Fast Fix: Problem-Solvers

Even the best cooks have off moments. Here are a few common (and not-so-common) predicaments and how to solve them.

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Food-Crusted Pans 
There's nothing worse than a pan crusted with burned cheese, eggs, tomato sauce, whatever. Actually, there is one thing and that's trying to scrub it out. Secret weapon? Deglaze it! Fill the pan with water, and bring to a boil. Scrape with a wooden spatula. You're done.

Food Sticks to Pan While Cooking 
Heat pans before adding oil or butter (except with nonstick pans). This process, called 'conditioning,' forms a lubricating barrier between food and metal.

Too Much Heat (Spice-Level) 
Add a dairy product or some sugar. Alternately, add some potato slices to absorb some of the capsaicin (which causes the burning). If none of this works, make another batch without chiles and combine.

Pitting Olives 
Lay a chef's knife flatways on an olive. Press down hard with your palm, release and remove the pit easily.

No Fresh Herbs? 
Rub dry herbs together in your palms before using — this brings out the flavor.

No Time to Boil 
Cauliflower, beets, potatoes, even artichokes cook in a matter of minutes when placed in a bowl with just a bit of water, covered and microwaved.

Bland Tomatoes 
Out-of-season supermarket tomatoes can taste like a sheet of cardboard. To bring out a little more flavor, try oven-drying — removing moisture concentrates flavor. Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Lay on a foil-lined baking sheet, salt and roast in a 200°F oven for about 2 hours.

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