Lola’s Kitchen Tips: HOW TO SELECT THE FRESHEST PRODUCE (feat. PANASONIC’S AG CLEAN)

How to select fresh produce

You’re reading my blog right now probably because we share a common interest—we both love Filipino food. But our passion for the local cuisine should not start in the kitchen; it begins at the market. Knowing how to check the freshness of the foods and ingredients that you buy is just as important as cooking and food preparation.

Whether you shop at your neighborhood palengke or a posh supermarket, picking the freshest produce is a skill that one learns from experience. The freshness of the food that you buy will definitely affect the outcome of the food or dish that you prepare.

How to select fresh produce

I personally love grocery shopping and going to the market. There’s something about it that I find therapeutic. But I also understand that not everyone likes doing this chore, so I’ll make it easier for you with some of my tips on how to pick the best and the freshest produce. But first, here are my rules of thumb:

  • Support your local public or farmers’ market.
  • Use your senses of touch, smell, sight, and hearing. Taste if possible.
  • Preferably, shop in the morning. The early bird catches the worm!
  • Buy produce in season for the best price and taste.
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Lola’s Kitchen Tips: TO CHILL OR NOT TO CHILL (feat. PANASONIC’S PRIME FREEZE)

If you live in a big household like me, chances are, you have a very disorganized pantry and fridge. If not, kudos to you and your family. Every now and then, people at home would pass by the supermarket or palengke to grab a bottle of ketchup or a hand of bananas only to be left in the refrigerator’s time-space warp corner, bound to be buried in oblivion.

Sounds familiar? You’re not alone.

Improper food storage can lead to a wastage of good food and hard-earned money. Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost or wasted globally. Not only that, it can also jeopardize your family’s health and well-being. Did you know that more that 350,000 people die of food poisoning worldwide? These are the statistics that I’m sure you don’t want to be a part of.

So, how can we be part of the solution and not of the problem? We can start by teaching ourselves where to store food items to prolong their shelf life. Some foods like the cold, moist environment while some last longer in a dry, open space. Which common Filipino food items should be kept inside or outside the fridge? Let’s find out:

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Lola’s Kitchen Tips: Top 6 Essential Filipino Seasonings

Filipinos around the world love to cook and eat. But no Filipino kitchen can be complete without these basic seasonings that help us achieve that distinct Filipino flavor we have always loved. Here’s a list of the most common seasonings that can be found in a typical Filipino kitchen.

1. Salt 

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You can’t cook without salt. Well, technically you can, but who wants to eat bland food anyway…unless you’re on a salt-free diet. However, when we talk about Filipino food, or any other cuisine for that matter, salt will always be one of the key ingredients.

There’s more to salt than saltiness. Salt brings out the flavor of the food by combining the various tastes of different ingredients in order to create a flavor that makes every dish distinct from each other. There are many types of salt worldwide, but inside the Filipino kitchen, the two most popular types are rock salt and table salt.

Rock salt is cheap, easy to find, and natural. What I like about rock salt is its unique straight-from-the-sea flavor. Its coarse texture makes a great salt rub on fish and other meat to remove the unpleasant smell and to enhance the flavor. I prefer using rock salt over table salt when cooking because it makes the food tastes so much better.

Rock salt is not only great for savory dishes; it also perfectly complements the sourness and sweetness of food. That’s why I love sprinkling some on my fruits!

Table salt, on the other hand, is great to be placed on what its name suggests – on the table. I rarely use table salt for cooking because it has a stronger salty flavor which I personally find difficult to measure. Also, I find the flavor unnatural because it underwent certain chemical processes, especially if it contains enhancers, such as iodine, as an additional nutritional supplement. But just to give you an idea (in case you run out of rock salt), to substitute one for the other, my estimated ratio is 1 measure of rock salt to ¼ measure of table salt.

2. Pepper

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Pepper is the perpetual partner of salt. Although salt and pepper are not distinctively Filipino, these two seasonings will always be the most popular food enhancers in our kitchen, pepper being the top among the spices. It simply heightens the flavor of your food to a new level.

Like salt, there are various kinds of pepper, although in the country, black pepper is the most commonly used. What I would like to focus on is pepper’s different types of texture and their uses. We have three: whole peppercorns, coarsely ground, and fine ground.

Peppercorns are whole dried seeds of the black pepper plant. In Filipino dishes, peppercorns are typically used in cooking Adobo, Paksiw, and Nilaga.

Coarsely or roughly ground pepper is great for general cooking usage. I use this as a rub when marinating various types of meat. Its rough texture is effective in bringing out the natural flavor of the food.

Fine ground pepper is perfect as a table condiment to conveniently adjust the flavor of the food to your satisfaction.

Pound peppercorns with mortar and pestle or grind it with a pepper mill to produce fresh ground pepper at home. Take control of the fineness  depending on your needs. Better yet, bring home some bottles of McCormick Black or White Pepper for a hassle-free cooking. Now, it’s easier for you to achieve that special Pinoy flavor sans the tedious grinding and pounding.

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