All posts by Jennifer Pallian

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, with a background in food science and nutrition. On her blog, Foodess, she shares vibrant, globally-inspired seasonal recipes, luscious photography, funny stories about life as a mama, and an abundance of cooking and ingredient tips. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for delicious recipes and scrumptious photos.

5 Ways to Fix Over-Salted Food

Salt can be your best friend in the kitchen. It brings forward and enhances flavours, taking a dish from drab to vibrant with just a pinch. But what do you do when you’ve lovingly tended and seasoned a dish and you realize that you’ve added way too much salt? The panic is real.

Firstly, take a deep breath and put down that box of salt! There are lots of ways to rescue over-salted food. Here are your options:

Salt

Related: These Healthy Salt Substitutes Are the Real Deal

1. Make More of Your Recipe 

Let’s start with the most obvious: make more. If you have enough ingredients, double the recipe or make more by half, then mix it in with the salty batch a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired flavour.

2. Bulk up Your Dish

Bulk up the dish with more of any quick-cooking main ingredients you have, such as vegetables from your crisper drawer. I’ll often add handfuls of greens to dishes with too much salt.

3. Add a Starch

Stir in some cooked (unsalted) rice, barley, quinoa, pasta or couscous. These salt-thirsty ingredients will absorb quite a bit from a sauce. Depending on the dish, simmer or bake it with a splash of liquid to meld the flavours and allow the grains to absorb the excess salt. If it’s a soup, curry or other saucy dish, you can add large chunks of potato to soak up excess salt, then discard once tender.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

4. Dilute Your Dish With Liquid

With this option, you just want to be careful not to dilute all the hard-earned flavours as well as the salt, so don’t reach straight for water. Opt instead for unsalted broth, some unsalted diced tomatoes, or a splash of cream or wine. Make sure you’re adding something that will add to the flavour and not dilute the dish.

5. Last Step: Re-Season, But Not With Salt!

If you’ve mitigated the saltiness by adding liquids or other ingredients, you’ll likely need to bolster the other seasonings so you don’t end up with a perfectly salted but otherwise underwhelming dish. Ground spices and fresh herbs can be added directly, but things like garlic, onions, ginger and whole spices won’t be very tasty if added raw. Here’s the golden secret: borrow a fantastic cooking trick from India called a “tarka” — aromatics such as onions, spices and garlic are sautéed separately and added to the dish at the last minute. The method is like magic, adding a ton of flavour as a final step.

For more kitchen tips, these are the five utensils every home cook needs. Plus tips on how long leftovers last, and foods you can still eat after the expiry date.

Strawberry Frozen

5 Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn

So you hit a great sale and stock your freezer up. But a few weeks or months later, you pull out your edibles and they’re covered in ice crystals. The sad phenomenon that causes unappealing, dried-out, discoloured food happens to the best of us. 

We have five useful tips to make sure you never feel the (freezer) burn again.

Frozen Strawberries

1. Wrap your freezer-bound fare twice, with as little air as possible. First wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as you can.

2. Keep your cold storage well organized. That way, you don’t have to keep the door open for five minutes every time you look for something, avoiding temperature fluctuations as much as possible. If you’re shopping for a new unit, keep in mind that self-defrosting models are worse for freezer burn.

3. Don’t put hot foods directly in the freezer; let them cool first. 

4. Keep your freezer full, but not too full. At about three-quarters capacity, the freezer is most efficient at maintaining its cool.  Pack it more, and the air won’t circulate properly.

5. Invest in a vacuum-sealer.  It sucks out all the air around the food before freezing, which makes a big difference in longevity.

Although colour, texture and taste all suffer when freezer burn strikes, it does not render the food inedible — it’s still perfectly safe. To rescue freezer-burnt provisions, try concealing it in flavourful mixed dishes with lots of liquid, like stews, a bolognese, or barbecue sauces.

Looking for more kitchen tips? Learn our top 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

The Ultimate Summer Condiment (and 5 Ways to Use It)

Summer is made for spontaneous cooking; grilling what you bring home from the farmer’s market, tossing enormous salads with what you have on hand and building sky-high sandwiches to take on a picnic.

While there are lots of sauces, dressings and toppings, all you really need is one super summer condiment to finish your creations with big flavour. And we’ve got just the thing: Salsa Verde. Not the Mexican version, which packs tomatillos and heat (although that one’s good, too) — the Italian kind, loaded with fresh garden herbs, nuanced with briny capers, garlic, umami-rich anchovies and enlivened with a touch of piquant mustard. It adds a deep, savoury, herbal, rich flavour perfect for all impromptu summer eating adventures.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde
Active Time: 5 minutes
Makes: ¾ cup

Ingredients:
¼ cup capers
6 anchovies
2 medium garlic cloves
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped basil
¼ cup finely chopped mint
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1. Combine capers, anchovies, garlic and mustard in a small food processor and process to a coarse paste (or do it by hand with a mortar and pestle).
2. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in olive oil, then stir in herbs. Season with a good pinch of salt, taste, and add more if desired.
3. Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Salsa Verde

Here are 5 delicious ways to use up your jar of green gold:

1. Use it as a marinade for beef, lamb, chicken or halloumi cheese. Simply toss a big spoonful into a freezer bag with your protein of choice and marinate for 30 minutes to 24 hours.

2. Stir it into thick Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lemon and serve alongside salmon, toss with boiled potatoes for a vibrant, herb-filled potato salad, or use as a green goddess dip for garden-fresh crudités.

3. Swirl it into mayo for an herb aioli, and then use it to spread on sandwiches; chicken, lamb or beef burgers; and as a dressing for veggie-packed pasta salads.

4. Mash it into softened butter as a flavour-loaded finish for grilled steaks, lamb chops and corn on the cob. Just dab it onto piping hot food to melt before serving.

5. Thin it out with a bit more olive oil and drizzle over grilled vegetables, or use as a dressing for salads. Add a squeeze of lemon for brightness.

How to Keep Fruit Fresh

How to Keep Summer Fruit Fresh Longer

As summer stretches into long, balmy afternoons and ripens to a peak, so does the fruit in the fields and orchards. Suddenly the market is brimming with sweet, juicy nectarines, ruby red strawberries, and plump indigo blueberries. And then, poof! As quickly as they appeared, they’ll be gone. If this brief, dizzying moment of plenty sends you into a buying frenzy, you’re not alone. Once you’ve carried home your weight in peak-ripeness apricots and raspberries, how do you keep them from turning to mush before you can devour every last one? Here’s how to extend the life of your precious summer bounty.

How to make fruit last longer

Keep it cool.
Refrigerate all berries and ripe stone fruits as soon as you bring them home.  Once they’ve reached their peak, the heat (even room temperature) will cause spoilage, quickly. Perfect strawberries can go bad in a single afternoon on the counter.

Keep it dry.
Humidity is the enemy. Don’t wash your fruit until ready to eat, and store on paper towels or a clean dish towel to absorb any excess moisture. Keep it on a shelf in your fridge, not in the crisper drawer — unless you have one you can program. The standard fridge drawers offer a higher-humidity environment suited to vegetables, but unfriendly to fruit.

Give it space.
Ripe fruit is soft and injures easily. Don’t leave raspberries piled into the box they came in to be mushed under their own weight, and don’t cram juicy nectarines into a produce bag where they bash and bruise each other senseless every time you rustle them. Whenever you damage the flesh, you create an opportunity for mould.

How to Keep Fruit Fresh

Give it air.
If fruit is packed tightly, there is little air circulation, which means more humidity and faster rot. Store ripe stone fruit like peaches, plums and cherries in a shallow bowl in the fridge. Gently transfer fragile berries to a wide container lined with paper towels, keeping them in a single layer or close to it. Leave the container lid slightly ajar to let excess moisture escape.

Wash in acid.
If you’ve brought home apricots or strawberries that are still slightly under-ripe, try giving them an acid bath. Swish any whole (never cut), firm fruit in one part vinegar to 10 parts water. The solution kills off any mould spores already on the fruit, potentially increasing its longevity.

Looking for more tasty recipes? Try one of our 36 Strawberry Desserts to Celebrate Summer.

11 Super Quick Recipes for Gourmet Condiments

Summer commands big, bold flavour with minimal effort. Who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when the pool is shimmering and the lawn chairs are vacant?  Enter: super-condiments!  A few quick flavour-boosters amp up the contents of your jars and squeeze bottles, turning them into magical, mouth-watering delights.

Here’s how you can elevate your everyday condiments quickly, so you can get right back to the pool!

condiments

Miso-Mayonnaise: Stir 2 Tbsp of miso into 1/2 cup of mayonnaise for a salty umami boost.

Avocado-Corn Salsa: Doctor up 1 cup of store-bought salsa with a chopped ripe avocado and 1/2 cup of frozen corn.  

5-Spice Ketchup: Add 1 tsp of 5-spice powder, 1 tsp finely grated ginger, and a Tbsp of soy sauce to 1/2 cup of ketchup for a Chinese twist.

Not-So-Secret Sauce: Stir 2 Tbsp each of ketchup and relish into 1 cup of mayonnaise, along with a tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder.

Currynnaise: Stir 1 tsp of curry powder, Indian curry paste, or garam masala into 1/2 cup jarred mayonnaise, then add about 1-2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon and 1 Tbsp of minced chives.  

Zesty Horseradish Mustard: Stir 1 Tbsp (or more, if you’re brave) of the pungent root into 1/2 cup prepared mustard to take your sausages to the next level.

Caramelized Onion Butter: Mix equal parts caramelized onions (let your slow cooker do the work) and softened butter, whipped together in a small blender or food processor.  

Sriracha Mayo: Add a bit of the hot sauce to mayo a squirt at a time to reach your desired spiciness.

Herb and Garlic Butter: Stir a clove of minced garlic and 2 Tbsp of minced fresh herbs of your choice (tarragon, rosemary, basil, chives or oregano) into 1/2 cup of softened butter.  

Spicy Chipotle Ketchup: Boost 1/2 cup of ordinary ketchup with 1-2 tsp of dried chipotle powder or the adobo sauce that comes in canned chipotles. Taste and add more for a greater kick!

Tarragon Cream Mustard: Mix 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard into 1/2 cup sour cream, and stir in 1 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon.  

Looking for something to put these sauces on? Try one of our Our 50 Most Popular Burger Recipes.

Sticky Rice

Easy Fixes for Sticky Pasta and Rice

Cooking pasta should be as easy as, well, boiling water. But alas, it’s more complicated than that. The quantity of cooking water, timing and amount of stirring all play important roles in how things turn out. So what do you do when you get yourself into a sticky situation? Here’s how to unglue sticky pasta and rice, without becoming unglued yourself.

How to Stop Sticky Rice

For Pasta

If your noodles are clumping, your best bet is to dump them into a colander and run cold water over top. They’ll loosen up and then you can rewarm them gently in the sauce. Your other choice is to toss or sauté the pasta with a bit of oil or fat to coat it — slippery noodles will slide apart from one another.

For Rice

If a pot of basmati rice is a sticky mess, it’s usually because, like pasta, it was cooked with too little water. To unstick it, dump the rice into a larger saucepan, add about a 1/2 of water and heat on low. Gently break up the clumps with a fork. Simmer, covered, for a few minutes and the clumps should start to relax. At this point, remove the saucepan from heat and let it stand with the lid on for at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Drain, if any water remains in the bottom.

If this doesn’t work, the rice might have either been too far gone, or sticky for a different reason — either because it over-stirred or overcooked. At this point, you can rinse it in cold water, like with pasta, to remove as much excess starch as possible and break up the clumps, but it won’t be perfect. To rewarm, gently sauté in a bit of oil. Better yet, repurpose it into creamy Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding.

Looking for recipes? Try these 14 Delicious Pasta Dishes from Giada De Laurentiis.

How to Cool Down Spicy Food

3 Ways to Cool Down Spicy Food

Sometimes chili peppers are unpredictable. Jalapeños can range from bell pepper sweet to inferno hot, with subtle variations depending on the climate where they were grown and the ripeness of the fruit when it was picked.

You can make a recipe, finding it perfect the first time and inedible the next. Or maybe you just have a heavy hand with the cayenne. In any case, what do you do when you’ve prepared a meal that’s painfully hot to eat?

How to Cool Too Spicy Food

1. Add Dairy.
Capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the burn, is fat-soluble, so water alone won’t wash it away. Your best bet is to incorporate a rich, creamy dairy product. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has a neutralizing effect on capsaicin, so doctor up your your curry with cream, your chili with sour cream, or offer a cooling cucumber-yogurt salad alongside too-spicy meats.

2. Try Texture.
Another trick, offered by the acclaimed food science writer Harold McGee, is to use a rough-textured food to distract your nerves with a different sensation. Try mixing your dish with rice or quinoa, or serving it alongside a particularly tongue-scratchy food, like dry crackers or toasted baguette.

3. Dilute it.
Lastly, you could follow an approach similar to fixing over-salted food. Dilute the spiciness by cooking more of the same dish and mixing the two batches.

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.

How to Fix Overcooked Meat

How to Rescue Overcooked Meat

We’ve all been there; the grey pork chop, the expensive steak that’s cooked all the way through and chicken breast that emits a puff of dry air when pierced with a knife.

Whether the result of distraction or fear of undercooking, we’ve all taken a beautiful cut of meat and cooked it to bone-dry oblivion. Unfortunately there’s no undo button, but there are two great strategies to coax deliciousness back into your sad, overdone meat.

How to Fix Overcooked Meat

1. Change your tactics. Switch from a dry cooking method like grilling, roasting or pan-frying, to a moist one like braising or stewing.
Gently simmered at a low temperature for a long period of time, the meat’s collagen will dissolve into gelatin and the muscle fibres will separate, producing the fall-apart tenderness relished in braises and roasts. Watch closely and stop cooking immediately when the meat is easily pulled apart with a fork. Remember: low and slow — don’t let it rise above a simmer or you will dry it out further.

2. Shred it and sauce it. The second option, which is quicker but with less succulent results, is to slice or shred the meat as thinly as possible and warm it in a liquid. The meat itself will still be dry but small pieces have lots of surface area to absorb moisture. Try a barbecue sauce and repurpose the protein into tacos (here’s a great sauce recipe for that) or bathe it in marinara sauce and make a quick ragu for polenta or spaghetti.

There’s no way to rewind a steak from well-done back to rare, but you can definitely re-purpose it into a delicious new dinner.

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.