Tips & Tricks

How To Roast and Skin Hazelnuts

Few nuts are as notably improved by roasting as the hazelnut.

Most raw hazelnuts you find at the store are, in truth, a little chewy and a little bland, like a draft version of themselves. But a healthy roasting fixes that, boosting the flavor and allowing the excess water to evaporate, thereby leaving you with wonderfully crisp nuggets of pure nuttiness.

The bonus advantage of roasting hazelnuts is that it gives you the opportunity to skin them while you’re at it, rubbing them in a kitchen towel as the bitter husk easily detaches into a million little flakes you do not want to accidentally spill on your kitchen floor, trust me.

I’ve detailed the (super easy) process below, but first I wanted to ask: did you ever stop to wonder why the skin comes off hazelnuts more easily after roasting? Well, let me tell you why*. It’s because water, this incredible, magical element, expands when heated. This means that hazelnuts, which are partly made of water, become slightly bigger when heated. But their papery brown skin isn’t as elastic, so it is soon forced to loosen its grip on the surface of the nut. Once cooled, the hazelnuts return to their original size but the skin doesn’t stretch back down, remaining cracked, loose, and easy to rub off. Neat, huh?

Anyway. Here are the key steps in roasting and skinning hazelnuts:

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Grated Carrots, Three Ways

We seem to have skipped spring altogether to jump directly into the thick of summer. And with the near-canicule* temperatures we’ve been experiencing, our menus have been all about cold foods and crudités.

I’ve long been a fan of grated carrot salads — when I was a child, this was the only way I would eat carrots at all — and I’ve recently become interested in the different ways one can grate the carrots for it.

I seldom use the grating attachment on my food processor; for small quantities, I find it too bothersome to take out, clean and put away.

For a while, I used the large holes of a box grater (such as this one), and was fairly pleased with the results, though the larger, tougher carrots were a bit of a workout, and any carrot that had become limp from too much time in the fridge was a pain to handle**.

Carrots grated with a box grater.

Carrots grated with a box grater.

Then one day, I tired of the box grater and moved on to the brute force approach of simply chopping raw carrots in my mini food processor. It’s noisy, but it takes about a minute, and you get a couscous-like texture — coarse or fine, as you prefer — that is quite lovely.

Carrots chopped in the food processor.

Carrots chopped in the food processor.

But lately, I’ve switched to what is now my preferred method: I use my mandoline slicer with the comb-like blade attachment. This produces super neat little flecks of carrot with a perfect square section, which is not only attractive, but also optimally crunchy.

Carrots cut with a mandoline slicer.

Carrots cut with a mandoline slicer.

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5-Ingredient Recipes

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Jules Clancy’s fantastic new book, 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes, and offered to give away three copies as prizes in a 5-ingredient recipe contest.

You collectively submitted nearly 140 five-ingredient recipes, all of which sound fantastic and provide a fascinating glimpse into your personal tastes and appetites. It’s been very difficult to pick just three — why, oh why do I put myself in these situations? — but I had to, so I elected Ms. C’s pan-fried tofu with kale and noodles, Rakhi’s mujaddara, and Pierre Pozi’s sardine boulettes (submitted in the French version of the contest). Congratulations! You will soon be receiving your copy of 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes.

And to thank you all for your invaluable contributions, I’ve collated your recipe formulas into a masterlist we can all dip into; recipe details can be found in the comment section of the original post. (If you read French, you’ll find even more 5-ingredient suggestions in the French masterlist.)

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How To Peel Onions Without Crying

Red onion

Of all the kitchen inconveniences the cook has to live with, the one that generates the highest number of defensive strategies is no doubt the chopping of onions, and the associated teargas effect.

The reason why it makes you cry is explained in detail here, and if you like to read about enzymes and syn-propanethial-S-oxide, as do I, it is worth a read.

But to put it more simply, chopping onions causes the release of an irritant gas in the air, which, upon reaching your eyes, triggers a blinking and tearing reflex designed to wash it away. Yet another illustration, albeit an annoying one, of what a nifty machine the ol’ human body is.

Not all onions are created equal (the fresher the onion, the less you cry) and not all cooks are as sensitive, but this phenomenon explains the volume of tips and tricks floating about — some of them amusingly contradictory — designed to either hinder the release of said gas, or prevent it from reaching the eyes.

Some people rinse the onions in cold water after peeling, or chop them underwater. Some recommend keeping onions in the fridge, or plopping them in the freezer for a few minutes before chopping. Some chop from the stem end down, others from the root end up. Some recommend breathing through the nose, others only through the mouth, while others still hold a sip of water in their mouth, and try not to laugh and spit it out.

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Dehydrating Your Sourdough Starter

Dehydrated Starter

When people get curious about baking with a sourdough starter and I explain how it works, I can tell they are a little freaked out by this idea of keeping the culture alive, day in, day out, for ever and ever.

“This is too much responsibility,” they say, followed by variations on “This is why I don’t have kids!” or “Houseplants all die under my care!” and “What about my trip to Marrakech?”

I understand the sentiment, so I’m always quick to point out that a sourdough starter can be kept in the fridge for a little while without the skies caving in, and that if “a little while” becomes “indefinitely”, you can always dehydrate the precious blob into a dormant matter that won’t require regular attention.

This is a handy procedure if you’re about to go through a period of time when you won’t be able to care for it consistently or bake with it, but also if you’d like to share your sourdough culture with a friend who lives far away, and also if you’re smart and want a backup copy to restore in the event that your live starter has a disk failure (i.e. dies).

It’s very easy, and requires no special equipment.

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