Dear Martha: How should I store cut vegetables? Can I wrap them in aluminum foil?
A: I wouldn't store anything directly in aluminum foil. It's corrosive, so not a good saver.
You can still use foil if you line itwith parchment paper and then place the food on the paper before wrapping it. I keep most vegetables on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.
Dear Martha: Two of my favorite glass bowls are stuck together. What's the safest way to pull them apart?
A: If the bowls are made of crystal, it's best to send them to a restoration expert. If they're glass, try pouring cold water into the top bowl and placing the bottom one in warm water. Because glass contracts when cold and expands when warm, the sharp contrast in temperatures should cause the vessels to separate.
If this fails, pour cooking oil between the bowls, and wait five minutes. The oil will act as a lubricant, letting you gently twist the bowls apart.
When storing glass bowls, never stack more than three; the weight can cause them to bond. If the pieces aren't on display, place felt dividers between them.
Dear Martha: Is it better to wash cashmere by hand or take it to a dry cleaner?
A: As a general rule, it's better to wash cashmere by hand, says fabric-care expert Steve Boorstein. That's because the relatively aggressive dry-cleaning process can damage cashmere's delicate fibers, whereas hand-washing actually softens them over time.
There are two exceptions: when the fibers are woven (as with many scarves and throws), or when a garment has an oily stain (such as salad dressing). In these instances, take the item to a trusted dry cleaner and request that the garment be steamed gently, rather than pressed, because the latter process can flatten out the luxurious nap of cashmere.
If the item is hand washable, dissolve a tablespoon of mild soap or laundry detergent in a sink filled with tepid water. Soak it in the solution for five minutes, swishing it around occasionally. (To minimize stretching and pilling, use a mesh bag.) Drain, and rinse item in lukewarm water until the water runs clear. Squeeze it gently, without wringing or twisting (this can alter its shape).
Place it on a dry towel, roll it up, and press it to remove excess water. Lay garment flat on a second clean towel to dry, and reshape if necessary.
Dry the item away from heat sources, and never hang it.
Cashmere will inevitably pill; a depilling sweater comb can safely remove the pulled fibers.
Dear Martha: I love using an old cookbook that belonged to my grandmother, but it's falling apart. How can I preserve it?
A: I know just how you feel. I still have my very first "Joy of Cooking," which was given to me when I was married. I love it. It has all my little notes stuck inside.
Since your grandmother's book is falling apart, the first thing you should do is make a copy of it. You can scan it page by page into a computer, or make copies on a photocopy machine.
Don't forget the cover. That way, you can assemble copies of the book to give as a holiday present to other family members. I'm sure they'll really appreciate it.
If your grandmother slipped notes between the pages, the way I do, be sure to reproduce those as well, so you can bind them together and include them with the gift. *