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Looking Back: Food Tips I Learned from my Clients

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Like most bloggers, I’ve always had a day job. And if you’ve followed my posts, you know what it is: doing PR for food clients. It’s a job I’ve loved, that has sustained me over decades.

My client list over the years reads like a supermarket shopping list – agricultural commodity boards like mushrooms, raisins, dried plums walnuts, almonds, strawberries, iceberg lettuce, avocados, limes, papaya, fresh ginger, garlic, turkey, duckling, beef…. And brand accounts like Fleishmann’s Yeast, Spice Islands, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Glad Press ‘n Seal Wrap, Kikkoman, Ghirardelli, Progresso and Kerrygold. I’ve also worked on wines, liqueurs and more.

My news is that I’m closing down that part of my business, serving as a PR representative for food clients, to try my hand at PR consulting. However, I couldn’t leave this business without reflecting on how grateful I am to have had so many good clients whose products I truly embrace. And how lucky I have been that, in the course of promoting these scores of products, I’ve grown all the wiser about food. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned, thanks to the clients I’ve worked with:

  • Mushrooms – store in a paper bag, not plastic, to allow for some air circulation to keep mushrooms fresher longer. As button mushrooms get older, and the gills on the underside of the mushroom caps open, don’t discard them. They’re still good to eat, and in fact, have an earthier, meatier flavor.
  • Iceberg lettuce – to crisp lettuce, whack the head on the counter, core-side down, to dislodge the core. Twist out the core, rinse by running water into the cavity, drain thoroughly and refrigerate. The lettuce will get super-crunchy.
  • California almonds and walnuts – store nuts in the freezer; they’ll keep fresher longer. The flavor and texture of nuts are enhanced by toasting; never skip that step if a recipe calls for it.
  • Kikkoman Soy Sauce – there is a huge difference between the mellow flavor of soy sauce that’s naturally brewed versus the harsh flavor and acrid aroma of ones produced chemically. Check the label to ensure the brand you buy is naturally brewed. High in umami, a little naturally brewed soy sauce can subtly enhance the flavor in everything from tomato sauce dishes to meatloaf.
  • California strawberries – do not rinse them until you are ready to use; strawberries do not ripen after being picked, so look for the reddest, juiciest berries.
  • Hawaiian papaya, avocados and other tree fruits – ripen them in a closed paper bag; to speed up ripening, add a banana or apple, which will give off natural ethylene gas that helps fruits ripen faster.
  • Kerrygold Butter – The kind of butter you use in cooking and baking will make a tangible difference in the end result, especially in baked goods, butter-based spreads and sauces, and compound butters. High-quality butter like Kerrygold, made with milk from grass-fed cows, will produce a better outcome. The best way to test this for yourself is with a comparative tasting against basic supermarket butter.

And through the years, whether working on a food account or heading a national professional test kitchen, I’ve been involved in the creation of many recipes to give consumers new ways to use my clients’ products. Always a collaborative effort, here are some of the recipes I’ve had a hand in, in concepting, testing and/or evaluating.

  • Dried Plum Feta Pick Up Sticks, Drizzled with Honey -- this is a very simple recipe that shows the elegant side of dried plums and how their tangy sweetness pairs well with cheeses.
  • Perfect Mashed Potatoes -- this recipe includes the secret to fluffier mashed potatoes: after draining potatoes, return them to the pot and dry over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes before mashing.
  • Citrus Raisin Salmon -- raisins and salmon may seem like an odd flavor combination, but with the citrus juices and zests, this simple recipe really works.
  • Butter Shortbread Petticoat Tails -- here’s where the brand of butter you use makes a noticeable difference in the outcome of a recipe. When made with Kerrygold, these cookies taste more buttery and have a richer, more appealing golden color. To test for yourself, try making two batches; one with a basic supermarket butter.

Photo courtesy of Kerrygold

Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Our bloggers blog Monday through Friday to give you cooking inspiration. Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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