If you're a home cook you know that there are some days when you want all the comfort and reassurance of a meal prepared from scratch, but the thought of prepping the recipe and cleaning up after the fact is just too much to handle. Whether you're zesting, baking, grating or slicing, the following kitchen hacks will inspire your recipe repertoire and streamline the actions needed to get a meal on the table.
Make friends with a microplane
Does your recipe call for minced garlic or ginger? Zested citrus peel? Sometimes at the end of the day the thought of finely chopping anything can make or break your decision to cook. A microplane is a great way to quickly get the job done, whether you're adding the finishing touches to a stir fry marinade or giving your fruit salad a hint of lemon. Turn your microplane upside down so that the grating is done underneath; the food is then trapped on the curved top to be measured or scraped into your recipe as needed.
Keep grated parmesan in the freezer
While most cheeses are the enemy of freezer storage, Parmigiano-Reggiano and other hard cheeses have very low moisture content due to the way they're aged and can be kept for several months in the freezer without damage to texture and taste. Find a deli or cheese shop that will grate your cheese at a larger volume (there should be no additional charge) and keep in a plastic container in the freezer, ready for instant use as needed. Other cheeses that fare well in the freezer are Grana Padano, Pecorino Romana, aged Manchego, Beemster and Asiago.
Ice cube trays are for more than just ice
Ice cube trays are an underused kitchen tool that can be used to freeze much more than just water. Make a big batch of pesto when your basil is taking over the garden (use some of the grated cheese in your freezer!) and freeze in the trays. Too many fresh herbs and not enough time to use them before they spoil? Add them to the tray and cover with olive oil, freeze and then use as needed. Save money on iced coffee by freezing freshly brewed coffee into the trays, simply pop them into a cup or travel mug and add milk for a caffeinated treat that will keep cold. In the unlikely event that you have leftover wine, it can also be frozen and then used to cook with. Whatever you put in your ice cube tray, make sure to transfer it over to a freezer bag to prevent smell or taste contamination and freezer burn.
Use kitchen scissors to cut your prep time in half
A good pair of kitchen scissors will cut down on prep as well as clean up, there's no cutting board to wash! Use this handy tool to snip fresh herbs into a neat chiffonade or to cut flat-leaf parsley for a salad. A bunch of scallions can be snipped into small pieces in under 10 seconds, making kitchen scissors an absolute essential for the time and energy deficient cook. Finally, use kitchen scissors to cut bacon right into the skillet preventing a greasy cutting board prone to knife slippage.
Dental floss is a kitchen workhorse
While dental floss might seem like an unlikely ally in the kitchen, it can make certain messy cutting jobs a neat endeavour (just be sure to use plain floss, not flavoured!). Its sturdiness makes it a great tool for slicing cookie dough into circular disks without flattening the dough with pressure from a knife. If you've ever had a salad with small rounds of goat cheese, this is the absolute best way to get them the right size without a cheese wire. If using an unripened fresh goat's milk cheese just pop the chevre log into the freezer for 15 minutes beforehand to ensure the cheese is firm before being sliced.