Recipes

What is lemon zest?

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What are capers?

Capers are the immature flower buds of a bramble-like shrub that grows wild in the Mediterranean. The buds are sun-dried and usually pickled and packed in a vinegar brine. (Keep an eye out for the Italian-style ones, though – they’re salt-cured, giving them a totally different flavour. Just rinse well before using.)

Capers range from peppercorn-sized balls to giant ones that resemble small olives. The smaller the capers, the more expensive they usually are, due to labour-intensive harvesting. The most sought-after capers, called nonpareil, are from southern France. They’re full-flavoured, with a pleasant acidity and delicate texture. Larger capers are also deliciously zingy with a pleasing bite. Pick some up at your local supermarket or gourmet shop and add them to tomato-based pasta dishes, green salads or rice. Or chop finely and add to mayonnaise for a tangy sandwich spread.

I enjoy cooking, but I always make a HUGE mess. How does a chef get organized?

Great question! While I can’t answer for all chefs, here are a few tricks I learned in my restaurant days:

  1. Prepare a mise en place: that’s fancy talk for organizing all your ingredients before you begin cooking. First read the recipe carefully, then gather and measure out all the ingredients. Also, you want to chop onions, garlic and herbs before you start cooking. By doing this prep work, you’ll only have to assemble the dish when it’s time to cook. If you are preparing everything a few hours before, wrap and refrigerate items that will spoil.
    Helpful hint: if there’s a lot of vegetable prep, keep a bowl close at hand for peels and trimmings. That way you’re not constantly running to the composter!
  2. After prepping, put away all unused food, jars, bottles and cans so your work area is clean.
  3. Keep on top of the dishes. While this sounds obvious, it’s a biggie – especially when baking or cooking a huge meal. It’s all too easy to make a pile and deal with it later, but it’s worth your while to clean as you go. Not only is your workspace tidy and organized, but when you need a clean bowl, knife or spoon, you’ll have it on hand.
    Quick tip: I sling a dishtowel over my shoulder for fast drying when cooking.
  4. Keep your knives sharp, using a steel and sharpening stone or knife sharpener, which is available in most kitchen stores and some grocery stores. A sharp knife makes chopping and slicing much easier and way more efficient.
    Interesting note: more injuries are caused from using dull knives than sharp ones, which require less pressure and are less likely to slip.
When a baking recipe calls for white granulated sugar, can I use brown sugar instead?

Yes. No funny conversions here – a straight-up exchange should work fine, just pack the brown sugar well. For example, one cup (250 mL) of packed brown sugar is equal to one cup (250 mL) of granulated white sugar. There’s only one exception: when making shortcakes or sponge cakes, most bakers recommend sticking to white sugar.

You’ll notice subtle differences when using brown sugar. The texture of baked goods will be coarser (be trendy and say it’s “rustic”), and pleasantly chewy. As well, the volume of some cake and cookie batters may be slightly deflated. I find there’s also a subtle change in taste – a mild caramel flavour develops. That’s why I like to switch to brown sugar when making brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

What is lemon zest?

Zest is the fragrant outer peel of a lemon or any citrus fruit. Unlike the bitter white pith underneath, zest contains flavourful oils. Try sprinkling it over roasted meat or fish along with chopped fresh herbs, adding it to muffin, cake and cookie mixes or to liven up pasta, soup and stews.

When zesting, make sure to remove just the thin outer layer. The best way to do this is to use an actual zester, available in most kitchen stores and some supermarkets. You can also grate the peel using the fine holes on a box grater, or use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to slice off long thin strips.

What is lemon zest?

Zest is the fragrant outer peel of a lemon or any citrus fruit. Unlike the bitter white pith underneath, zest contains flavourful oils. Try sprinkling it over roasted meat or fish along with chopped fresh herbs, adding it to muffin, cake and cookie mixes or to liven up pasta, soup and stews.

When zesting, make sure to remove just the thin outer layer. The best way to do this is to use an actual zester, available in most kitchen stores and some supermarkets. You can also grate the peel using the fine holes on a box grater, or use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to slice off long thin strips.

What is lemon zest?

Zest is the fragrant outer peel of a lemon or any citrus fruit. Unlike the bitter white pith underneath, zest contains flavourful oils. Try sprinkling it over roasted meat or fish along with chopped fresh herbs, adding it to muffin, cake and cookie mixes or to liven up pasta, soup and stews.

When zesting, make sure to remove just the thin outer layer. The best way to do this is to use an actual zester, available in most kitchen stores and some supermarkets. You can also grate the peel using the fine holes on a box grater, or use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to slice off long thin strips.

Come back next Monday for more kitchen solutions!