These are a few of my Favorite Things

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.

 
 
 
 
For new recipes & inspirations

Your Comments


Tana
July 19, 2005

Beautiful, Heidi. I do so enjoy your blog (and all the traffic you send my way!).

I think I've mentioned that the Patricia Wells trattoria cookbook is one of my very favorites, too. Have you tried the lemon risotto in it? What about the lemon cream pasta? Are we detecting a theme here? (I love that book.)

That reminds me, I have a Southwestern cookbook from the Cafe Terra Cotta in Tucson. There's a recipe for garlic custards with a hazelnut/vinaigrette topping that I bet would flip your skirt way high. I'll send it along if you like. (Darn, no HTML, so I can't link to the book. And I won't wreck your pretty page by pasting a whole hideous link in here. The author is Donna Nordin, if that helps.)

Ciao for now!

 

Amy
July 19, 2005

Great post! I am crazy about the duckies and I can't believe you got one of those crepe makers. How indulgent! I'm sticking with my Calphalon non-stick crepe pan until further notice.

 

Anonymous
July 19, 2005

must have ducks

 

bea
July 19, 2005

Your grandmother is the best! I love love love the ducks!

 

Steve
July 19, 2005

The ducks are great!!!!

I'm wrestling with the non-stick issue myself... It seems a lot of the Cook's Illustrated dishes call for non-stick. Any observations?

I will keep the non-stick crepe pan however.

 

joaquin
July 19, 2005

I'm glad that I've procured my Salton Yogurt maker and am pensively crafting the sales pitch I'll give my boyfriend for the hand blender.

P.S. I am selfishly happy to know I'm not the only one who has tragedy in the kitchen, though I'm sure mine is far more frequent and tragic! ;)

 

Judy
July 19, 2005

Heidi, I revel in your joy of discovery and utility. We live 3 blocks from the Alemany farmers (sat)/flea (sun) market -- far too close to be frugal!

 

keiko
July 19, 2005

Hi Heidi - all of the things look lovely, I'm a big fan of the Braun hand blender too - I fell in love with the ducks, how sweet (and beautifully photographed)!

 

jillian
July 19, 2005

I LOVE the duckies! ;-)

 

Fatemeh
July 19, 2005

Amy -

What a great list.

I have to admit, I'd never even CONSIDERED making risotto in my Le Creuset, but what a fabulous choice.

I'm doing this TOMORROW I tell you!

 

Min
July 19, 2005

Heidi,

Love your site. The photos are beautiful!

If you are looking for Le Creuset at a good price check out this site: http://www.caplanduval2000.com/index.html

Has some great stuff!

 

Shuna
July 19, 2005

when I die I want to go to the big kitchen in the sky and have a set of those ducks myself. I am envious of all the beutiful things, but mostly how they are so incredibly photographed!
please remind me to grill you about your camera when I meet you.
I am a really big fan of enamel cast iron, especially pretty colors, but I buy them all second hand.
gorgeous post, delicious visual food!

 

Joshua
July 19, 2005

I love the duckling cups.....so lovely....your grandmother is so lovely.....can I know where to get those cups???? God bless you

 

FaustianBargain
July 20, 2005

The ducklings, definitely.

Actually, I'd like to hear about the rice flour shortbread recipe. Figuring out cookie deaths is like culinary forensics.

 

plum
July 20, 2005

Heidi, before the picture loaded, I was thinking "duck measuring cups??" and then I saw them and ooooohhhhhhhh ....

They are unbelievably gorgeous. I'm sure you will treasure them for a lifetime, both for the joy of the heirloom and the cuteness that they simply are.

Adorable!!

 

Frederic
July 20, 2005

Nice stuff! Just found out you've been tagged for various memes - and came over to look for your answers. Why don't you participate (or did I miss your entries)? I would love to read your answers, and I guess other readers, too?

 

Heidi
July 20, 2005

Hi Frederic,
So I was just talking with Shuna about this yesterday. One of the reasons I don't normally participate with the memes (and some of the other stuff as well) is because I am for the most part trying to stick with the format/premise of my site - one recipe a post. I have a backlog of recipes, themes, and ideas that I want to explore - and not as much time as I would like to cover that ground as it is.

I think I cover much of the subject matter that I've see in different memes throughout the course of my day to day posts - just not in such a direct format (q+a)...

Hope this answers your question. -h

 

Molly
July 20, 2005

My yogurt maker is also one of my favorite kitchen possessions (also a Salton YM9). You're post on yogurt making was wonderfully thorough and very helpful - Thanks!

And now I'm pining after a crepe maker...

-Molly

 

RisaG
July 20, 2005

I also have quite a few favorite kitchen items - my Fiestaware - old and new; my Pampered Chef Hold n' Slice and their Deluxe Cheese Grater; my microplane mainly for parmesan (the PC Cheese Grater is terrific but the microplane makes it even finer); my Le Creuset 1-1/2 qt that I bought for $4 at the flea market; my cast iron pans; my tongs; AND my bread machine. All are favorites that are used almost daily as are the Pampered Chef Hand Chopper (best one on the market in my opinion) and my small Cuisinart Food Processor that I got 16 years ago for my wedding.

I find baking almost impossible in summertime - either you need to add more flour or more liquid to make a decent dough. I always burn white chocolate when I try to melt in the microwave (did that the other day to drizzle some over scones and it burned horribly).

I agree that baking in the Summer is the worst. Why do we continue to try and do it (as we speak I have pizza dough in the ABM)?

I'm glad you have dilemmas in the kitchen too that are just too horrible to let us see!

I love your little measuring cups from your grandma. I have some too but not like those - my grandma had the original cups she brought from U.S.S.R. - tin cups! I also have her measuring spoons. They are wonderful to look at even if they are plain.

Loved the post this time.

RisaG

 

jerry jeff
July 20, 2005

Am I the only blog reader that doesn't enjoy "memes"? First of all - they are not "memes." They are closer to those quizzes every Live Journaler does - "Which character in the Matrix are you?" "What is your sexy score?"

We called them "slam books" in Kentucky back when I was growing up. One girl would create a list of questions and pass them around, mostly about who the cutest boys were. What is "tagging"? Is that like sending somebody a chain letter? I'd rather read what somebody decided to write on their own, their own original ideas, rather than a questionnaire they were pressured to answer.

 

judy
July 20, 2005

I too love my Le Creuset pieces and thanks to a generous mother in law, I have several.. I particularly like my 8 1/2 quart dutch oven--I use it for stews, soups and best of all, it makes awesome polenta.

 

Bev
July 21, 2005

Lov your duck measuring cups. I'm probably almost as old as your grandmother (!) and I have duck measuring spoons that I have had for probably 25 years that seem to match! Luv them probably as much as you do yours as I have moved them everywhere...am new to your site but am enjoying it....

 

Brandon
July 21, 2005

I love the ducks too . . . now about that braun hand blender. How do you keep that thing from splattering everywhere? I have one too and after being scalded by soup, I've more or less given up on it. Everything seems to splat out of the top of the container when I use it.

 

Heidi
July 21, 2005

Hi Brandon.

Yeah, I've had the occasional splatter, but nothing too bad. I make sure to keep the blender perpendicular to the bottom of the pot/container at all times - avoid the tilt.

You need enough food to cover the bottom part of the blender as well- I shoot for an inch or two. I guess what I'm trying to say is - don't try to do small amount - or if you do, use a smaller container.

 

maygan
July 21, 2005

i love to cook and im only 12 i started cooking when i was 8 or 9 and my favorite dish is called the king ranch salad and my mom and my mimi are the best cooks i know of.

 

vici
July 21, 2005

Enjoyed your post very much. I do become disheartened after several cooking disappointments in a row; nice to know I'm not alone.
About your favorite things...no mention of those white, square-ish bowls viewed in many of your lovely (inspiring) photos. Where did you get them?

 

Heidi
July 21, 2005

Vici - I think you are probably referring to the modern looking ones I sometimes use for little soups and the like. There are four of those bowls, each about a cup in size, and each with a different color interior. If I remember correctly I got them at the SFMoMA store? They always have cute dish + espresso sets there.

-h

 

Pamela
July 21, 2005

I have been digging your blog for some time now. I love you life and do wish I had one like it... Someday!

A question: which farmer's market has the Swedish housewares of your friend? I'm interested!

 

purple_kangaroo
July 21, 2005

This post was an enjoyable read. I love the duck measuring cups.

I had a "duh" moment reading your crepe clean-up tip. Why didn't I think of putting aluminum foil under the waffle baker long before now?

 

jillian
July 22, 2005

Have you applied to be on KQED yet? ;-)

http://www.kqed.org/checkplease/

 

vici
July 22, 2005

Thanks for the info on the bowls, Heidi. I'll be in downtown San Francisco in a couple weeks, so very timely...vici

 

Nicky
July 24, 2005

Heidi - your kitchen appliances are so cute :) I've been a flea market addict for ages, the funny thing is, I treasure great finds even more than new bought things!

About the bowls (your answer to Vici) - they look like "Abra Cadabra" from Kahla (German porcelain manufacturer). These bowls have become quite famous here in Germany, even received international design awards , available in various wonderful colors...

http://www.kahlaporzellan.com/en/vorschau/abra.htm

 

deccanheffalump
July 24, 2005

Add another fan to the ducky measuring cups fan club . Irresistable.

 

Jan
July 24, 2005

Heidi... try Le Creuset's 7 1/2 qt. La Marmite or Bouillabaisse oven instead of the Round French oven. The bottom is rounded which helps to cooks down the large amount of ingredients. You'll need an ironman to lift it once filled! The 3 1/2 qt Buffet Casserole is my fav, very versatile. Jan-STL

 

erin
July 25, 2005

Re: Braun hand blender - don't try to lift it out of the liquid while it is still running! For extra security, I think Alton Brown turned a frisbee into a guard for his on one episode. You could probably do the same with a paper/foam plate - cut a notch to the center, then a hole to fit around the blender. Slide the plate down the blender to the rim of the pot and blend away!

 

fanny
July 25, 2005

I definitly love your mesuring cups, mine (though i love them too) are made in white plastic; see the difference?
I wish i could have ones like yours.
xoxo
Fanny

 

gretchen
July 26, 2005

I would LOVE to get another post with your list of pots and pans. I'm registering for my wedding in March and while I have a good sense of some of what I like, I need further guidance on the non-stick/stick difference, all-clad v. calphalon, etc.

 

heidi
July 26, 2005

Gretchen, you should take a look at the cookingforengineers.com site. Michael just did a cookware write-up. I think he is going to take a look at the non-sticks next.

http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article.php?id=120

 

Katie
July 26, 2005

You mentioned you made a huge batch of pesto. I am on the look out for a good recipe, mine are all quite bland, any ideas?

Thanks