Refrigerated tomato

While deep fried Kool Aid is about as egregious a food crime as it gets (if deep frying and Kool Aid count as food, that is), there are plenty more ways in which we degrade the quality, flavor and nutritional value of our sustenance, like turning ripe, juicy tomatoes into mealy, mushy sponges by sticking them in the fridge. How many of these food crimes do you commit?

  1. Like most fruit, tomatoes don’t require refrigeration, especially before they’ve been cut into. It can leave them lacking the juiciness and flavor we crave (especially after the hard work of actually finding a good tomato). So what to do with a half-used tomato besides sticking it in the fridge? For starters—try eating it on the spot with a little salt (brings out the juice) and a drizzle of olive oil. Add it to whatever’s simmering on the stove, or simply let it sit overnight until ready to use.

  2. While Italians have been doing it for centuries, heating olive oil can degrade the health benefits of the essential fats and actually make it toxic. Only a few oils do well at high heat (like coconut, palm and sunflower), and some experts suggest all oils are best for you unheated. If your olive oil starts smoking in your pan—it’s best to start over, or better yet, cook instead with water or broth.

  3. Salt brings out the flavor of foods, but adding salt to your beans when cooking (dried, not canned!) can make them less likely to soften and release their delicate flavor. Salt towards the end of cooking or once they’re on your plate, instead.

  4. Dark leafy greens like kale, collards and chard are becoming more popular not just because of their healthy attributes; they cook fast and taste great. But make sure you dry them after washing and before sautéing or stir-frying as wet greens will turn mushy in your pan.

  5. We’ve become conditioned to eat certain parts of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Naturally, we often toss out what we don’t eat. Save your potato skins, lettuce cores, herb stems, pepper tops for simmering into a vegetable broth. Even strawberry tops and apple cores can go into a veggie stock!

  6. Eating on the run is just part of life these days. But microwaving for a fast meal is never the best choice; it degrades the nutritional quality of food by causing molecular damage (which has been linked to human health issues), and it does a disservice to the flavor and texture of most foods.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: pj_vanf