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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_753874827_8879663b82How to store fresh herbs

Thumb_753874827_8879663b82How to store fresh herbs

Storing fresh herbs is a battle against the inevitable, but here are a few tips for keeping them alive in time for you to eat them up: 1 Set a bushy herb like parsley, cilantro, chervil, or mint in a shallow glass of water and keep it on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days, just like a bouquet. 2 Or, rinse it, wrap it loosely in a paper or dish towel while still damp, and place it (with or without a plastic bag covering) in the crisper or at the bottom of the fridge. 3 Sturdy herbs such as rosemary or thyme can be stored in paper or loose plastic (either keep it loose or puncture some air holes to let out moisture). Or you can simply hang them upside down in the kitchen, where they will dry slowly. 4 Do not manhandle delicate herbs like chives, tarragon or basil. Rinse lightly, wrap loosely in paper and place in a plastic bag in the crisper. 5 Fresh herbs should last about a week if stored properly. If you're at the end of your garden's season and you have a tons of herbs left unused, you can most herbs to have later in the year. Kalyn's Kitchen breaks down the best way to freeze basil, rosemary and thyme. Reference: Marjoram vs. oregano (Cookthink) Reference: How to make pesto (Cookthink)

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_212715245_b1ebbd2b89What's the difference between yellow squash and zucchini?

Thumb_212715245_b1ebbd2b89What's the difference between yellow squash and zucchini?

What's the difference between yellow squash and zucchini. As far as cooking goes, not much -- just their skin color. We substitute one for the other all the time.  Both are so-called summer squashes that are picked while still immature, so that their thin skins and soft seeds are still edible. A yellow squash is of course yellow, with either a straight body and smooth rind or a crookneck and bumpy skin (which looks odd but is perfectly fine to eat). Recipe: Zucchini Soup With Lime (Cookthink) Recipe: Grilled Shrimp And Squash Kebabs (Cookthink) Reference: Cucumber vs. zucchini (Cookthink)

Thumb_885610716_5e4eb70630_oWhat is a summer squash?

Thumb_885610716_5e4eb70630_oWhat is a summer squash?

A summer squash is a type of squash that is harvested when immature and thin-skinned. Summer squash varieties include straight-necked and crookneck yellow squashes, zucchini and pattypan (or scallop) squash. Summer squash is actually a fruit that passes for a vegetable (like a tomato, reproductive seeds are embedded in its flesh). Thin-skinned summer squashes don't need to be peeled, cook quickly and don't last long -- unlike their heartier winter squash relatives.

Thumb_742268361_d9cc8609c3How to chop cilantro

Thumb_742268361_d9cc8609c3How to chop cilantro

Cilantro is the parsley of the East, where it's known as "coriander leaves" or "dhani". (In Mexico, where it's also very popular, it's sometimes called "Mexican parsley".) If you like cilantro (and some people don't at all), the herb is an easy way to add a beautifully fresh, sweet, fruity flavor to any dish. To prep it, first rinse and shake dry the leaves. Hold the bouquet at an angle with the leaves against the cutting board. Run your knife down the side of the bouquet to slice away the leaves. It's fine to remove some of the tender stems along with the leaves. (In fact, for salsas, spice pastes, curries and some longer-cooking dishes, the stems add essential, concentrated cilantro flavor.) Now just run your knife back and forth across the pile of leaves, chopping them as coarsely or as finely as you need to. The closer to the end of the cooking you plan to add the cilantro, the finer you'll want to chop it. But since cilantro is so tender it's usually okay to keep the the chop coarse. Now that you know how to prep it, try some cilantro recipes at Cookthink.com.

Thumb_639260146_ad2ebeb817How to chop an onion

Thumb_639260146_ad2ebeb817How to chop an onion

Chopping is probably the most common way to prep an onion. Chopped onions show up in anything that needs the basic, earthy pungent flavor that onions give. Chop them larger for longer-cooking dishes like stews and rustic soups, and smaller (call it a dice if you like) for anything from salsas to sauces to ragouts. To start, cut the onion in half through the root. The root itself will help keep the onion together for chopping Rotate the onion 90 degrees and cut off the papery end (not the root end). This will make the skin easy to peel away and discard. Peel back the onion's papery skin. It's often easiest to peel away the first layer of the onion along with the skin. Make a series of diagonal cuts (roughly 45 degrees) into the side of the onion. Keep more space between the slices for a large chop. Make the cuts closer together for a small chop or a dice. Now make a series of horizontal cuts to finish shaping the chop or dice. Finally, rotate the onion again and slice crosswise against the checkerboard pattern you made in the onion. The chopped pieces will fall away from the onion.

Thumb_383025220_f1772b7c40What is Asiago cheese?

Thumb_383025220_f1772b7c40What is Asiago cheese?

Asiago is a hard Italian cow's milk cheese that is easy to grate or crumble by hand. Just as true Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, true Asiago must be made in the alpine regions of Veneto and Trentino, Italy. Asiago cheese is an Italian PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), which means that it has to produced in a designated region in a particular way to be considered the real thing. If you buy Asiago that bears the brand of the Asiago consortium on the rind, you know that the cheese was made with milk from cows that graze on the grassy hillsides of the Dolomite Mountains. Cheesemakers in the United States use the same techniques and cultures to create an unofficial version of Asiago that shares the name and flavor of its Italian twin.

Thumb_531615779_22b0a857c6Why are some jalapenos hotter than others?

Thumb_531615779_22b0a857c6Why are some jalapenos hotter than others?

When it comes to peppers, being beautiful and popular does not make one hot. To wit, the year-round demand for prettier jalapenos has compromised some of the pepper's hotness. To meet the demand, jalapeno breeding has promoted varieties that are flawlessly pretty, easy to ship and easier to grow in cooler climates. Jalapenos used to be grown mostly in the high deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Northern Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. Hot, dry climates promote the production of capsaicin, the chemical that makes a hot pepper hot. Now, some varieties can be grown in wetter, cooler climates that don’t create enough heat for a spicy chile pepper. If you like a hot jalapeno, look for Biker Billy, Early and Mitla varieties. For a milder version, try Delicas or Tam. Recipe: Mexican Pilaf With Cumin And Jalapeno (Cookthink) Reference: Help! I ate a hot pepper! (Cookthink) Reference: How to seed a chile pepper (Cookthink)

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)