Q: Do you have any tips on peeling squash? A: Winter squashes such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, spaghetti and turban yield a variety...
Q: Do you have any tips on peeling squash?
A: Winter squashes such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, spaghetti and turban yield a variety of satisfying dishes throughout the fall and winter months. All have a tough outer skin. You can remove it by peeling the vegetable raw or by first roasting, then peeling.
If the recipe you have calls for cutting the squash into pieces of specific sizes or shapes, such as cubes or slices, you’ll need to peel it raw. In this case, it’s best to skip the vegetable peeler and use a large, heavy, very sharp chef’s knife.
First cut off both ends of the squash to create flat surfaces that will stabilize it on your cutting board. If it is a bulbous variety (such as butternut squash), separate the rounded part from the narrow section and peel the two pieces separately; they will both be easier to handle.
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Next, stand a piece of squash on the cutting board, and hold it firmly at the top. Place your knife along the side of the squash and cut downward, away from your hand, leaving as much of the squash flesh intact as possible. Then invert the squash on your cutting board to remove any remaining skin at the other end.
Squash that will be puréed or mashed can first be roasted to make removal of the skin virtually effortless. Slice the squash lengthwise down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Then roast the squash halves in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven, cut sides up, on an uncovered, greased baking sheet, until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Baking times vary greatly — it may take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the variety and size of the squash.
When the squash has cooled enough to be handled, scoop the flesh out of the skin, and proceed with your recipe.
Q: Can you tell me the best way to clean my valuable old china?
A: To preserve cherished china, follow these simple steps. Never place the dishes in the dishwasher, as the water pressure and the steady heat are too harsh. In addition, scratching and cracking can occur when dishes knock against one another. To avoid similar damage, don’t stack dirty dishes before cleaning them.
Rinse the china as soon as you can after use, especially if you served acidic foods, such as vinegar or fruit (which can damage glaze or color) or coffee or tea (which can stain). To remove sticky substances, wipe with a dishcloth or rubber spatula rather than scraping plates with flatware.
When you are ready to start washing, line the bottom of the sink and the surrounding area with soft towels. Gently hand-wash each piece with a soft sponge, using warm water and mild soap. Place only a few plates in the dish drainer at a time, making sure they don’t touch, then dry them with an extra-soft towel.
For storage, alternate paper towels or felt or foam liners with plates of the same size in stacks of no more than eight. Set cups on the shelf right side up, without stacking.
Q: How can I dry citrus fruit?
A: Citrus can be dried in an oven. Water is extracted from the fruit, concentrating its sweetness and resulting in a soft, chewy snack.
Start with good-quality, ripe citrus such as oranges, clementines or tangerines. Slice the fruit, including the peel, into rounds that are about a quarter-inch thick. Line baking sheets with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper, and arrange fruit slices in a single layer.
Place in an oven preheated to 200 degrees F and bake, turning slices over every half hour, until they feel leathery and no moist spots remain, about 3 hours. Transfer slices in a single layer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet; let stand at room temperature until completely dry (this takes about a day, depending on humidity).
Homemade dried citrus rounds will last for several days in the refrigerator, or 4 to 6 weeks in the freezer. Delicious on their own as a healthy snack, the slices can be chopped up to add punch to trail mix or muffins. For a cake garnish, try dipping slices into simple syrup (made by heating equal parts of sugar and water until the sugar melts), then roll in more sugar, and set aside to dry.
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