One of the most pleasurable parts of cooking for me is going to the farmer’s market and shopping for beautiful produce.
After I come home with my market haul, proper washing, processing and storage helps me use ingredients whilst they are still at their best. Interacting with them, asking “What shall I do with you?” keeps them top of mind for me and gets my creativity flowing. Good storage gives your veg more longevity. Having ready to use mise en place—chef speak for food prep—also saves time and energy. I’m much more likely to throw together a meal in 15-20 minutes when I prep. If not, I’m vulnerable to snacking on anything that isn’t nailed down. Good choices happen more often when I take the time and make a conscious effort to do prep at home. Even if it’s just once a week, it’s a life saver.
The fingertip rule for greens In my restaurant in Amsterdam, we process kale, beet greens, chard, mustard greens etc. into fingertip-wide pieces. Don’t discard the stems! Chop them about ⅓ or ¼ of the leaf size, and even the woody ones become palatable and cook up tenderly and quickly. The fingertip-width chop makes a good size for everything from salads to stir fry. For soups, an extra chop or two is good, or half the fingertip size. If you plan to keep greens for longer than 3 days, lay them in a moist bed with either a damp paper towel, muslin cloth or cloth napkin underneath or on top before you tuck them in for their cold fridge slumber. The moisture in the cloth acts a barrier and keeps them crisp, green and fresh for up to 7 days.
Go for glass Glass containers keep everything best. You can turn large mason jars into a salad to go, by alternating and layering the ingredients and throwing a dressing on top. Unfortunately we can’t use glass in professional kitchens much due to the risk of breakage, but it’s by far the best way to store all kinds of food for flavor, freshness. It’s also sustainable.
Have you got innovative storage methods or special ways of handling ingredients? Chefs and cooks learn some of our most important tricks from colleagues and through practice. I’m keen to hear yours, so please share!