Log in to  your Cookthink account !

Give us the email address you used to sign up with to Cookthink!

close

what about one of these?

Thumb_717_Habanero vs. serrano vs. jalapeno

Thumb_717_Habanero vs. serrano vs. jalapeno

If heat equals strength and this is the World's Strongest Man Contest, the habanero chile can lift an 18-wheeler. The serrano can lift a VW van. The jalapeño can lift a Vespa, which is still pretty powerful compared to the pepperoncini lifting a Big Wheel way down at the bottom of the Scoville scale. But there is much more to a chile pepper than its brawn. Different varieties have different flavors, colors and shapes and play different roles in cooking. Here’s a breakdown of three popular varieties. The habanero: Lantern-shaped and bright yellow or orange, the habanero is the hottest chile that is readily available in U.S. groceries. You can seed habaneros to lower the heat, but when working with them, wear gloves and keep your hands away from your face. Wash anything that touches the chile's seeds or juices. The habanero's floral, tangy flavor works well as the focal point of a dip. The serrano: Looks like a slender jalapeño. As it ages, it turns from green to red to yellow. Rich and potentially blistering (though sometimes fairly mild), serranos show up most often in salsas, marinades, sauces and chilis. Its size and shape make the serrano difficult to core and seed, so the best way to temper it is by using less of it. The jalapeño: A workhorse pepper that is easy to find in most grocery stores. It's easy to work with, too. If you have a moderate tolerance for heat, you should be able to handle a jalapeño without removing the seeds and ribs. (If you're less tolerant of heat, try taking out the seeds and ribs.) Jalapeños are dark green (red when extra ripe) and have a sweet flavor that is similar to a bell pepper with a kick. Reference: Help! I ate a hot pepper! (Cookthink) Reference: How to seed a chile pepper (Cookthink) Reference:: Why are some jalapenos hotter than others? (Cookthink)

Thumb_403379461_3b6e04a834What's the point of putting oil in my pasta water?

Thumb_403379461_3b6e04a834What's the point of putting oil in my pasta water?

  There is no point. Oil and water don't mix, remember?  Some people -- including certain Italian grandmothers -- add oil to their pasta water because of the received wisdom that it will prevent pasta from sticking. In fact, if you add oil to your pasta water, it will merely float to the top of the pot. Worse, it may give your pasta a slick surface, preventing sauce from being properly absorbed, which is the trick to a good marriage of pasta and sauce. If you want to prevent pasta from sticking, stir it. The only thing you need to add to pasta water is a good dose of salt to season it. Properly seasoning your pasta -- while it cooks -- may result in less salt consumption overall, since you won't need to compensate by adding extra salt at the table.

Thumb_431_What does al dente mean?

Thumb_431_What does al dente mean?

"Al dente" means "to the tooth" in Italian. (Like "terroir", it's one of those concepts that poorly translates into English.)  The phrase refers to the desired texture of cooked pasta, which should be soft but still slightly firm at the core of the noodle (or shell or spiral or alphabet letter). Some cooks define "al dente" as "not hard and not soft." Pasta cooked "al dente" should require some chewing but not crunch or stick to the teeth when chewed. The firm texture should allow you to taste some of the pasta's flavor. Overcooked pasta tends to be mushy and flavorless. So how do you know when your pasta is "al dente"? In my house growing up, we threw a strand of spaghetti at the wall -- as soon as it sticks, it's done. The problem with that test is that overcooked pasta sticks to the wall, too. So now I just use my teeth: Before I think it's ready, I draw a piece of pasta from the pot, let it cool a few seconds and take a bite. If it's ready, my mouth knows. Related: What's the point of putting oil in my pasta water? Related: How to cook garlic for pasta

Thumb_354050728_1bde95c683What is kosher salt?

Thumb_354050728_1bde95c683What is kosher salt?

Kosher salt is a bright-tasting white, coarse-grained salt made without additives (such as iodine). It is called kosher salt in North America (elsewhere it's referred to as coarse-grain salt) because it is used to aid in the preparing of kosher meat that is salted after butchering in order to draw out the animal's blood. Kosher salt works particularly well because its large grains don't immediately dissolve on the surface of meat, drawing in liquid instead. But you don't have to keep kosher to appreciate kosher salt, a favorite of cooks everywhere for its large flaky texture and clean taste that works in a variety of dishes. If you're new to kosher salt, be aware that it doesn't always dissolve completely in baked goods and that its grains vary in size according to the manufacturer, so be sure to check the box for measurement conversions. The large flakes of kosher salt make it a nice finishing salt to sprinkle on dishes before serving.

Thumb_1443203444_71788f22fcWhat's the point of covering a pot of water you've set to boil?

Thumb_1443203444_71788f22fcWhat's the point of covering a pot of water you've set to boil?

A watched pot never boils? Well, put a cover on said pot and it will boil before you know it, even right before your very eyes. Putting a cover on a pot of water you've set to boil is one of those time- and energy-saving tricks that is so obvious that it just may take years for it to dawn on you.  Covering your pot will trap heat, prevent evaporation, build pressure, and get your water boiling faster. Just remember that once you remove the lid, it will take the water a moment to return to a full boil.

Thumb_398195335_49da14af97What do we mean by shimmering oil?

Thumb_398195335_49da14af97What do we mean by shimmering oil?

Shimmering oil is hot oil that is nearing its smoke point.  At room temperature, common cooking oils like vegetable and olive oil seem fairly thick. Put them in a pan and heat them though, and they thin out when you swirl the pan. As they get hotter, they tend to "flow" and coat the pan more easily. In the right light, when you look at oil that's at a good temperature for sautéing -- nice and hot, but not yet smoking -- it shimmers. It forms "tines" like those on a wine glass. It looks colorful, iridescent even. Shimmering oil is good for sautéing because it increases the chances that the food won't stick. Hot oil immediately seals the bottom of food, creating a natural barrier between it and the bottom of the pan.

Thumb_tomatosauceTomato paste vs. tomato purée vs. tomato sauce

Thumb_tomatosauceTomato paste vs. tomato purée vs. tomato sauce

Do you sometimes get these confused? Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been cooked for a few hours, strained and reduced into a rich, sweet paste. Tomato paste is most commonly used in pizza sauce. A dollop of tomato paste adds a dark, savory flavor to soups and stews. Tomato purée consists of tomatoes that have been cooked briefly and strained to produce a thick, tangy liquid. Tomato purée is used in soups, stews and sauces to add the tomato flavoring without the texture. We use it as the flavor base in certain recipes, this Indian chicken stew, for example. Tomato sauce refers to any sauce made out of tomatoes. That includes the ubiquitous Italian tomato sauce with all its variations, as well as Indian and Thai curries that have a tomato base. Tomato sauce can be canned, jarred or fresh. Time-willing, we prefer to make our own. Try this lasagna with homemade Italian tomato sauce.

Thumb_625461472_b8ce8e5b16Do I need to rinse canned beans?

Thumb_625461472_b8ce8e5b16Do I need to rinse canned beans?

Yes, it's always a good idea. Why? Most canned beans are packed in a thick, salty liquid that adds unwanted texture and taste to a dish. Like many other canned foods, beans also contain a popular color preservative called calcium disodium EDTA. No bad side effects of the compound have been identified (though EDTA did have a role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial). To wash canned beans, just pour them in a colander, rinse well with cold running water, and swish the beans around until most of the water drains off. If you don't use the whole can, toss the remaining beans with a splash of vinegar to preserve them longer. Store them in an airtight container (not the can) in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Thumb_2860057814_0c5385e378Is it okay to wash mushrooms?

Thumb_2860057814_0c5385e378Is it okay to wash mushrooms?

To wash or not to wash? Though the conventional wisdom says not to wash mushrooms, we side with Jacques Pepin, Harold McGee and Alton Brown, all of whom say that washing leads to neither mushy mushrooms nor lost flavor. Most of the time though, you'll be okay just brushing over dark spots with a damp paper towel. However you decide to clean your mushrooms, wait and clean them just before you need them.

Thumb_1760951304_9c85b3a48bWhat does it mean to caramelize?

Thumb_1760951304_9c85b3a48bWhat does it mean to caramelize?

Well, two things, actually. When it comes to dessert, caramelizing means to heat sugar until it liquifies and turns gold to dark brown depending on its temperature (around 320 to 350F on a candy thermometer). Custards such as crème brûlée are caramelized by sprinkling them with sugar and placing them either under a broiler or salamander or by torching the sugar until it forms a brittle burnt crust. Caramelizing can also technically mean to coat a mold with caramel so that it acts as a glaze when a custard or other dessert is turned out (as in crème caramel or flan). We also use the word caramelize to describe what happens when we brown meat over high heat to draw out its natural sugars and create a flavorful crust. Vegetables with a high natural sugar content, such as onions, carrots or turnips, can also be caramelized by sautéing them in butter and a bit of water to prevent burning. Fruit such as apples or figs can also be caramelized by sautéing them in butter before sprinkling them with sugar, which gives them a lightly caramelized glaze.  

Thumb_263_How hot is a jalapeno?

Thumb_263_How hot is a jalapeno?

Biting into a raw jalapeño will probably create quite a sting, but on the pepper scale of heat (the Scoville Scale), jalapeños are not really that hot. If you seed and core the pepper, you may not get any heat at all out of a jalapeño. Some jalapeños are hotter than others. Mature peppers that are dark green and a little wrinkled will be hotter than younger ones. The hottest jalapeños are grown in the hot, dry climates of New Mexico or Arizona. If you don't know where a jalapeño was grown, you may have to taste it yourself to measure the heat. Don't rely on someone else to tell you whether or not a pepper is too hot. Some people are more sensitive to capsaicin (the chemical that makes hot peppers hot) than others. In junior high, I watched a guy drink a bottle of Tabasco on a dare. He didn't even dab his forehead. If you want to try that at home, you can build up your tolerance to capsaicin by eating more chile peppers and hot sauce. My father-in-law, Billy, eats raw jalapeños whole from tip to stem. He tells me they are good for his health, and the American Dietetic Association agrees. Peppers are rich in phytochemicals that appear to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Medical studies show that capsaicin may act as a blood thinner. Spicing dishes with cayenne or pepper flakes also reduces the need for extra salt. Hot sauce, which is actually more salt than pepper, is another story. - Elizabeth Hughey

Thumb_357_What is the Scoville scale?

Thumb_357_What is the Scoville scale?

The Scoville scale measures the hotness of a pepper. A "Scoville Unit" is actually a measure of capsaicin, the chemical that makes a hot pepper hot. Most capsaicin is found in the ribs and seeds of a pepper, which is why seeding a pepper makes it's heat less potent. You might have noticed a Scoville rating on your bottle of hot sauce. Original Tabasco has a rating of 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. The hottest readily available peppers, Scotch Bonnet and habaneros, share a rating of 100,000–350,000. India's Bhut Jolokia pepper is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest known pepper. It measures 1,000,000 heat units. (Pepper spray weapons hit 5,300,000 units.) The rating of a bell pepper? Zero -- no heat from this pepper. Reference: Habanero vs. serrano vs. jalapeño Reference: How to dice a jalapeño Reference: Help! I ate a hot pepper! (image courtey of wikipedia)