These are a few of my Favorite Things
Sometimes the recipes in my head never quite make it to the table. There are a hundred points along the way where it can all fall apart. And while I would like each of you to think I can knock out a new recipe like it was nothing - the fact of the matter is, I have plenty of missteps. Aim high, fall hard. The list of things that can go wrong is long...Tastes bad. Ugly. Too sweet. Too salty. One too many eggs. Too moist. Too dry. Oven too hot. Oven not hot enough...it goes on and on.
Anyways, I had one of those days yesterday. You know, the kind of day when nothing comes together.....The cookie recipe I was going to share was a bust, unless of course, you are interested in a mushy rice flour shortbread recipe, slathered with a with jam filling (compounding the mushiness), and topped with a lumpy powdered sugar icing coating. No? You sure?
Instead, it seems like an opportune time to shift gears a bit and offer up a short rundown of some of my very favorite kitchen items. There have been many times in the past week or two when I've looked down at the kitchen tool at hand, and exclaimed audibly - I love you. This happens more regularly now, in part because I've pruned the dead wood from my kitchen, and all that remains are my favorite pots, tools, and appliances. The bread machine, no mas.
The following is a sampling of a few of my favorite culinary things - a mix of old and new, gifts, flea market finds, and hand-me-downs.
Duck Family Measuring Cups:
These came from my grandma. It is a mother duck (1 cup), with all the baby ducks (1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup) on her back. My grandma also had a big red apple-shaped cookie jar that would sit on a high countertop in her kitchen. It's a small miracle that it was never accidentally knocked to the floor by grubby little hands reaching up desperately (on tippy-toes) trying to get at the cookies inside.
Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven
I've systematically weeded most of the non-stick pots and pans out of my kitchen. I keep a tiny non-stick omelet pan around for well, omelets - but other than that I've moved on. Why? I'm pretty tough on my cookware - I use it a lot, and it takes a beating. Even if I am on good behavior, over time (lets say within six months or a year), my non-stick pots start flaking little chemical coating bits into the food I'm cooking. I'm not having that. Also, if you've ever left one of these pots on a stove for too long or let them get too hot (no one is perfect) - the fumes that come off of them are outright noxious. There have been a few articles recently that touch on some of the possible hidden dangers of non-stick cookware. Read David Rubien's article, The Sticking Point, from last month's Chronicle, and look into it yourself.
I use my dutch oven almost daily. It is wrist-crackingly heavy, enameled cast iron. It makes a mean risotto. The heat from the burner slowly spreads and warms its way through the thick metal. Gradually and evenly it provides perfect tempered heat. Soups, stews, infusions, preserves - it is my most beloved, all-purpose pot. I have my eye on larger 7 1/4 quart round dutch oven as well, but will have to save my pennies. These pots aren't cheap, but they are pots I will keep for a lifetime. At some point I'll outline my pot set for you if you are curious, I'm pretty much against buying those all-inclusive pot-sets at this point....my Le Creuset aren't as tough to clean as you might think. After the initial heave into the sink, I fill them with water and soak for an hour or two - wipe, rinse, and dry.
Salton YM9 Yogurt Maker:
Well, you've already read about why it has been such a big hit in our house. Unfortunately, after Wayne sparked a Yogurt maker rush over on Amazon it has been on backorder for the past couple weeks.
Flea Market Finds:
All sorts of culinary gems abound at swap meets, yard sales, and flea markets. Old-fashioned cookie cutters, vintage bake ware, jars, jugs, and lots of old champagne buckets. I love to look for old jars. To be frank, I also like fresh, clean, new Mason jars as well. There is nothing like a refrigerator filled with colorful sauces, soups, vinaigrettes, or jewel-colored jelly in uniform Mason jars. One person I know goes to Sweden a couple times a year and brings back vintage Swedish jars, cups, and glassware - she sells at a local monthly market. I recently found this set of four gilded cocktail glasses at a church yard sale ($10), and the above tiny, silver salt and pepper shaker set.
Braun 400 watt Hand Blender
You remember the first time you used a microplane grater - how everything around you seemed to get brighter and happy? Same thing happened to me when I started using the Braun Turbo. I use this hand blender constantly. My old-school countertop blender is now collecting dust - banished to margarita duty just once or twice a year. There is nothing worse than cleaning a standard blender and all its awkward shaped glass and parts - so now I don't have to. This hand blender in particular is great, for other brands, you are on your own. The part that gets dirty easily pops off for a quick wash and rinse. It is extra-strong and efficient (must be the "turbo") - and doesn't have any trouble whatsoever taking down frozen fruit for a smoothie. We knocked off a big batch of pesto last week in ten seconds flat. I used to duck-and-cover when blending hot soups in a blender - that era, over.
Tibos Crepe Maker
The honeymoon with the crepe maker is still going strong. Having friends over for thin-crust pizzas is a distant hazy cornmeal crusted memory at this point. I've had one major "ah-ha" moment since the purchase and it relates to easy clean-up. The key to easy clean-up crepe making is to put a layer of aluminum foil under the crepe maker before starting. It will catch all the spill over. When you are done, whipe down the machine, wad the foil into a little foil ball, and pop it in the trash.