Cooking Techniques

In the kitchen, you'll hear terms or instructions you won't find anywhere else. Some of them can be a little complicated or confusing. Tuscany Tonight offers some explanations for the more unique cooking techniques out there.

To Saute or not to Saute?

Sauteing is cooking food quickly in oil and/or butter over high heat using a skillet or saute pan. Begin by preheating the pan over medium heat. Once the pan is heated to a nice, even temperature, add either butter or oil before turning the heat to high.

Butter flavors your food better and offers a nice golden crust to food, but burns quickly, while olive oil doesn?t burn as quickly but is also lacking in rich flavor and color. A couple tablespoons of either should be enough to get you started. The pan is ready when the butter turns a pale brown. Carefully add your ingredients so that no smoking occurs. Cooking time will vary depending on the ingredient, stirring the contents with a large wooden spoon or spatula.


Al dente?

Literally translated, al dente means to the tooth. When applied to cooking, it refers to cooking pasta, and sometimes vegetables, so that the pasta is slightly chewy or firm to the bite. In other words, you?ll have to use your teeth!


Cooking Pasta

Most pasta products offer directions on the back of the packaging. A 1lb package of pasta can often serve 4 people. Best practices include using lots of water so that the pasta won?t stick together. You may also want to add a couple teaspoons of oil to help break apart the pieces. Add about a tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta to bring out the flavor of the pasta. Most pasta is ready for serving 8-10 minutes of cooking.


Cutting Onions

Remember when you were a kid and got stuck cutting the onion? Well, if you have kids of your own, now's the time to pass along the torch. If not, there are some easy tips to make the process less tearful.

To reduce the strong odors onions give off, try placing the onion in the freezer for 10 minutes. You can also cut the onion under water, allowing the water to trap the odors.

To cut the onion:
-Cut the stem end about 90% off, leave enough so that you can easily tear the first layer off.
-Placing the onion on the cut end, slice it in half long ways. Yes, you will still have the root attached. This helps hold the onion together while slicing.
-Take each half of the onion and lay it down flat, making cuts long ways from top to bottom without cutting the root at the end.
-Rotate the onion about 90 degrees and make cuts across the onion, cutting to the size of the pieces you wish.


Cutting Tomatoes

The two most important elements of cutting tomatoes are the tomato itself and the knife. The tomato should be ripe, but not overly ripe. Make sure the skin is not wrinkled and that the texture is firm but not hard. The knife should be twice as big as the tomato and as sharp as possibly may be.

To use as much of the tomato as possible, use a small paring knife to cut out the root from the top. Do this in a V shape cutting and discard.

For slicing: Place the tomato so that the core is parallel to the cutting board. Slice the tomato into 1 inch slices, making sure the knife cleanly cuts through the entire tomato.

For quarters: Place the tomato so that the core is perpendicular to the cutting board, parallel with the knife. Slice the tomato in half. Slice each half down the middle in the same direction. You may need to do once more depending on the size of the tomato.

For dicing: Follow instructions for slicing, then quarter each slice. Tomatoes are messy. When dicing fresh tomatoes you will loose some of the seeds and insides. Let the seeds and insides separate and use the firm part of the tomato to cut into squares.