Stop Spillovers

When the pasta water is about to boil over, don’t just stand by helplessly watching. Lay a wooden spoon across the top of the open pot, allowing yourself the time necessary to lower the flame, reduce the temperature and avoid disaster. Since exposure to steam can warp wood, choose a spoon that’s expendable.

I learned this valuable tip recently while watching a Today Show series called “Kitchen Hacks.” I don’t know the scientific reason that it works, but just a few days later it prevented an awful mess from occurring in my kitchen.

The big pot of beets that I was boiling suddenly threatened to overflow, but lowering the flame and laying a wooden spoon across the pot immediately stalled the eruption. I can’t wait to try this trick with long-cooking oatmeal, which seems to boil over no matter how vigilantly I monitor the heat.

My Rookie Mistake

The spinach gratin recipe I was making recently called for a half cup of grated Parmesan cheese in the mixture and another half cup in the topping. Calculating that a half cup equals four ounces, I purchased two 4-ounce containers of the cheese and added them as instructed, although the amounts somehow seemed a bit overwhelming.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the recipe was calling for four ounces by volume, while the four ounces in the containers were measured by net weight. Luckily, it seems that there can’t be too much cheese, so the gratin still was delicious. But the dish could have been ruined if my mistake had involved an herb, let’s say, or some other potent, but lightweight ingredient.

When I shared my mistake with several friends, I was surprised to learn that they weren’t clear on the measurement distinction. So while I might otherwise have been too embarrassed to admit my error, I swallowed my pride in the hope of sparing you a disaster.

Moveable Feasts

In a matter of an hour’s time today, I read about the idea of progressive dinners on the site of a caterer and heard the idea mentioned on a television talk show. Popular in the 50’s, this idea of moving to a different home for each course seems to be making a comeback.

The progressive dinner sounds like a great entertaining solution for hysterical hostesses and for everyone at this busy time of year. Just keep the food simple. For example, make a batch cocktail rather than offering an open bar or prepare a braised dish, which can be served at room temperature or be rewarmed when it’s your turn.

For more on the subject from New York City caterer Great Performances, go to this link: