I often remind my electronics-appreciating husband that I’m not a gadget person. Strategically stated, as he’s poised on the brink of another early-adoptive purchase. If I’m not careful, there’ll be a brown shipping box waiting on the doorstep in short order. It’s true, I’m not much into TVs or iPads, but I do confess to adoring a toy or two of another sort. The kitchen variety. My toys, by contrast, are rather ordinary, low-tech — even ancient in design. The favorites fit in a single drawer with room to spare (though the second and third string require more space). I justify my indulgence by pointing out the food they enable. And the strategy works. Every time. After all, a TV only whets the appetite, while a kitchen tool delivers.
Here’s a run-down of my friends in the drawer (pictured above). I’ll never willingly tackle a nightly meal without these able assistants:
• Global Knives — lightweight and easy care in the dishwasher. Keep a sharpener nearby too.
• Handheld immersion blender — quick cleanup (with removable blade stem) and no-fuss puréeing of soups, sauces and dips right in the pot or bowl. Mine has a mini food processor attachment just right for pesto and hummus.
• Microplane grater — the best tool for zesting citrus and grating hard cheeses like Parmesan into feathery shreds.
• Mortar and pestle — an ancient tool, as useful today as it was a thousand years back. Perfect for coarse spice grinding. Or mixing up a rustic herb and garlic pesto. Even guacamole (in a jumbo-sized molcajete).
• Bench scraper — land chopped vegetables tidily into the pot. Rather than here and there, along the way.
• Heavy, end-grain cutting board — the end-grain orientation is easy on knives. The weight provides a sturdy cutting surface without warping. Plus it rests with beauty on a counter.
The next tier, I’d barely survive without:
• Enameled cast-iron Dutch oven — this heavy-duty workhorse simmers soups and sauces evenly — without scorching. I’ll hand this indestructible classic down to my kids.
• Cast-iron griddle — when seasoned properly, this non-stick wonder cooks everything from pancakes to tortillas or pupusas, Indian paper-thin dosas to charred peppers for salsa.
• Coffee grinder reserved for spices — grind what you need, as you go. Concoct your own spice blends. Freshly ground spices will astound your senses. Toss out the old, tired, nothing-tasting pre-ground stuff.
• Food processor — biscuit dough, hummus, pesto, ground nuts, smooth soups and sauces — all with ease.
• Electronic scale — used nearly every day. The most precise way to measure flour for baking (well, really anything).
Here are the nice-to-haves; they’re slightly more indulgent, but, oh — so wonderful:
• KitchenAid stand mixer — a back-saver for mixing bread and pizza dough. Add attachments for fresh pasta noodles. A small price to pay for years and years of weekend family-cooking fun. Admittedly it needs a large space for parking.
• Cast-iron grill pan — indoor grilling on the stove — in any weather.
• Electric ice cream maker — homemade ice cream on demand. Need I say more?
• Ceramic pizza stone — the crispiest crust is yours. Ours is small enough to tuck away amidst the baking sheets.
Recipes for the Week:
Quick Tips for this Week’s Freshness Farms Bounty:
Hull and halve strawberries. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, raw sugar (such as turbinado) and black pepper. Stir gently and set aside for half an hour. Serve over vanilla ice cream.
Make a fresh spinach salad with strawberry halves, shaved onion and balsamic vinaigrette. Toss and top with candied walnuts from Trader Joe’s, and crumbled feta.
Cook French green lentils until tender. Drain and cool. Toss with a dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and pressed garlic. Toss with the lentils plus some lemon zest, shredded raw carrots and beets, chopped spinach and parsley, sliced celery, salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of lettuce with shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.