Salad spinners-not just for lettuce!

Herbs & spinach clean, dry and ready to make pesto!

Herbs & spinach clean, dry and ready to make pesto!

There are a few tools that I consider indispensable in the kitchen, and a salad spinner is definitely one of them!  It is, of course, the best way to quickly dry lettuce and salad greens for serving or storage; a cardinal rule of green salad preparation is the greens must be cold and dry, and storing greens and lettuces that are wet will cause them to quickly deteriorate. But my trusty salad spinner (this one holds about one gallon of product, a miniature compared to the 5-gallon version that was used at the cafe!) does so much more.  Here are a few new ways to utilize your salad spinner.

Clean and dry mushrooms.  Some mushroom are so dirty that a wipe with a paper towel or brush is simply not enough.  A problem, because mushrooms absorb liquid, making washing them a challenge.  My solution?  Cover the bottom of the spinner's basket with mushrooms, then spray them with water, shaking the basket to get to all sides of the mushrooms, until the dirt is removed.  Place the basket in the spinner and spin until the excess water is removed.  Repeat as needed until all of the mushrooms are clean and dry.  Clean the mushrooms right before using, and do not clean more than will be needed. 

Remove moisture from shredded potatoes.  Latkes and hash browns are family favorites, and frozen shredded potatoes just can't compare to those "made from scratch", which means shredding and removing the liquid before preparing.  I had always used towels to squeeze the potatoes dry after shredding, which is messy, to say the least.  One day I spied my salad spinner on the counter as I was shredding some potatoes and wondered how it would work to spin them instead of squeeze them.  It works!  And, if you want to save the potato water for anything, it is waiting in the spinner.  Who knew?

Herbs for storing.  One of the best practices to keep herbs fresh and dry in the refrigerator is to wash and spin them dry as soon as you get them home from the market.  Trim the stems if you like after removing them from their container, then place them in the salad spinner.  Fill the spinner with cold water to cover by a few inches, and swish and wash them (add produce cleaner to the water if you use it.).  Lift the basket with the herbs from the spinner and empty out the water.  Return the herbs to the spinner and spin until dry.  (I rearrange the herbs once or twice between spins for maximum moisture removal.) Next, I lay out a length of paper towels (about 4 sheets) to spread the herbs out on.  After I spread the herbs evenly over the towels, I place a second length of paper towels over the top of the herbs and then roll up the herbs and paper towels loosely and place in a one-gallon plastic storage or freezer bag.  This works for parsley, cilantro, and similar herbs.  Basil is one herb that should be prepped right before using, without spinning, or it will turn black.  Having herbs clean, dry, and ready to use in the 'fridge is a real time saver!

Seeding tomatoes.  Seeding a few tomatoes is no big deal, but if several pounds are needed, a shortcut is most welcome!  Core, peel (if desired), and dice tomatoes then place them in the spinner and spin until the seeds are freed and removed.  Great when making salsa!

As you can see, a salad spinner is a must have! Check out the link below to purchase one if you don't have one in your kitchen.  It will be indispensable!

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