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Spring is the season when we at Team Diablo start getting excited about easy access to lots of fresh produce. We are huge fans of simple and fresh steak sides, including tomatoes & basil salad, mushrooms grilled up with onions, and giant baked potatoes (with a “touch” of sour cream), and recently came across some useful tips on properly storing those devilishly tasty ingredients.
These babies love the heat, not the cold. After years of storing tomatoes in the fridge (gasp!), we have discovered that tomatoes don’t like the cold after they’ve been plucked from the vine any more than they did when they were growing nice and sweet in the sunshine on the patio. Basic rule: your fridge is the wrong place to keep your tomatoes. What happens to them? Well, they get mealy and pretty much lose their signature sweet flavours. What you should do (which we have been doing religiously since discovering this bit of information) is keep them in a bowl on your counter away from the direct sunlight. Not only will they taste juicy and delicious when you reach for them, but they will add a punch of natural colour to your kitchen as well.
Next to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella we like to serve some fresh basil and olive oil. Like tomatoes, that basil should not live in the fridge. Basil also loves heat, so keeping it for too long in a cold environment will make it wilt too quickly. Try storing it on your counter (as you would fresh cut flowers) in a glass of water that you change every day or so (next to the tomatoes - away from the direct sun). If you keep it covered loosely with a plastic bag (with holes for fresh air), it will stay moist a week or more.
Mushrooms should be kept cold, ideally in your refrigerator between 0 and 2 degrees, in a paper bag to absorb excess moisture. The cold will prevent them from oxidizing (going brown). Because they are very porous, it is not recommended that you wash them until you are just about to use them. Otherwise they may get discoloured and spoil prematurely. When they are stored and cared for properly, they’ll last about 4-5 days, or until you slice them up and throw them in that pan with some butter and onions...
Did you know that onions don’t come out of the ground with that papery skin? That protective layer is generated when they are “cured” and kept in a dry environment (think pantry – not your refrigerator, which is too damp). They also like being in a well-ventilated area, and may spoil prematurely if they are suffocated. Oddly enough, they also prefer not hanging out near your potatoes, which give off moisture and gas that also can cause early spoilage (who knew?). So what should you do? Keep these delicate stinkers in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated place.
Do not keep your potatoes in the refrigerator either. They like a cool environment, not cold temperatures. The cold tends to accelerate their conversion to starch, affecting flavour and texture and their reaction during cooking. If you do not have a root cellar, which would be a perfect cool dark place for them, store your potatoes in a paper bag in a spot like your pantry. Paper is much better than plastic, which will promote rot more quickly (we’ve learned that the smelly way).
Good luck and good grilling from Team Diablo!