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Digging out an avocado’s pit with a spoon is a messy proposition, and you’re bound to lose some of the precious meat along the way. To cleanly separate the pit from the good stuff, start by slicing around the pit and through both ends with a chef’s knife. Then, twist the avocado to separate the two halves. Stick the blade of the chef’s knife sharply into the pit. Lift the knife, twisting the blade if necessary, and remove the pit. But don’t pull the pit off the knife with your hands. Instead, use a large wooden spoon to pry the pit safely off the knife.
To cream butter for cookies or cakes, the butter must be brought to room temperature—about 67 degrees—so that it’s malleable but not soft. Don’t hurry this step. Your baked goods will thank you: Cold butter can’t hold as much air as properly softened butter, and the resulting cakes and cookies may be too dense. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer to take the temperature of butter, there are visual clues you can use. First, when you unwrap the butter, the wrapping should have a creamy residue on the inside. If there’s no residue, the butter is probably too cold. Next, the butter should bend with little resistance and without cracking or breaking. And finally, the butter should give slightly when pressed but still hold its shape.
In many recipes, the watery seeds are removed from cucumbers. Here’s an easy way to accomplish this task. Just halve the cucumber (already peeled if desired) lengthwise, then run a small spoon inside each cucumber half to scoop out the seeds and surrounding liquid.
Locating and removing the pinbones from a side of salmon can be tricky. Running your fingers along the flesh is one way to locate them, but this way is even better: Simply invert a mixing bowl on a work surface and drape the salmon over it, flesh-side up. The curve of the bowl forces the pinbones to stick up and out, so they are easier to spot, grasp with pliers, and remove.
Here’s how to trim this odd-looking vegetable’s stalks and remove the tough core from the bulb. First, cut off the stems and feathery fronds. (The fronds can be minced and used for garnishing.) Then trim a thin slice from the base of the bulb and remove any tough or blemished outer layers of the bulb. Cut the bulb in half through the base and use a paring knife to cut out the pyramid-shaped piece of the core in each half. The fennel bulb can now be sliced or chopped as desired.