Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Pit Cherries

posted in Fruits by Kathy Maister

My all-time, number-one, favorite fruit is the cherry! Cherries are in season from about late May until early August. “Bing” cherries are the most popular kind on the market. When you buy them, be sure that they are firm, a deep, dark red in color, and still have the stem attached.

Ranier cherries are yellow/pink-ish in color and are sweet and juicy, but don’t have quite the intense flavor of the Bing Cherries

Don’t wash cherries until you are ready to eat them. They should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Cherries will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, but it’s better to buy small amounts and eat them within a day or two of purchase.

The best way to serve cherries is simple: rinse them in cool water, put them on a serving dish and dig in!

If you are adding them to a fruit salad, or putting them on top of cereal or ice cream you are going to want to remove the pit. Using a small paring knife cut around the cherry and split it in half. Pick out the pit with your fingers.

There is another way. I am not someone who likes to buy gadgets that are for doing just one thing. Storage space in just about everyone’s kitchen is very valuable, so why waste it on something that can’t perform multiple tasks? However, my cherry pitter breaks that rule!

The pitter, the strange-looking gadget pictured above next to the knife, supposedly can remove the pit from olives as well, but I have never been able to make it work with olives.

But it can remove the pit of a cherry in seconds!

Wash and remove the stem off the cherry. Place the cherry on the curved bit under the spike.

Squeeze the pitter so that the spike goes through the cherry, forcing out the pit.

Just that easy, just that quick!

There are a few things you need to be careful of, however.

If your cherries are really plump and juicy the spike may go around the pit instead of popping it out. Make double sure the pit actually did pop out!

Really juicy cherries sometimes get a bit messy, with juice squirting back at you. Be careful your shirt doesn’t get covered with cherry stains.

When you are through pitting all your cherries, rinse off the pitter and dry it with a dish towel.

There is a little lever on the base of the cherry pitter which will hold it closed and therefore take up less room in your kitchen drawer.

At the cost of about $12, these cherry pitters are not inexpensive, but if you love cherries, I think it’s a great investment. Cheers!

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Salad Greens From A to Z

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Emily Chapelle

It’s easy to get in a salad rut, turning to the same kind of lettuce every time. Why not go beyond iceberg, romaine, or leaf lettuce and try some more interesting options? Spring is the perfect time to experiment with salad greens, and this post will help you get acquainted with all that leafy stuff at the grocery store.

When you purchase or harvest lettuce, you should wash or rinse it, then store it wrapped in a cloth or paper towel, then in a plastic bag, in the crisper drawer. Store lettuce away from apples, pears and bananas. These fruits release ethylene, a ripening agent which will speed the decay of the lettuce. Because of its high water content, lettuce cannot be frozen or canned for long-term storage. It should always be eaten fresh, within about 10 days of purchase or harvest.

Nutritional content varies among lettuces and greens, though most are filled with Vitamin A and potassium. With the exception of iceberg, most varieties are also a good source of Vitamin C, iron and calcium. Lettuce is also a good source of dietary fiber.

When it comes to making a salad, try creating your own mix by tossing together at least three varieties. Here’s a basic formula:

  • Use a mild lettuce or green, like Boston, bibb or endive
  • Another should be a crisp lettuce or green, like romaine or cabbage
  • The third kind should be tart, peppery, or bitter greens, like arugula or radicchio

After your foundation of greens is mixed, you can add other goodies like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Or you can venture into the more exciting world of salad-toppers, including edamame, beets, hearts of palm, sunflower seeds, toasted pine nuts, artichoke hearts, and more.

But wait a second. How do you tell arugula from endive? Mizuna from mesclun? Here’s a guide to recognizing and using the various greens in the produce section.

Arugula (pictured above)

Also known as: Rocket
Leaves are: Dark green and tender
Taste is: Bitter and peppery, with a slight mustard taste
Try this arugula salad with tomatoes and avocado.

Butterhead (pictured above)

Includes: Bibb and Boston Lettuce
Leaves are: Loosely formed heads of pale “wrinkled” leaves, smooth buttery texture
Taste is: Sweet and mild
Great on summer sandwiches!


Cabbage (pictured above)

Can be: green or red. Red is sometimes known as “purple cabbage”
Leaves are: crisp and crunchy
Taste is: bitter and sharp

Chard (pictured above)

Also known as: Swiss Chard
Leaves are: large, deep green, “wrinkled” leaves are always eaten cooked
Taste is: similar to beets, while the stalks are somewhat like celery
Try it in this Bean and Swiss Chard soup recipe


Dandelion Greens (pictured above)

Leaves are: tender, flat, with jagged edges
Taste is: bitter
Young dandelion leaves may be used in salads, but the larger ones taste best when they’re cooked

Endive (pictured above)

Leaves are: tender and smooth
Taste is: mild and bitter. The lighter the endive, the milder the flavor is.
Their spoon-like shape makes them perfect for dips or try filling them with crab or chicken salad.

Escarole

Leaves are: wide and frilly
Taste is: mild. This is a good one to add for “fluff” and texture

Frisée (pictured above)

Leaves are: long, wide, and curly. Usually green, but sometimes edged in red
Taste is: slightly peppery or nutty
Try it with blue cheese, walnut, and cranberry on a crostini.

Kale (pictured above)

Leaves are: broad and ruffled, ranging from deep green to a bluish purple
Taste is: very mild, with cabbage undertones
The site Veganyumyum has a delicious-sounding recipe for kale salad with orange-blackberry vinaigrette. Kale is also often served cooked, as in this recipe with cranberries and pine nuts.


Iceberg (pictured above)

Leaves are: tender, crisp, and pale-green
Taste is: mild and crunchy
Perfect for a make-ahead salad with peas


Leaf Lettuce (pictured above)

Leaves are: either red-tipped or dark green, ruffled and tender
Taste is: mild but interesting
Enjoy this lettuce on sandwiches or hamburgers


Mesclun (pictured above)

The term mesclun comes from the French word for a mix of tender young salad greens. You can buy this pre-mixed in bags, or make your own blend.
Leaves are: Varied, as a mesclun could include arugula, frisée, radicchio, dandelion greens, fresh herbs, and other salad greens
Taste is: Depends on the greens included, but is usually “bitter” or peppery
This is good to mix with a milder lettuce or spinach for a great tossed salad!
Try poached eggs with pancetta and tossed mesclun


Radicchio (pictured above)

Leaves are: crisp, deep red and white
Taste is: bitter and peppery
A honey-citrus dressing is the perfect foil for radicchio’s peppery bite


Romaine (pictured above)

Also known as: cos
Leaves are: long green leaves, with a crunchy center vein
Taste is: bitter and succulent
This lettuce is used in a Caesar salad, or great for a taco salad


Spinach (pictured above)

Leaves are: tender, dark green, and sometimes wrinkled, sometimes smooth
Taste is: slightly bitter and somewhat hearty

Tat Soi (pictured above)

Also known as: spoon cabbage or baby bok choy
Leaves are: spoon shaped
Taste is: peppery

Watercress (pictured above)

Leaves are: small and dark-green on long stems
Taste is: strong and peppery
This sounds amazing: avocado and watercress salad with a soy-apple dressing

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White Chocolate and Frozen Berries

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

This is my absolute favorite dessert of any I have ever eaten in my whole life!

I first tasted this at the Ivy restaurant in London. They call it Scandinavian Berries; I call it a plate-licking conversation stopper! To make this dessert you will need:

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of heavy cream
  • 10 ounces of white chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla

As well as a half-pint each of 3 small berries like

  • blueberries
  • red raspberries and
  • blackberries

Over in England, there are all sorts of teeny-tiny berries available at the grocery store. However, here in Boston, blueberries are pretty much the smallest berry you can buy.

To make this dessert we need to:

  1. Freeze the berries
  2. Melt the heavy cream, chocolate and vanilla extract together
  3. Pour the hot melted chocolate mixture over the frozen berries.

The blackberries will probably be bigger than the other berries, so start by cutting the blackberries in half, making all the pieces of the berries approximately the same size. Then lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on a baking sheet with sides. Spread ALL the berries out in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Lay the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in a baggie in the freezer.

Use the absolute best white chocolate that you can afford. (Try to avoid using “white chocolate chips” as they are not really chocolate.) The block of white chocolate that I bought needs to get chopped up into tiny pieces. It will melt much faster when it’s chopped up.

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl that fits on top of a pan that has an inch or two of water on the bottom. (This is the “double-boiler” system.)

We melted dark chocolate in the fudge recipe this way.

You have to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The whole point of a *double boiler* is to melt/cook things very gently by having the steam from the water (not the water itself) heat the upper bowl!

Add the heavy cream and the vanilla to the bowl of chocolate.

Give it an occasional stir until everything is warm, melted, and all blended together.

About 5 minutes before serving, put the berries in a single layer in a flat bowl.

Pour the hot chocolate mixture into a heat-proof jug. At the table, in front of your guests, pour the hot chocolate mixture over the frozen berries.

The chocolate warms up the berries and the berries cool down the chocolate. One bite and you will be hooked on this utterly fantastic dessert!

Enjoy!

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