Hi everyone, it’s hack time again. First up: cooking.
This weekend, DH and I struggled to fix a chicken dish that was weirdly sweet. After adding multiple ingredients, it was eventually quite good. But it got me researching solutions to some common kitchen problems you might encounter, too.
KITCHEN HACK: Adjusting a Recipe
- If you can rinse off the overly salty ingredient (such as the brine on your olives), that’s an easy place to start.
- Add a raw potato (you don’t have to cut or peel it) to a liquid dish such as soup or curry. Potatoes will soak up some of the extra salt as they cook and add starch that will further dilute the saltiness.
- Rice or a small amount of flour are other options.
- As with saltiness, adding starch is a quick fix for an overly spicy soup or curry.
This is a common result when using carrots, red peppers or other vegetables with hidden sugars.
- Add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
- Balance the sweet taste with more seasoning to make the dish spicier.
- Add a fat such as olive oil or avocado.
- Try adding tangy yogurt if it’s appropriate for your dish.
- Add more liquid to dilute it.
- Avoid adding salt, as it will bring out all flavors, including sweetness.
The best way to counter too much sourness is to add sweet, salty or savory flavors. Think of the way a salt rim balances the sweetness of a margarita, or how adding carrots rounds out the taste of a marinara sauce.
Leafy greens such as kale, collard, and mustard greens can be overpoweringly bitter. Other ingredients with a bitter edge include coffee, espresso, cocoa and herbs and spices such as parsley, paprika and cayenne (red) pepper.
Bitter is the opposite of acidic or sour so adding vinegar, citrus juice or yogurt can help balance the dish.
- Squeeze some lemon over sautéed greens.
- In Mexican cooking, lime helps balance red spices such as chile powder which can taste bitter.
- Add a dash of grated nutmeg. The nutty taste helps balance other flavors.
HOUSEHOLD HACK: Splinters
Don’t you hate those suckers?! I’ve collected a few tips for your next run-in with old furniture, fences or floorboards. It almost makes me wish I had a splinter so I could try them out. Almost.
- Baking soda technique
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder with a few drops of water until it forms a paste.
- Apply the paste to the splinter.
- Wait 10-20 minutes until the skin swells a little and the splinter pops out of the skin.
- Use a piece of duct tape or a drop of Elmer’s Glue to remove the splinter.
- Soak. Pour some white vinegar into a small bowl. Soak the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the splinter has risen sufficiently out of the skin’s surface, it should be easy to remove with tweezers.
My friend O suggested a post on my Do’s and Don’ts for next time. If you’re planning a trip to Sicily, here are a few post-vacation thoughts.
What I’d do again
- Reserve Blacklane upon arrival at an unfamiliar destination. It will cost more than a taxi but the price is established and paid by credit card in advance. Benefits: 1) You won’t be driven all over the place to run up the meter. 2) You won’t have to change money at exorbitant airport rates. 3) Drivers are safe and you can request one who speaks your language. 4) The cars are cleaner and nicer than cabs.
- Rent apartments instead of staying in hotels. Cooking (and grocery shopping) is fun and cheaper than always eating out.
- If you plan to drive into the country, consider an apartment rental outside of the city so you can easily get in and out of town.
- Buy tickets online in advance for popular museums and attractions.
- Bring a good map and pocket Italian language guide.
What I’d do differently
- Don’t plan on using Taormina as a base from which to travel to other areas unless you book a tour from town. It’s well located but too hard to navigate in and out.
- One day is sufficient unless you really like to shop.
- I’d spend more time in Palermo (better shopping, too).
- I’d rent a place for a week about an hour’s drive from Siracusa and Noto. I’d rent another place for the second week an hour’s drive from Ragusa and the coast.
FOLLOW UP: Biscuits