Save those Parmesan rinds. Don’t throw out the hard rind when you’ve grated the block of Parmesan down to a nubbin. Stick it in a plastic zip-top bag in the freezer. Parmesan rind adds flavor to soups, stews and Italian sauces; simply toss a 2-inch or so piece into the pot as the liquid is simmering, letting all that salty, cheesy goodness infuse; remove before serving.
Freeze fresh ginger. Fresh ginger makes all the difference in recipes, but it’s not something I cook with frequently. So I buy a large piece and keep it in the freezer. To use, remove the ginger from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes (to make it easier to peel). Peel the brown skin off with a sharp paring knife, then grate on a microplane grater. I find it easier to grate frozen ginger.
Preserve summer tomatoes (no canning required). Two options: First, peel whole, ripe tomatoes (see below for an easy way to peel tomatoes), as many as you’d like. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment; place the tomatoes on the sheet (close but not touching). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place the tray in the freezer until the tomatoes are firm. Remove and place in a zip-top plastic bag. Use as you would canned tomatoes, all winter long. Second, dry halved tomatoes overnight in the oven, on its lowest setting. Full instructions for how to make oven-dried tomatoes here.
Peeling tomatoes. If you have a bunch of tomatoes to peel, doing it with a paring knife can be a chore. Instead, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut an X in the blossom end of each tomato and drop them several at a time into the boiling water for about 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Skins will slip off easily.
Removing corn kernels from the cob. Corn kernels tend to skitter across the counter when you’re slicing them off the cob. To make the job easier, stand the cob pointy-end down in a large wooden salad bowl (wood is preferable, but any wide, shallow dish would work), and run the knife downward along the cob, trimming just the kernels. When you’ve removed all the kernels, run the dull edge of the blade along the cob to release the juices into the bowl.
Making a garlic paste. This is an insider-y chef’s technique I learned from my brother, Bill, who is in fact a chef. Place a large clove of garlic on a cutting board; place the flat blade (i.e., the knife is parallel to the board, not sharp edge down) of your large chef’s knife over the clove and rap the knife sharply with your palm to smash the garlic. Remove the papery skin and any green sprout inside. Hold the knife so that the blade is at a 45 degree angle (give or take) to the board; drag the blade across the smashed garlic, pressing down firmly and repeating to create a paste. If your recipe calls for salt, toss a pinch on top of the smashed garlic; the salt’s abrasiveness helps reduce the garlic to a smooth paste. Preparing garlic this way yields more flavor, and makes it easier to incorporate garlic evenly throughout a dish. This is the ideal technique if you’re using garlic in a salad dressing.
Keeping your cutting board in place. If your cutting board tends to wander across the counter as you’re using it, try this: Place a damp paper towel underneath the board. It’ll stay put.