Spicy Facts

In my years of teaching cooking there were always many tips or hints that I would pass on that elicited comments such as, “I didn’t know that” or “that’s good to know.” I’d like to pass a few onto you.

Perhaps one of the most important areas of knowledge should be on the storage of herbs and spices. This often-neglected area of knowledge, when used effectively, can make a difference in the long run in the flavor and shelf life of an herb or spice and therefor in the resulting finished product. As a point of interest, the average person consumes approximately 4,500mg of salt per day, while the body only requires about 200mg.

A few random facts: When peeling garlic try rinsing it under hot water first; the skin will come off more easily. If your spices have seemed to have lost their punch try rubbing them between your fingers for a few seconds to wake them up. As for storing; spices should never be stored near a range or microwave, all spices should be stored in a cool, dry location or refrigerate them. If you don't want to add chopped garlic to a soup or stew but still want that irreplaceable flavor, place a toothpick in a garlic clove before adding it; it will be easy to remove. Many herbs contain oils that evaporate easily, they should be stored in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dry location. It is a good idea to store red herbs such as cayenne, chili, and paprika in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent their oils from oxidizing. Sour wines may be used in place for vinegar in many recipes. Garlic is best stored in the freezer and is easier to chop and cut when frozen. It has been used for ages as a blood cleanser and in recent times to lower blood pressure.

Flavoring extracts such as vanilla can come in two forms; imitation flavorings and pure extracts. They should be stored in a cool, dry location or refrigerator.

Baked Cherry Tomatoes

(Pomodorini Cilegie al Forno)

I first tasted this tasty dish in Italy.

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (minced), see notes on chopping

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

50 cherry tomatoes, about 2 pints stemmed

2 Tbs plain dried bread crumbs

In a bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper. Stir to mix.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With a sharp knife cut tomatoes in half, cross-wise. Line them up, tightly and cut sides up, in a 17x 11 inch baking pan. Spoon all of the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes. Keep stirring from the bottom as you do this to ensure you will have some of every ingredient in each spoonful. Using your fingers, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomatoes. Bake the tomatoes until the olive oil mixture is bubbly and golden and the tomatoes begin to look charred, about 45 mins to an hour. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

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