I have to start off by saying that I am incredibly appreciative for all the encouragement and great feedback I have been receiving since launching this blog! The response has been overwhelming and I am so thankful. I hope that there are lots of people out there making chicken soup and enjoying this week’s recipe.
In addition to posting recipes I plan to also share my thoughts on a food related theme each week. I do hope that people come to the site for the recipes. But I also know that there are literally hundreds of web sites and blogs where you can find recipes. I want this blog to also be a place where I can share some insights as a busy home cook and food enthusiast. Topics will range from food book reviews, to the essentials for your pantry, to cheese.
I actually do not think that kitchen gadgets are needed to be a successful cook. For many years I did not have any gadgets at all and did just fine. That being said I have a few favorites that you will hear me mention often in my recipes. There are two requirements for making this list. First, it has to be inexpensive. Each item I picked was under $50. Second, it has to not take up a lot of space. For someone that loves to cook I have never really had a big and luxurious kitchen. I started cooking in earnest in my first college apartment in Boston. It was a tiny alley kitchen with a junior sized refrigerator and stove. I then moved to New York City where my first kitchen was not much bigger than a postage stamp. Cabinet space was at a premium. Like most students and first time New Yorkers I did not have extra money to invest in fancy kitchen equipment. So, large food processors and Kitchen Aid mixers were just not in the budget nor was there any space for them.
This is a hand held blender that has a long handle and a sharp blade at the bottom. You insert the blender into a liquid mixture, press a button, and it will blend or puree the food in the container it is being prepared. This is a great tool for making smoothies (I have a few great recipes that I will share), pureed soups and sauces. I have seen many recipes where you make a soup and then have to transfer the hot liquid in batches into a food processor or blender in order to puree it. This can be awkward, time consuming, messy and requires a large and/or expensive piece of equipment. There is also another item for you to clean up. The best part of using the immersion blender is that you do not have to transfer your food. You simply stick the blender into the container you are cooking in and blend away. I will often put ingredients for a smoothie or milk shake into a tall glass and use the immersion blender to create the drink in the glass you are serving it in. It is really quick and clean up is a breeze! My only tip is to be sure that your liquid level comes well over the blade so there is no splattering.
I have to say that this is probably the one kitchen gadget that has most impacted my cooking. I love using citrus and was so thrilled when I learned that adding the zest GREATLY enhances the flavor of a recipe. The essential oils actually live in the skin of the fruit. You will see many recipes where I use the zest along with the juice. I also use a lot of ginger in my cooking. I will often peel large knobs of ginger and keep them in the freezer. When it comes time to use it I will pull out my handy microplane and use that to grate the frozen ginger. It is actually grates better frozen.
The microplane design is based on that of a rasp, a woodworking tool. The cutters are very small and sharp. Aside from using it for citrus zest and ginger, it is great for grating garlic, hard cheeses, nutmeg and chocolate.
As I mentioned above I love using citrus juices. Lemon is probably my favorite. The only problem is that I always end up getting seeds into whatever I am making. I then have to fish them out of my dish, and they can be slippery suckers. I am sure many of you can relate. I also have a pet peeve of squeezing a lemon and only getting a drop of juice out of it. My thinking is that if you are going to spend money on the lemon you want to get the most juice out of it as you can.
To use the squeezer you cut the lemon in half. You place the cut side down and SQUEEZE. The seeds stay in the squeezer so there is no fishing tiny lemon seeds out of your recipe. The mechanical force that is used to push down on the lemon gets more juice than the human hand. This is especially great if you are making something requiring the juice of several lemons. I think it is brilliant!
I must admit that I actually did receive a fancy, full sized food processor as a wedding gift. I can also tell you that in the more than seven years I have been married I have only used it twice. I do not have counter space to keep it out; it is big and bulky and tucked far away in a cabinet. I do, however, use my mini food processor all the time. It takes up a small amount of the space and is great for chopping onions extremely fine (a requirement of a few of my recipes), grinding nuts, making small batches of pesto or breadcrumbs. It is also a fraction of the price of the full sized model.
As with everything else on this site, I welcome feedback on my favorite kitchen gadgets. I would also love to hear what your favorite gadgets are! Next week I plan to post on the top six items I believe should be in everyone’s refrigerator. Stay tuned!