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KITCHEN SHRINK: Hot food tips to cool your heels this summer

Catharine L. Kaufman
Catharine L. Kaufman

As we transition from spring to summer we tend to dine al fresco, head to the beach with fresh-packed picnic lunches, and generally eat lighter and healthier. We all want to know how to get the best and most out of our food — both from a nutritional and financial standpoint. Here are some tips on wasting less and enjoying more of summer’s bounty.

Q; What fruits and vegetables continue to ripen after picking, and which ones should be picked ripe?

Fruits and vegetables like Baby Bear’s porridge should be eaten at their sweet peak — not too green or underripe, not too mushy or overripe — but just right. Most stone fruits including peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots, along with mangoes, pears, papayas, cantaloupe melons, bananas, avocadoes and tomatoes will further ripen after picking, until they reach their most delightful flavor and texture.

Others should be picked fully ripe as they will not blossom with time, no matter how many brown paper bags or dark places they are stored in, or other fruit species they fraternize with, especially berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries), cherries, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits), grapes, figs, cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant and summer’s quintessential watermelon.

Q: I love garlic, but it gives me stinky breath, and odiferous fingers and cutting surfaces.

Try chopping some stalks of green garlic, also called spring garlic, young garlic or garlic shoots that resemble green onions or scallions. This immature garlic plant has not yet developed the mighty and stinky bulb, but is still endowed with garlic’s flavor, although toned down in a milder form. While green or spring garlic still has the Herculean healing powers, it does not have the offensive collateral damage that regular garlic is notorious for.

Q: When guests pop over unexpectedly, is there any tricks for quickly chilling a bottle of wine?

Put a bottle of wine in a bucket with ice and a heavy-handed sprinkling of salt, and it will nicely chill in roughly five minutes. A simple lesson in chemistry explains that when salt is added to ice, it hikes its temperature above melting point, which makes it melt faster along with getting colder. This phenomenon is a result of energy being used to break down the bonds when transforming the ice from a solid to a liquid state.

Q: Are peaches and nectarines substitutable in recipes?

Nectarines developed from a peach mutation, tend to be firmer with a more refined aromatic scent. Both are equally divine in pies, tarts, cobblers, chutneys, salsas and smoothies. While peaches tend to have slightly higher antioxidant content in their Vitamins A and C, they also have a fuzzy, wuzzy skin that is difficult to peel and unappetizing to some.

Q: Berries tend to be perishable. Is there any way to extend their shelf life?

Those ruby raspberries, luscious strawberries and blissful blueberries need a hot bath before storing in the fridge to put the skids on mold spores and prevent them from quickly spoiling. Swish in a colander for 30 seconds in water about 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat dry and store.

Q: What is the best way to store tomatoes to maintain their freshness and flavor?

Surprisingly, don’t chill them as this will zap these lycopene powerhouses of their flavor and tamper with their delicate texture. Place them in a bowl lined with paper towel, stem side up to prevent bruising of this tender part, which can cause them to quickly rot. Keep at room temperature away from heat and direct sunlight.

Spring Garlic and Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

1 Italian or French baguette,

cut into half-inch rounds

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil,

plus 1 tablespoon

1 stalk green garlic, minced

5 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped

Juice from one Meyer lemon

Handful of fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, one tablespoon of oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Blend well and chill. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a parchment-lined cookie sheet, place bread rounds. Slather both sides with olive oil and toast until golden. Top with tomato mixture and enjoy immediately.