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We’ve all been there — you get home from work, and get halfway through your dinner recipe only to realize you only have one clove of garlic but the recipe calls for three. The last thing you feel like doing after work and your kid’s after-school activities is running to the grocery store for something as small as a couple of cloves of garlic. But rather than going without the required amount of garlic, there’s actually a way to stretch that glove of garlic and save yourself a trip to the grocery store. In fact, there are a bunch of ingredient hacks that will save you time and gas money.
To learn more about getting the most out of the ingredients we have on hand, we spoke to Chef Zee, a New York City-based foodie, content creator, and founder of Chef Zee Cooks.
Make Your Garlic Work Smarter, Not Harder
“When it comes to Hispanic cooking garlic is really important,” Chef Zee told SheKnows. “Garlic loses its flavor the minute you cut into it so in order to maximize your flavor output from these two little cloves or however many cloves you have, I always recommend that you add your garlic towards the end even if a recipe calls for you to saute your garlic first.”
Chef Zee had another helpful suggestion for maximizing your garlic, “instead of going for like a big chop, cut it as small as you can,” Chef Zee explains. “Garlic has amazing flavorful juice that you can even turn into a paste for even more flavor.” And if you want to take things one step further, “I mean if you really want to get the most out of your garlic flavor, then I recommend that you grate it. Get a microplaner, grate it and whew!”
Citrus Is More Potent at Room Temperature
Citrus is an amazing way to brighten up the flavor profile of a dish or to add some acidity to balance out the sweetness of other ingredients. To stretch your citrus fruits to their maximum potential, Chef Zee has two recommendations. First, let it come to room temperature. “When a lemon. lime or orange is at room temperature, you’re going to get the most juice out of it,” she explains. “We keep our citrus in the fridge sometimes so taking it out early and letting it come to room temperature or even microwaving it for a couple of seconds will help you get the most juice.”
If your lemons and limes are room temperature but you still need a little extra acid, Chef Zee recommends using the zest, “the most flavor that you’re going to be getting from any one of your citruses actually comes from the skin itself.” Chef Zee explained that the skin of citrus fruits contains a lot of oil that is loaded with flavor. You just want to be sure to only zest the top layer of the fruit and don’t get into the more bitter-tasting pith.
Keep Your Kitchen Stocked With the Basics
This one is simple, but key. Try to keep your kitchen as stocked as possible with the ingredients you use most often. “For Hispanic cuisine, I recommend keeping extra onions and peppers on hand,” Chef Zee says. “It can be any kind of onion, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Spanish onion. You can always swap in a white onion, a Vidalia onion or even a red onion. And the same goes for peppers — it doesn’t matter which kind, just try to keep one variety like bell peppers or cubanelles stocked.”
You’ll want to make sure you keep your spice cabinet stocked as well. “Always have some paprika, have some cumin. Oh, and oregano. Oregano is a big one,” Chef Zee says. “I can make magic happen with just some oregano, garlic, and lime juice.”
Before you go, check out Ina Garten’s easy weeknight dinner recipes below:
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