Summer always begins with the best of culinary intentions: This summer, you think, we will eat healthfully, we’ll eat local, we’ll shop at green markets and farm stands—hell, we are going to pick our own berries! Those whose organization matches their ambition will be showing up to the block party with the perfect blueberry crumble, whipping up a sweet corn and heirloom tomato salad with the most delicate of cilantro-lemon vinaigrettes. The rest of us are feasting on tuna sandwiches and Popsicles while enough fresh produce to feed a small country rots accusingly in the crisper.
This year, determined to do things differently, I went in search of ways to make preparing all those irresistible yet labor-intensive fruits and vegetables of summer easier. I wanted to buy a whole watermelon and not weep when faced with the prospect of cutting it. I wanted to invite you over for a delightful fruit salad I just whipped up with little fuss. I wanted to make corn on the cob for 10 and not spend an entire Saturday shucking it. Let us agree we will not allow one more produce haul to turn to compost in the fridge. What follows is a series of hacks and tips and cheats I plan to employ this summer that I suggest you do too. Potluck in August? Perfect. I’ll bring dessert.
1. Shuck Corn Like a Pro
I cannot believe I ever spent an hour picking the silk threads from a corn cob. That I sat outside, leaning over a paper bag, peeling the husk leaf by leaf. The dreaded task of corn shucking is now a two-step miracle. Get ready to have your mind totally blown.
2. Get the Corn Off the Cob
Now that you’ve shucked it, maybe you’ve decided you’re going to go the extra mile and make a corn salad. A summer succotash, perhaps? Then you’re going to need to get the corn off the cob, which as everyone knows is a task that will leave kernels clinging to every available surface, right? No longer! All you need is a bundt pan and a bread knife.
3. Remove the Skin From an Avocado
Of course you know that to get the pit out, you smack it with a sharp knife and twist. But did you know you can get the avocado out of the skin without scraping it with a spoon and losing half of it in the process? P.S. It’s good fat.
4. Peel a Mango in Under 10 Seconds
OK, you can use the same glass trick for MANGOS. Mangos! I hate them! Too stringy, too much pit for too little fruit! But most people love them, and I could maybe come around with this killer trick.
5. Store a Cut Avocado
© The Blonde Pantry
That extra half of an avocado is going to turn brown before you even get it into the fridge. Some swear by brushing the half with the pit in olive oil or lemon juice, but I like this low-rent method: cover it with a wet paper towel and wrap in foil. Keeps it from turning for a few days at least. Although, why you have any leftover avocado is a mystery to me. Did you only want a tiny bit of guacamole?
6. Core a Strawberry
You have absolutely no excuse for not making fruit salad now. Insanely fast crème fraîche recipe here.
7. Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Who said anything about fruit salad? Ice cube tray, berries, melted chocolate, freeze. It’s easier than making your own Popsicles, and approximately 100 times more delicious (unless you make Oreo Nutella ones).
8. Pit a Cherry
© The Kitchn
No one needs to own a cherry pitter. If you have an icing tip for one of those pastry bags, just smash the cherry on top of it and bam, instant pitlessness. I say this as someone who has been known to cut a cherry in half and dig out the pit with the tip of the knife, leaving my hands and kitchen looking like a murder scene. P.S. I bet this would work for olives. I usually smack my Kalamatas with the side of a knife to get the pits out, but I am going to try this method.
9. Cube a Watermelon
Quarter it, slash it, slash it again. Scrape. Be careful with the knife. Don’t do it as fast as this video or you’ll lose a digit.
10. Slice a Watermelon
Cut it in half, slice it like a cucumber, cut the slices in half. Do people know how to do this already? Whenever I’m served watermelon, I think oh, what a tasty and easy summer snack. Whenever I think about serving watermelon myself, I am paralyzed with terror. This video actually makes it look very easy. The key is that giant sharp knife. Of course there are watermelon slicers in the world, but I am barely strong enough to use an apple slicer, so I’m skeptical.
11. Clean Fruit and Veggies
They sell veggie wash in a bottle, which seems like a ripoff. Two parts water, one part apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. Wash it off when you’re done. For stubbornly dirty produce, create a soak with the same ratio.
12. Make Lazy-Girl Pickles
Extra cucumber slices? Drop them in a leftover jar of pickle brine and stow them in the fridge before they get all mushy mealy and you try to convince yourself they’re still edible by cutting off the soft parts.
13. Cut a Lot of Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
I am so lazy I will just throw whole grape tomatoes into the salad rather than cut them. But the whole point of a tomato in a salad is that the fleshy part absorbs the dressing, so whole tomatoes are kind of defeating the purpose. This technique is genius. I once sliced four of those pints of Sunburst tomatoes in about five minutes.
14. Infuse Water on Demand
My hydration challengers have been adding fresh produce to their water all week! And at the end of the week, my basil and mint start to look pretty sad 😕 BUT I never throw them out! I chop them all up and throw ’em into an ice cube tray. Now I have a quick way to infuse my water all weekend 👍😊💦
A photo posted by Jenny Long-Innes (@jlonginnesfitness) on
Chop up your mint, chop up your citrus, toss them in an ice cube tray, add water. This is good for the person who loves to make mint-infused water but can’t get through an entire bunch of mint before it starts to wilt.
15. Get Instant Fresh Lemon Juice Without Seeds
Fresh lemon juice is not hard to come by with a reamer or juicer that catches the seeds. But if you just want a little lemon juice for a salad or your water or an enemy’s wound (just kidding!), roll the lemon on the counter to get the juices flowing, stab some slits into one end, and squeeze. The slits are big enough to let the juice out, but too small for the seeds to slip through. This is the kind of party trick that gets people invited back to the next cocktail party. You’re welcome.
16. Revive Wilting Lettuce
Give your lettuce a bath! Five minutes in cold water and those sad baby greens are back in business.
17. Cut a Bell Pepper
Another vegetable I’ve been known to let rot rather than try to core and de-seed. Now, I’m on it in one fell swoop. This is so cool it reminds me of those people who can whittle zoo animals out of a bar of soap. That’s my next project.
18. Easily Access Pomegranate Seeds
© Women’s Health
There’s a vegetable stand in my neighborhood that sells pomegranate seeds, and I admit I buy them sometimes because I am incapable of excavating the seeds myself without incident. Here’s a simple way to get the seeds out that I should have thought of, but I’m too busy doing everything the hard way.
19. Take a Load Off
© pepper.ph via Buzzfeed
You’ve worked hard. One final hack.