Cooking tips

Plantains - How to Carve

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Yellow-brown, brown and black plantains can be peeled as you would a banana, but it is almost impossible to peel green and yellow plantains. Cut their skin off with a sharp knife.
Slice plantains, with the skin attached, on a diagonal into 3/4-inch rounds (or another length as indicated in your recipe). Peeli the plantain rounds, one by one, by placing them on a cutting board, then starting with one side of a plantain round, cut away the peel with a paring knife. Rotate and slice the skin off the other sides until the plantain round is completely peeled.

Pineapple - How to Store

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Keep unripe pineapples at room temperature. Although pineapples do not ripen once removed from the stem, the acidity diminishes with time, creating an illusion of increased sweetness.
Ripe pineapples should be refrigerated for as short a time as possible, preferably less than three days. Beyond that, they tend to turn mushy.

Pomegranates - Make your own mixer

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Homemade pomegranate syrup is far superior to commercial grenadine, which tends to be overly sweet. Some brands don't even contain pomegranate juice. Food writer Elizabeth Schneider in Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables (Harper & Row, 1986) describes a technique that is time-intensive but relatively simple:
Combine equal parts seeds and sugar in a nonreactive saucepan; stir and crush into a wet mass. Cover and let stand 12 to 24 hours. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. Push seeds through a sieve, to extract juice. Pour into a hot, sterilized jar. Cover with a piece of cloth until cool. Cap tightly and refrigerate for up to four months.

Grilled Pizza

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To grill pizza, turn your grill into an outdoor oven. First, build a fire for indirect-heat cooking: For a circular charcoal grill, carefully push the hot coals to the perimeter of the fire bed; for square or rectangular charcoal grills, push the hot coals into half of the bed; and for gas grills, heat the entire grill and then turn off the burners on one side.
You'll be cooking the pizza on the part of the cooking grate that's not directly over the heat, so divide and shape the dough into larger or smaller circles, squares or rectangles to fit that area.
Close the grill's cover (or cover the pizza with a domed wok lid or pot lid or even a large stainless steel bowl), and you've got your outdoor oven.
To prevent the dough from sticking, swab the grill rack with a vegetable oil-soaked cloth or paper towels, safely held with grilling tongs. Also brush the dough on both sides with olive oil. The heat quickly firms up the dough, so it won't droop through the bars. After 2 to 3 minutes (check occasionally to guard against burning), you can easily flip the now-stiff crust.
It's then ready to top with ingredients, which you will have arranged nearby on a table or tray to help you work quickly. Smear lightly with homemade or store-bought pesto or tomato sauce. Add shredded cheeses, dabs of goat cheese, sliced vegetables (which will have been grilled in advance), sliced pepperoni, crumbled cooked sausage, tissue-thin prosciutto. Then, cover again and cook about 5 minutes more, until the cheese has melted.
Slide the finished pizza onto a cutting board, sprinkle with Parmesani and chopped fresh herbs and cut it into wedges or squares with a pizza wheel or large, sharp knife.

Pizza - How to Prepare

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Use a preheated pizza stone.
Don't pile on the sauce, because it makes the pizza soggy.
Add the fresh herbs, such as basil, after baking so they don't get scorched by the heat. Or put them on the pizza first, then add the cheese, so the cheese gives a layer of protection from the heat.

Pomegranates - Availability, Selection and Storage

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Available late September through mid-February. Look for large, brightly colored fruit with shiny skins. Pomegranates keep longer than most fruits. Stored separately in small plastic sandwich bags, they will keep in the fridge for up to 10 weeks. You can also freeze the seeds in a resealable freezer bag for later use in salads or as an ice cream topping.

Cooking on a Seasoned Plank

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Soak a 1-inch thick hardwood plank in cold water overnight. Weigh it down, so every surface soaks. Dry it well and rub with oil. Place in a 350 degree F oven for an hour. Once seasoned, follow as directed in recipe. A trough around the edge will catch meat juices; otherwise, use aluminum foil to fashion a drip pan. Planki may be placed on a heavy platter before being taken to the table.

Pineapple - How to Select

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Leaves should be bright green and sprightly, not pallid, brown or limp, and the fruit should feel heavy for its size, yield slightly to pressure but be devoid of soft or brown spots. Look for a faintly fruity aroma that exudes from the stem, but beware a sweetish, fermented odor.
Available year-round, the pineapple's peak season is March through July.

Picnic - Holding Fixings

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Use a muffin pan to hold fixings such as mustard, catsup, relish, and onions. You won't have to pass a lot of separate bottles and jars.

Pine Nuts (Pinons) - Storage

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Store them tightly covered and either refrigerate or freeze them, depending on how soon they are to be used.