Put all your senses to work and rely on your sense of smell and touch to cook like a pro.
Sometimes, it’s the sensory tips that can help you master the basics of choosing and cooking foods.
- Smell, squeeze and taste. Some markets will let you sample fresh produce. Ask at your store.
- Pull the stem off an avocado. If the spot that becomes visible is green, the avocado is good. If it’s brown, it’s overripe.
- Pomegranates should be completely red and feel heavy for their size.
- Check fresh berries for mold; it’s the first sign that they are going bad.
- Perfectly ripe mangoes and melons should smell very fragrant.
- Eggplant should be free of blemishes and feel heavy for the size.
Meats and fish
- Fresh fish should smell like the ocean breeze. If it smells like the low tide, it’s past its prime. Ask to smell the fish before buying. If you’re buying a whole fish, the eyes should be clear and gills should be red and shiny.
- If you poke fresh meat, it should come back to form. If it retains the indentation from your finger, it isn’t worth purchasing.
Use quality ingredients
- Kosher salt is best for cooking because the granules dissolve quickly.
- Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press of the olives, so it is the purest form. Later presses are often cut with other oils.
- For high-temperature sautéing or frying, canola, peanut, safflower and corn oil are best.
- Always cook with unsalted butter so you control the amount of salt that goes into your dish.
- High-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese far surpasses that of the pre-packaged type, so pick some up for grating over pasta or soups.
- Look for the Muir Glen brand of canned tomato products.
- Good-quality chocolate can take a delicious dessert over the top.
Are you throwing a bridal shower or dinner party this summer? Put your senses to the test and tempt your guests by trying one or all of these recipes.