Peeling Garlic the Easy Way

Peeling garlic cloves may not be that difficult, but here’s the easiest way to do it. Cut off the root end of the clove (the “hairy” part) with a wide-blade cutting knife. Lay the big blade of the knife flat over the clove, then quickly and firmly bang the knife on the clove with the heel of your hand. The clove will be slightly broken and the peel will easily come off.

Avocado-Basil Pasta Salad

A great salad for the summer because it uses fresh ingredients. You could also serve this as a hot pasta dish, but I prefer it cold as a pasta salad. It’s a great idea for a summer lunch. Thanks to my friend Ashley for the recipe!

Serves 4-5

8 oz.dried bow tie pasta
2 medium avocados, halved, pitted, peel removed, and coarsely chopped*
6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then placed on a paper towl to drain
1/2 red tomato, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions, turning off the heat 1 minute before it’s done.
While the pasta is cooking, combine everything else but the cheese in a bowl. Add the pasta and mix. Top each serving with cheese.
If you’re serving this cold as a pasta salad, place it in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving.
* For the avocados, choose those that are black and not green, because black ones are ripe. Slice them in half all the way around, then turn the two halves in different directions to loosen them from the pit. Remove the pit. To remove the peel, either gently pop the avocado half out of the peel (don’t force it), or use a sharp knife to make small cuts at the edge of the peel and carefully lift the peel away in sections.

What to do with leftover tomato paste

I rarely buy cans of tomato paste because usually all I want is a little bit and I don’t know what to do with the rest. In London, I was able regularly to find tubes of tomato paste, which were convenient because I could squeeze out just a little at a time — however much I needed for a particular recipe. If they make that here in the States, I haven’t found it.

But I just read a clever tip that solves the issue of the cans. In “The Big Book of Casseroles,” author Maryana Vollstedt recommends freezing tablespoonfuls of tomato paste separately on a piece of foil in the freezer, and when they’re frozen, putting them in a bag for use later. I love it. Now I can get those cans and make full use of them.

How to Cut Pineapple

To cut a whole pineapple, cut off the top and bottom, then stand it upright on a cutting board. Use a chopping knife to cut off the skin in thick strips, starting at the top and going straight down. Continue doing this until all the skin has been taken off, and use a paring knife to cut out any prickly knobs that are left behind. Then, keeping the pineapple upright on the cutting board, use the knife to cut off sections, leaving the core intact (discard the core later). Lay the sections down on the cutting board and cut chunks as desired.

Freezing Chicken Breasts

I just read about a great way to freeze chicken breasts that makes it easier to defrost only the portion you want, rather than the whole pack. The idea is similar to freezing ice cubes in a tray, where you freeze them separately and then take out only the ones you want later. Thanks to The Arnette Table for the idea!

Here it is.

Leftovers: Cherry Tomatoes

Here’s a way to make use of cherry tomatoes that are going a little soft in the fridge: Boil them down in their own juice to make a tomato sauce that you can use later. I keep a plastic bag in the freezer and add this sauce to the bag whenever I make some. After a couple of months, I have enough in the plastic bag to use for a meal.

All you do is cut the tomatoes in quarters, then throw them in a pot. You don’t need to add water, cooking oil, or anything else. Put it over medium heat until it starts to simmer, then keep it at a simmer until it boils down to the desired thickness (I usually let it get fairly thick). Let cool, then freeze.

The skins of the tomatoes can be a little annoying, so peel them before boiling them, if you like. I usually leave them in and only remove them later if I decide I can’t put up with them.