Carrots Shop for carrots that are small to medium in size, firm, and bright orange. Carrots can be sealed without their tops in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for several weeks. When preparing carrots, scrub and scrape the skin if it seems tough.
Cassava (Yuca) Cassava is a root with tough brown skin and a crisp, white flesh. Cassava falls into two main categories—sweet and bitter. Bitter cassava is poisonous unless cooked. Cassava can be found in Caribbean and Latin American markets and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Catfish Catfish have a tough, inedible skin that must be removed before cooking. The flesh is firm, low in fat, and mild in flavor.
Cauliflower Look for firm, compact, white or ivory heads surrounded by tender, green leaves. Avoid brown spots. Wrap cauliflower in perforated plastic bags and store unwashed in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Cayenne Pepper Cayenne is a small, thin, hot red pepper usually found in a ground version on supermarket spice racks.
Celery Choose firm branches that are tightly formed. The leaves should be green and crisp. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and leave ribs attached to the stalk. When ready to use, wash well and trim leaves and base.
To revive limp celery, trim ends and place in a jar of water in the refrigerator until crisp.
Cheeses Nonfat cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese are used in the recipes in this book. Most of these cheeses are made from skim milk.
Chicken Buy skinless chicken parts or skin them yourself. Look for the government grading stamp within a shield on the package and buy Grade A chicken. Store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. If the chicken is packaged tightly in cellophane, loosely rewrap in wax paper. Store raw chicken in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, and cooked chicken for up to 3 days. Salmonella bacteria are present on most poultry, so raw chicken should be handled with care. Rinse it thoroughly before preparing. After cutting or working with chicken, thoroughly wash utensils, cutting tools, cutting board, and your hands.
Chutney Chutney is a spicy condiment that contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices. It can range in texture from chunky to smooth and can range in degree of spiciness from mild to hot. Mango chutney, which is readily available in most supermarkets, is suggested in some of the recipes.
Clams in Their Shells When buying hard-shell clams, be sure the shells are tightly closed. Tap any slightly open shells. If they don't snap closed, the clam is dead and should be discarded. Store live clams for up to 2 days in a 40-degree refrigerator. Shucked clams should be plump and packaged in clam liquor. Store shucked clams in the refrigerator in their liquor for up to 4 days. Before steaming clams, scrub them thoroughly with a brush. Rinse several times.
To steam, place ½ inch of water in the bottom of a steamer. Place clams on the steamer rack. Cover the pot and steam over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or just until clams open. Discard any unopened clams. Canned clams are also available.
Cocoa Cocoa is dry, powdered, unsweetened chocolate from which the cocoa butter (i.e., fat) has been removed. Cocoa can replace unsweetened chocolate in many recipes. Look for cocoa with 1 gram or less of fat per serving.
Cod A popular white, lean, firm saltwater fish with a mild flavor. It is available year-round.
Collard Greens Shop for crisp, green leaves with no evidence of yellowing, wilting, or insect damage. Store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for 3 to 5 days.
Corn Choose ears with fresh, green husks and silk ends free from decay or worm injury. If the silk is brown and slightly dry, the corn is ripe. The ears should feel cool. The top of the cob should be round rather than pointed. The stem of fresh-picked corn is damp and pale green. After 24 hours, it turns opaque, chalky, and eventually brown. When you press a thumbnail into a kernel, it should spurt milk.
To remove kernels from the cob, stand the cob vertically and run a sharp knife down around its length.
Cornmeal Cornmeal is ground yellow or white corn kernels. Yellow cornmeal has more vitamin A. Cornmeal can be used to make polenta, an Italian pudding or mush that can be eaten hot or cold with sauce and other ingredients sprinkled over it.
Cornstarch A dense, powdery "flour" obtained from the corn kernel, cornstarch is used as a thickening agent. You will find it with other flours in your supermarket.
Couscous A precooked cracked-wheat product that is an alternative to rice, couscous is made from white durum wheat from which the bran and germ have been removed. Once cooked, it has a very light, airy quality and a silky texture. Couscous can be found in the supermarket with other grains such as rice or in the imported food aisle.
Crabmeat Crabmeat is sold fresh, frozen, and canned. It may be in the form of cooked lump meat (whole pieces of the white body meat) or flaked meat (small bits of light and dark meat from the body and claws).
Cranberries Raw cranberries offer more nutritional benefits than processed ones. The best cranberries are plump, firm, and lustrous. Avoid dull, sticky berries. The bright red varieties are tarter than the smaller, dark berries. Because of their tartness, most cranberry preparations require a sweetener, although it can be honey or maple syrup rather than sugar. Usually ½ cup sweetener to 1 pound fresh berries is enough.
Cranberry Sauce Canned cranberry sauces are available year-round in the canned-fruit section of your supermarket.
Cucumbers Choose firm, seedless cucumbers with smooth, brightly colored skins; avoid those with soft spots. Store whole cucumbers unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Wash well just before using. Since cucumbers tend to "weep" when they are sliced, you may want to take steps to prevent their giving off moisture. If so, place them in a colander with a light sprinkling of salt, toss, and let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water to wash off salt. With the back of a wooden spoon, press out as much moisture as you can, then pat dry with paper towels.
Currants Shop for fresh currants that are plump and without hulls. Currants should be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Curry Powder: Curry powder is a blend of herbs and spices that varies according to the country of origin, but usually includes turmeric, cardamom, and cayenne. Varieties can differ in intensity and heat, so use carefully.
Curry becomes stronger in a dish that is refrigerated and then reheated.
Egg Whites Two egg whites can be substituted for a whole egg. When buying commercial egg substitutes, be sure to check the labels for fat content. Buy brands with 1 gram of fat (or less) per serving. Eight ounces (1 cup) of a commercial egg substitute replaces 4 whole eggs and 8 egg whites. Two ounces (¼ cup) of egg substitute is equivalent to 1 medium egg.
Eggplants Look for plump, firm eggplants with very shiny skins that are free of soft spots. Bright green caps indicate freshness. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Fenugreek Fenugreek seeds add flavor to curry powders, spice blends, and teas. They are available whole or ground and should be stored in a dark, cool place for up to 6 months.
Five-Spice Powder A combination of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, five-spice powder is available in Asian markets and most supermarkets.
Flounder Flounder is a large flatfish with fine texture and delicate flavor. It is available whole or in fillets.
Flours Use unbleached, all-purpose flour that contains no whitening agents. Unbleached flour has a creamy off-white color. All-purpose flour is a mixture of soft wheat and hard, high-gluten wheat.
Garam Masala Garam masala is the Indian term for "warm," and this blend of dry-roasted spices may include ground black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chiles, fennel, mace, and nutmeg. You can mix your own garam masala, or buy it in many supermarkets or Indian markets.
Garlic Buy fresh garlic, garlic packed without oil, and minced dried garlic. When buying fresh garlic, look for bulbs with large, firm cloves. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Roast fresh garlic in its skin to bring the flavor out before adding to a dish instead of sautéing. Before adding minced garlic to a dish, try microwaving it with a bit of lemon juice for 30 seconds.
Gingerroot Fresh gingerroot, which adds a distinctive, spicy flavor to many dishes, can be found in the produce department of most supermarkets. Peel away the tan skin and slice the root, then mince or grate. You can freeze leftover gingerroot wrapped in plastic freezer wrap until ready to use. Ground ginger adds flavor to soups and curries as well as sweet dishes. It should not be used as a substitute for freshly grated gingerroot.
Grapes Buy grapes that are plump, full-colored, and firmly attached to their stems. Store grapes unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wash thoroughly and blot dry just before eating or using.
Green Beans Buy thin beans without bulges; the skin should not feel tough or leathery. Avoid limp or spotted beans. Look for beans with good color, plumpness, and a fresh-looking velvety coat. Refrigerate beans in perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper and use within a few days.
Green Chiles Canned green chiles can be found in the international foods section of your supermarket with other ingredients used in Mexican cooking.
Haddock Haddock, a lower-fat relative of cod, has a firm texture and mild flavor.
Halibut Halibut meat is low-fat, white, firm, and mild-flavored. Fresh and frozen halibut are marketed as fillets and steaks.
Herbs The recipes in this book frequently call for basil, bay leaves, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. While fresh herbs are always preferable to dried herbs in terms of flavor, they are not always easy to obtain. Therefore, with the exception of parsley, which is widely available, you have suggested using dried herbs in the recipes. Keep dried herbs tightly covered in an airtight container. Don't expose them to extremely high heat or intense light. They are best if used within 6 months to a year, so it is wise to date containers at the time you purchase or store them.
To maximize the flavor of dried herbs, soak them for several minutes in a liquid you will be using in the recipe, such as stock, lemon juice, or vinegar. Crush dried herbs before using by rubbing them between your fingers. If you can find fresh herbs at your supermarket or greengrocer (or can grow your own), after buying or picking them, wash them and place them in a jar of water. Cover with a plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to 2 weeks. They must be thoroughly patted dry with paper towels before you chop them or they will stick to the knife and each other. Use 3 parts fresh herbs for 1 part dried.
Hoisin Sauce Also called Peking sauce, hoisin sauce is a mixture of soybeans, garlic, chile peppers, and various spices. It will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. It can be found in the international foods section of your supermarket and at Asian markets.
Hominy Hominy is dried corn whose hull and germ have been removed with lye or soda. Hominy grits—ground hominy grains—are white and about the size of toast crumbs. They have a thick, chewy texture when cooked.
Honey Honey is sweeter than granulated sugar and easier to digest. Its flavoring and sweetness vary, depending on what kind of nectar the bees were eating when they made the honey.
Honeydew Melons A ripe honeydew should be firm, have a smooth depression at its stem end, and have a fragrant, musky scent at its blossom end. The melon should be free of dents and bruises and should have a dry rind. The flesh should feel velvety and somewhat sticky. The deeper the color of the flesh, the sweeter it will be. Refrigerate ripe melons and use within a few days.
Horseradish Prepared horseradish is mixed with vinegar and packed in jars. You can store it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months, but it will lose pungency as it ages. Fresh horseradish is a woody-looking root with a fiery flavor. To use, scrub or peel, then grate it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.
Hot Pepper Sauce Tabasco-type sauces are very hot purees of red chiles, vinegar, and numerous seasonings. The fiercely hot peppers used in Tabasco sauce are often 20 times hotter than jalapeño peppers. Hot pepper sauce is bright red when fresh and will last up to a year at room temperature. When a bottle of hot pepper sauce turns brown, throw it out.
Jalapeño Peppers Jalapeño peppers are usually green, but are sometimes red when ripe. They are small and blunt-tipped and range from hot to fiery. They will contribute less heat to a recipe if the seeds are removed. Be sure to wear protective gloves when handling pepper seeds and be careful to wash your hands immediately after handling them. Be especially careful not to touch your eyes.
Jams and Jellies Buy all-fruit jams, jellies, and marmalades that are sugar-free and made with fruit and fruit juices only.
Kale Shop for green, tender leaves. Avoid any that look yellow or limp. Leaves that are too large may be bitter. Wrap in perforated plastic bags and refrigerate for about 1 week. Rinse well before using to get rid of grit.
Ketchup Shop for low-sodium ketchup.
Leeks Leeks should have crisp, brightly colored stalks and an unblemished white portion. Avoid leeks with withered or yellow-spotted stalks. The smaller the leek, the more tender it will be. Refrigerate leeks in a plastic bag for up to 5 days. Before using, trim nodes and stalk ends. Slit leeks from top to bottom and wash thoroughly to remove all the dirt trapped between the layers.
Lemon Juice and Lime Juice Lemon and lime juices are most flavorful when they are freshly squeezed. Store fresh lemons and limes in the refrigerator, or if using within a few days, at room temperature.
Lemon Peel Either grate the peel of fresh lemons or buy grated lemon peel in the spice section of your supermarket.
Lentils Lentils are dried as soon as they are ripe and can be found in supermarkets. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a year.
Lettuce Choose heads that are crisp and free of blemishes. Leaves should be washed and either drained completely, dried in a salad spinner, or blotted with a paper towel to remove all traces of moisture. Never allow leaves to soak, because their minerals will leach out. Refrigerate washed and dried lettuce in an airtight plastic container for 3 to 5 days.
Lobster Whole lobsters and chunk lobster meat are sold precooked as well as raw. When buying cooked lobster, be certain that its tail is curled, indicating that it was alive when cooked. Frozen and canned lobster meat is also available. When buying live lobster, be sure to cook it the day it is purchased.
Mangoes Mangoes are oval-shaped and about the size of an apple. They have a greenish-yellow skin that blushes red all over when ripe. Inside, the orange-yellow fruit surrounds a large, slender, white seed. Shop for mangoes with reddish-yellow skin that seems fairly firm. Some mangoes turn yellow all over when they are ripe. They smell fragrant when ready to eat. Avoid very soft or bruised mangoes and green mangoes. A few brown spots on the skin are normal indicators of ripeness. Store firm mangoes at room temperature. When they are soft to the touch, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Don't cut mangoes until ready to serve them. Peel mangoes with a sharp knife, then slice down on one side as close to the seed as possible. Repeat with the other side. Trim off any remaining flesh from around the seed. Zip off the skin as you would a banana.
Milk Buy fresh skim milk, nonfat buttermilk, and instant nonfat dry milk. Evaporated skim milk can give dishes much of the richness of cream with almost none of the fat. It is a heat-sterilized, concentrated skim milk with half the water removed. As a result, its consistency resembles that of whole milk. Once a can of evaporated skim milk has been opened, the contents should be tightly sealed, refrigerated, and used within 5 days.
Molasses Molasses consists of the plant juices pressed from sugarcane that are then purified and concentrated by boiling. You can store an opened jar of molasses on the shelf for 12 months.
Mushrooms Buy young, pale button mushrooms. Brush them and wipe them with a damp cloth or paper towel. Don't soak them in water. When serving them raw, sprinkle with lemon juice or white wine to preserve their color. Mushrooms that will be stuffed for appetizers can be steamed over boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes or served raw. Also called forest mushrooms, fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms can be found in the produce sections of many supermarkets. They are parasol-shaped, brownish-black, and have a light garlic aroma. They contain B vitamins and minerals.
To reconstitute dry shiitake mushrooms, cover with hot water and soak for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain. Squeeze out excess water. Remove and discard stems.
Mussels Buy mussels with tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. Avoid those with broken shells, that feel unusually heavy, or that feel light and loose when shaken. Fresh mussels should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a day or two. Scrub off sand and dirt. Remove the beard with a knife and scrape any barnacles from the shell.
To rinse the grit out of the shells, place mussels in a pot and cover with salted cold water. Add 1 tablespoon flour for each gallon of water in the bottom of the steamer. Place mussels on the steamer rack. Cover the pot, and steam over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until they open, but no longer. Discard any unopened mussels.
Mustard Unopened mustard can be stored in a cool, dark place for 2 years. Opened mustard should be refrigerated.
Mustard Seeds Mustard seeds are sold whole, ground into powder, or processed further into prepared mustard.
Nectarines Nectarines should be uniform in shape with a creamy yellow skin and no green at the stem end. Choose fruit whose skin yields to gentle pressure. Dip cut nectarines in lemon juice mixed with water to preserve color.
Nuts Buy dry-roasted, unsalted nuts. Most nuts will keep for 1 month at room temperature and for 3 months in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen for 6 to 12 months. You do not need to thaw them before using.
Oats Buy old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats. Avoid instant oat products.
Okra Choose firm, brightly colored pods under 4 inches long. Larger pods may be tough and fibrous. Avoid those that are dull in color, limp, or blemished. Okra should be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. You can also buy canned and frozen okra.
Olive Oil Buy mild, light-flavored olive oil for all-purpose use, and extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings. Olive Oil Cooking Spray: Buy olive oil cooking spray to use on baking or sauté pans. You can also buy an inexpensive plastic spray bottle and fill it with olive oil or canola oil.
Olives Buy pitted green and black olives, and pimiento-stuffed olives. Be sure to rinse them well to get rid of salty brine before using.
Onion Flakes and Onion Powder Both contain ground dehydrated onion. They are available in supermarkets.
Onions Choose onions that are heavy for their size, with dry skins that show no signs of spotting or moistness. Avoid those with soft spots or discolored skins. Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation for up to 3 months.
Orange Juice Concentrate Orange juice concentrate can be used to sweeten some dishes. It can be found in the frozen food section of your supermarket.
Oranges Look for firm, heavy fruit with smooth skin. Avoid oranges with cuts or discolored skin around the stem end. Store whole oranges in the crisper drawers of your refrigerator or in open containers on your refrigerator shelves. Don't put them in airtight plastic bags because mold develops quickly when air can't circulate.
Orzo Orzo is a tiny pasta that resembles elongated rice or barley.
Oysters Buy only live oysters in tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. The smaller the oyster (for its type), the younger and more tender it will be. Fresh, shucked oysters should be plump and uniform in size, have good color, smell fresh, and be packaged in clear oyster liquor. Live oysters should be packed in ice, covered with a damp towel, and refrigerated (larger shell down) for up to 3 days. Refrigerate shucked oysters in their liquor, and use within 2 days. As an alternative to shucking oysters, you can place them in a 400-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Then drop them briefly into ice water. They should open easily.
Papayas Select papayas that are at least half yellow and yield to gentle pressure. Look for fruit with smooth, unwrinkled skin. Avoid very soft or bruised ones with a fermented aroma. Green papayas will ripen at home at room temperature away from sunlight in 3 or 4 days. They are ripe when they yield to pressure when squeezed gently. Refrigerate ripe fruit and use within a week. You can either spoon the fruit out of the skin or peel and slice the fruit thinly.
Parsnips Fresh parsnips are available year-round and at their peak during fall and winter. Choose small to medium, well-shaped roots; avoid limp, shriveled, or spotted parsnips. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
Pasta Dried whole-grain and/or white pasta in the shape of bow ties, elbow macaroni, fettuccine, fusilli, linguini, small pasta shells, spaghetti, and vermicelli, plus kasha and eggless noodles, are used in the recipes. Stored in a cool, dry place, dried pasta keeps indefinitely. If you use fresh pasta, be sure to store it in the refrigerator until ready to cook. It should be used within 2 or 3 days or according to the date on the package. It can also be frozen and thawed before cooking. Dried and fresh pasta are both made from flour and water or flour and eggs. If you are watching your cholesterol, avoid pasta made with whole eggs. There are a number of fresh and dried pastas made from flour and egg whites. Durum wheat, the hardest, or semolina, the coarsest grind of durum, makes the most flavorful and resilient pasta. Pasta made from softer flours tends to turn soggy quickly. For main-dish recipes, allow 2 ounces of pasta per person.
Cooking Tips: Pasta taste and texture can be improved by cooking only until it becomes "al dente," or edible, but firm. Since you should cook pasta without adding oil to the water, prevent it from sticking together by cooking it in a large volume of rapidly boiling water. You should use at least 4 quarts per pound of dried pasta. Leave the pot uncovered. When placing strands of pasta in the pot, hold the bunch at one end and dip the other end into the water, curling it into the pot as it softens. Fresh pasta cooks much more quickly than dried pasta. As soon as the water returns to a boil, test fresh pasta by cutting a piece in half. If it's not done, you will see a thin line of white in the center. Turn cooked pasta into a large colander and shake several times to drain.
Peaches Look for very fragrant fruit that gives slightly to pressure. Refrigerate ripe peaches for up to 5 days and bring to room temperature before serving. To peel, blanch peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then plunge them into ice water.
Peanut Butter Buy reduced-fat peanut butter, available at supermarkets and health food stores.
Pears Avoid pears with soft spots near the stem or bottom end, and those with heavy bruises. If pears are still firm, ripen them at room temperature or place in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple until pears are soft to the touch. Ripe pears yield to gentle pressure at the stem end. Store ripe pears in the refrigerator and use in a few days. To keep cut pears from discoloring, drop them into a mixture of water and lemon juice.
Peas Look for a bright color in fresh peas and crisp flesh with pods that snap, not bend. Old peas look spotted and limp. Refrigerate unwashed peas in a plastic bag for 4 or 5 days. To shell garden peas, snap off the top of the pod and pull the string down the side, pushing open the side seam in the process. The peas will pop out. Although the pods of sugar snap peas can be eaten, you still need to string both sides by snapping off the tip and pulling downward on the strings. Most snow peas need only their stem tips removed.
Pimientos Pimiento is a kind of large, heart-shaped, sweet red pepper that is often sliced and sold in jars.
Pineapple Pineapple can be purchased fresh, canned, or frozen. Fresh pineapple should be slightly soft to the touch with a full, strong color and no sign of greening. The leaves should be green. Fresh pineapple should be stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Canned pineapple is available in its own juice or in sugar syrup.
Potatoes Choose potatoes that are firm, well-shaped, and blemish-free. Avoid potatoes that are wrinkled, sprouted, or cracked. Store potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 2 weeks. New potatoes should be used within 3 days. Refrigerated potatoes become sweet and turn dark when cooked. Always drop peeled potatoes in water immediately after peeling to prevent discoloration.
Prunes Prunes have become an important part of fat-free eating, since they can replace fat in baking. Prunes are very high in pectin, which forms a protective coating around the air in baked goods, giving the foods the volume and lift usually provided by fat. Pectin can also enhance and trap flavor. Prunes are high in sorbitol, a humectant that attracts and binds moisture. Butter and shortening keep food moist because they cannot evaporate. Prune puree serves the same purpose as shortening, keeping baked goods moist. You can either make your own prune puree from whole prunes, buy commercially prepared pureed prunes in the form of baby food, or buy prune butter, which is located in either the jam and jelly or baking section of your supermarket. To make your own puree from whole prunes, place 1 cup prunes and ¼ cup water in a food processor or blender and puree.
Pumpkin Puree Canned pumpkin puree is widely available. If you want to puree your own pumpkin, you can either steam, boil, or microwave fresh pumpkin cut in 1½-inch cubes and puree cooked cubes in a blender. To steam fresh pumpkin, boil ¾ to 1 inch of water in a steamer and place pumpkin cubes in a steamer basket or colander and cover. Steam for 15 minutes or until tender. To boil, add pumpkin cubes to a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Pumpkin should cook in 8 to 12 minutes. To microwave, place pumpkin cubes in a covered dish and microwave on HIGH for 8 minutes.
Pumpkins Look for eating or sugar pumpkins. They are usually smaller than the decorative ones and weigh less than 7 pounds. They should be bright orange and still have their stems attached to prevent spoilage. Store a pumpkin for 1 to 2 months in a dry spot with temperatures in the 50-to-55-degree range. Pumpkin chunks keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for a week. If you're using the whole pumpkin, wash it well, cut a lid off the top, and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. If you want only the flesh, cut off the top and cut across the bottom so the pumpkin stands flat on the counter. Then cut the skin away, working your way around the pumpkin. Then simply halve the peeled pumpkin, scrape out the seeds, and proceed to use the pulp. Save the seeds to bake for a delicious snack.
Quinoa A nutty, light-brown grain originally from Peru, quinoa is high in protein and fiber and has a sturdier texture and flavor than rice. It makes an excellent substitute for rice.
Raisins Buy dark, seedless raisins.
Rice Rice is classified by its size—long, medium, or short grain. Long-grain rice is 4 to 5 times longer than it is wide. Long-grain rice comes in both white and brown varieties that, when cooked, produce light, dry grains that separate easily. Fragrant East Indian basmati rice is a long-grain rice. Brown rice is the entire grain with only the inedible outer husk removed. The nutritious, high-fiber bran coating gives it a light tan color, nutlike flavor, and chewy texture. It takes slightly longer to cook than long-grain white rice. Either white or brown rice can be used in recipes in this book.
Saffron Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but a tiny amount goes a long way. It can be purchased in threads, which can be steeped in water to release their full flavor, or in powdered form.
Salmon Recipes in this book call for salmon fillets and smoked salmon (fresh salmon that has undergone a smoking process).
Salsa Salsas, spicy relishes made from chopped vegetables, can be found in the condiments aisle or in the international foods section of your supermarket. Some fresh-vegetable salsas are also displayed in the refrigerator case alongside fresh tortillas.
Sauerkraut Sauerkraut is a fermented mixture of cabbage, salt, and spices. It can be purchased at supermarkets in jars. Fresh sauerkraut is also sold in plastic bags in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
Scallions Choose those with crisp, bright green tops and a firm, white bulb. Store, wrapped in a plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Scallops Scallops should have a sweet smell and a fresh, moist sheen. Because they perish quickly, they're usually sold shucked. They should be refrigerated immediately after purchase and used within a day or two. Bay scallops average about 100 to a pound, and their meat is sweeter and more succulent than sea scallops, which average 1½ inches in diameter and about 30 to a pound. Though slightly chewier, the meat of sea scallops is still sweet and moist.
Seeds Buy raw, unsalted sesame and sunflower seeds.
Sesame Oil This oil, made from sesame seeds, can be found in the international foods section of your supermarket or at Asian markets. Light sesame oil is milder than dark sesame oil.
Shallots Shallots are a member of the onion family, and their skin color varies from pale brown to rose. Shop for dry-skinned shallots that are plump and firm with no sign of wrinkling or sprouting. Fresh shallots can be refrigerated for up to a week.
Shrimp Raw shrimp should smell of the sea, with no hint of ammonia. Cooked, shelled shrimp should look plump and succulent. Whether or not you devein shrimp is a matter of personal preference. Deveining small and medium shrimp is primarily cosmetic; however, in large shrimp, the intestinal vein may contain grit. There are usually 31 to 35 medium shrimp to a pound and 21 to 30 large shrimp to a pound. To cook fresh shrimp, drop them, un-shelled, into boiling water, reduce the heat at once, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
Snap Peas See Peas.
Snow Peas Choose bright, crisp-colored pods with small seeds. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. To prepare snow peas, trim ends and remove strings. Blanch for 15 seconds in boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon, plunge into ice water, drain, and pat dry.
Sour Cream Buy nonfat or reduced-fat sour cream.
Soy Sauce Light soy sauce contains 33% to 46% less sodium than regular soy sauce, with little or no difference in flavor. Store in the refrigerator.
Spices Spices used in these recipes include allspice, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel seeds, garam masala, ground black pepper, nutmeg, paprika, sesame seeds, turmeric, and white pepper. Keep dried spices tightly covered in an airtight container. Don't expose them to extremely high heat or intense light. Dried spices are best if used within 6 months to a year, so it is wise to date containers when you purchase or store them. During the summer months, store cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and dried red pepper flakes in the refrigerator.
Spinach Buy fresh-looking, dark-green spinach with crisp leaves and thin stalks. Refrigerate unwashed spinach wrapped in a cotton kitchen towel. Careful cleaning is essential, because spinach is very gritty. Dump unwashed spinach into a sink filled with warm water. Drain. Rinse leaves under cold running water until they are completely free of grit. To stem, fold leaves lengthwise and zip off the stems. Frozen spinach can be substituted for fresh in many of the recipes that call for chopped spinach.
String Beans See Green Beans.
Sugar Table sugar is sucrose, a highly refined product made from sugar beets or sugarcane. It is so refined that it is nearly 100% pure and almost indestructible. Brown sugar is a variation on granulated sugar and shares its very long shelf life. Brown sugar contains granulated sugar coated with refined, colored, molasses-flavored syrup. Light brown sugar has less molasses flavor than dark brown sugar. To soften brown sugar that has turned hard, place in a sealed plastic bag with half an apple overnight. Store granulated sugar in an airtight container at room temperature. Store brown sugar in an airtight plastic bag inside a glass jar. Sugar substitutes are not recommended in the recipes. If you choose to buy sugar substitutes, be aware of their particular chemical compositions and any health implications.
Summer Squash (Pattypan, Yellow) Summer squash has soft seeds and thin, edible skin. Choose smaller squash with brightly colored skin. Because summer squash is extremely perishable, store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for no more than 5 days.
Sweet Potatoes Although sweet potatoes are thought of as tubers, they are actually the roots of trailing vines belonging to the morning glory family. Look for unblemished, firm sweet potatoes with no soft spots or bruises. Types labeled yams or Louisiana yams are sweet, moist-fleshed varieties. Store raw sweet potatoes in a humid, well-ventilated spot with temperatures between 55 and 58 degrees. Wash well before cooking. Always drop peeled sweet potatoes in water immediately after peeling to prevent discoloration.
Swiss Chard Swiss chard is a member of the beet family and has crinkly green leaves and silvery, celerylike stalks. Pick bunches with tender greens and crisp stalks. Wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Tabasco Sauce See Hot Pepper Sauce.
Tofu Tofu is available in health food stores, Asian markets, and many supermarkets. It has a bland, slightly nutty taste and assumes the flavor of foods with which it is cooked. Extremely perishable, tofu should be covered with water that must be changed daily and refrigerated no more than a week.
Tomatillos Shop for firm tomatillos with dry, tight-fitting husks. They can be refrigerated in a paper bag for up to a month. Remove husk and wash before using.
Tomatoes When buying canned tomatoes, choose Italian plum tomatoes if possible. Store unopened canned tomato products on a cool, dry shelf for no more than 6 months. After opening, transfer tomatoes to clean, covered glass containers and refrigerate. They will keep for a week. They tend to take on a metallic flavor if left in their cans. Leftover tomato paste and tomato sauce can be frozen for up to 2 months in airtight containers. Drop leftover tomato paste by the tablespoonful on a sheet of wax paper and freeze. When frozen, place in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer until needed. When using fresh tomatoes, choose firm, ripe ones. Ripen fresh tomatoes by placing in a brown paper bag and leaving in indirect sun. To remove skins, dunk the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then dip them in cold water for 10 seconds. With a paring knife, remove the stem and peel the skin off.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Buy dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes if possible. If you can only find them packed in oil, rinse them in boiling water before using.
Tortillas Tortillas are made from either corn or flour. Corn tortillas usually do not contain oil or shortening. Tortillas can be warmed in the microwave by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving for 1 minute on HIGH.
Tuna Buy canned white albacore tuna packed in water, not in oil. Cans labeled "solid" or "fancy" contain large pieces of fish; those marked "chunk" contain smaller pieces.
Turkey Buy low-fat turkey breast with a fat content under 7%. When buying smoked and roast turkey at your deli counter, ask for products that are at least 97% fat-free. Buy sliced, fresh roast turkey breast whenever available.
Turnips Turnips should be small and firm without any wrinkles, which indicate that the vegetable has lost moisture and will be spongy. Turnips deteriorate quickly, so don't store them for more than a week in the refrigerator. Separate roots and greens before refrigerating.
Vinegars Vinegars are very sour, acidic liquids fermented from a distilled alcohol, often wine or apple cider. Tightly capped vinegar keeps up to a year at room temperature, or until sediment appears at the bottom of the bottle.
Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar adds an elegant, complex, sweet-and-sour flavor to food. It is aged in Italy in wooden casks for about 4 years with the skins from red wine grapes, which gives it a slight sweetness.
Cider Vinegar: Cider vinegar is made from apple cider.
Rice Wine Vinegar: Japanese and Chinese vinegars made from fermented rice are milder than most Western vinegars. They can be found in many supermarkets and in Asian markets.
Wine Vinegar: Buy red and white wine vinegars.
Water Chestnuts The canned variety of water chestnut, which is round and woody and about the size of a cherry tomato, can be refrigerated, covered with liquid, for 1 week after opening.
Watermelon When a watermelon is ripe, with the juice and flavor at their peak, it should sound dull, flat, and heavy when tapped. Also, check the underside of the watermelon, which was resting on the ground during the growing period. A pale yellow color indicates a ripe, flavorful melon, while a white or greenish color can indicate that the melon was picked too soon. A shriveled stem also is a sign of ripeness. When buying cut watermelon, look for moist, brightly colored flesh. Store whole watermelons at room temperature. Cut melons should be wrapped and refrigerated.
Wine Brandy, cognac, pernod, dark rum, light rum, saki, dry sherry, vermouth, red wine, and white wine are used in cooking some dishes. Nonalcoholic wines can be substituted if desired.
Winter Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Hubbard, Spaghetti) Buy winter squash that is hard, heavy, and clean. Avoid squash that have cracks or soft or decayed spots. Store squash in a dry place with low humidity and temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees.
Worcestershire Sauce A thin, dark, piquant sauce that is usually a blend of garlic, soy sauce, tamarind, onion, molasses, lime, anchovies, vinegar, and various seasonings.
Yogurt Buy only nonfat plain yogurt with less than 1 gram of fat per serving.
Zucchini Choose zucchini that are small and tender. The skins should be thin, free of bruises, and a vibrant green. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 5 days.