Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kitchen Tools & Tips

As someone who likes to cook & eat, I also enjoy reading about said delights.  And certain things for which I'm always on the lookout, other than delicious recipes, are new kitchen tips & tools. 

So I thought I might share two tools and one tip that I've found especially useful of late, if case you, too, like to read about new tricks in the kitchen.

1) This guy:

If you like to cook/cook a lot and don't have a big momma, enameled, cast iron dutch oven, you're missing out.  I got this as a wedding present.  I'll admit that it sat on our shelf for awhile because I thought, foolishly, "I don't really make that much soup." 

That comment is so silly, because thinking that soup is the only thing you can/will make in this pot is a funny joke.  Ha ha ha.

Because you can make everything in this pot.  Everything.  It's a perfect size (I like it 100x better than our stockpots because it's more wide than it is deep, making it really easy to saute).  But the enameled cast iron is what really does it, because it cooks things beautifully.  Like, the distribution of heat is so even and perfect that cooking is almost foolproof.

Get one of these pots!  Save your money for it, because the cost comes back in how often you'll use it.

2) A microplane zester:

I also got this as a wedding present.  I registered for it because I'd seen it on so many cooking shows, I figured all kitchens needed one.  But even in registering for it, I didn't think it would see all that much use.

But actually, I use it a ton!  It's possibly because I cook a lot of Indian- & Asian-flavored dishes, but I find that at least 3 nights a week, whatever I'm making calls for ginger and/or garlic, and that's where this little beauty is awesome.  I keep the ginger root in the freezer, and when I take it out & peel it, I then "zest" it with this tool; it makes a super fine ginger dust that's a lot more useful than if I were to chop the ginger.  Similarly, I "zest" the garlic with it too, which far surpasses the grated garlic I get if I were using a garlic press, in terms of the final, grated product.

And it's so easy to throw it in the dishwasher (unlike that garlic grater when you have to dig out the remaining garlic skin first).

And finally,

3) The Art of Freezing
I imagine that some of your houses were like mine growing up, that is, you also had two freezers like we did.  That is, my mom had so much frozen food, she needed an additional freezer for storage.

For whatever reason, as a cook myself, I didn't really get that into freezing until recently.  But once I started doing it a lot - I don't know how I ever lived before.

So here's the dilemma: you cook a recipe for you & your husband.  Almost no recipes make two servings, they just aren't like that - so, what do you do?

Well, we used to maybe eat the dish two nights in a row.  Or I'd take it in my lunch for the week.  Or, sadly, it would get thrown out after two days because we didn't want to keep having the same thing.  Now?  We eat the dish one night, freeze it, and then have it anytime in the next few weeks when I don't feel like cooking, or on a Thursday (which is the farthest day from the grocery store, and thus, I don't like to serve meat/fish that might not be awesome after being purchased on Saturday or Sunday).  This is so, so awesome because nothing is going to waste, and I have a couple meals on hand in case something comes up and I don't want to/can't cook.

Even the other day when I made cookies, I froze half of the cookie dough so I could just make a reasonable amount for Jonathan and me without having to bring half to work so we wouldn't gain 5 pounds in cookie.

Do you guys have any good tools or tricks you've been using of late?


Sarah said...

Thanks for the tips. I need a microplane zester, a lot of recipes I make have lemon zest and I end up chopping the skin and it's horrible. My recent tip is serving random meals on a bed of mixed green lettuce. One of my favorite wraps is served that way at a restaurant, but now I started doing it at home. It works wtih enchiladas, any sandwich, fish or chicken, etc. and is easier than making a salad to go with dinner every night.

Claire said...

The microplane is hands down my favorite kitchen tool (and I believe for many others as well: I put lemon zest on just about anything: roasted broccoli (and other roasted veg), crostini, pasta, salad. Everything. I don't often make fish, but I know it would be excellent on that, too. It gives the food a certain, not necessarily lemony, brightness. Give it a try! Also, this isn't a tip really, but I feel I should share with you my love of kale. It's such a sturdy green, and has so much more flavor than spinach. It's excellent in soup, with pasta, or just sauteed plain. My old roommate used to roast it even. Just toss with s/p and a little olive oil. (And don't forget to top with lemon zest when still warm from oven. :))

Amy said...

I like the cooking themed blog posts this week! Maybe these should come out more often?! As my recent egg post acknowledged, I'm not a super cook - but I do really enjoy it and do like reading about new tips and tricks. I also like the LOOK of kitchen gadgets (like your (robin's egg?) blue dutch oven) and the final cooked product. It's fun getting creative in the kitchen then seeing how things turn out!

I am most definitely not a fan of ginger but do like and use garlic a lot, so maybe I'd use the microplane zester for that.

Oh! And about Claire's comment, I got a little flyer at Whole Foods yesterday with the top 10 ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) foods by department and Kale is tied with collard greens and watercress for the highest score (1000 out of 1000) - most others don't even come close! I don't even know if I've ever tried Kale, but maybe it's time!

Happy Friday!

LB said...

Oooh, love your nerdy kale stat, Amy.

Also, Brian is majorly jonesing for a Le Creuset anything really, but I think a dutch oven could be key! (That is LC, right?) Maybe I'll give him that for his birthday and also a zester?! Then he can cook me even more great things...the gift that keeps on giving :)

Amy said...

LB, you know you love me and my stats. ;-)

Also for the (message board) record...I tried a little bit of kale from Whole Foods today, and it wasn't bad!