How to Cook Your Way Out of the 10 Worst Kitchen Mistakes

You can hide everything from overcooked vegetables to stale rolls.

By Joe Kita
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine April 2009
from Reader's Digest | April 2009
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    Overdone pasta

    Put in ice water or run under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking process and contract the starch. Then reheat in tomato sauce-the acid will perk it up further.

    Stale rolls

    Wet your fingers and flick some water on them, then microwave in a microwave-safe cooking bag for no more than five seconds, or wrap in foil and heat in a 250-degree oven for ten minutes.

    Burned bread

    Scrape off the worst, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and present as crostini; or use for croutons.

    Overcooked vegetables

    Cool as quickly as possible, in ice water, just like with pasta, then reheat briefly in hot stock and squirt on some acid (lemon, lime, or even orange) before serving.

    Sticky noodles

    Drain and cool immediately. Then return the pasta to a sauté pan, add at least one tablespoon of olive oil, and toss while reheating.

    Oversalted soup

    For clear soups, add some uncooked pasta or a raw, peeled potato to the pot. The starch will absorb much of the salt. Discard the pasta or potato after 15 to 20 minutes.

    Overcharred beef

    It's all about spin, says John DeShetler, professor and chef at the Culinary Institute of America. Rub it with a mix of ground pepper, chili powder, and garlic, then present as 'blackened.' Or slice it up as is and use in stir-fries, salads, or fajitas.

    Limp greens

    Bathe them briefly in a bowl of very cold water (no ice, which will bruise the leaves), then wrap in a damp towel and refrigerate.

    Dry fish

    Brush with a butter-and-lemon mixture, then sprinkle with chopped cilantro, marjoram, or savory. The sauce will add moisture, and 'cool' herbs like these, flavor.

    Overripe fruit

    When it's too far gone for even fruit salad, use for smoothies, purees, sorbets, or ice cream.

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