Today's guest blogger is Marie Simmons whose latest book Things Cooks Love, written in conjunction with Sur La Table, was nominated for an IACP cookbook award in the General category.
Things Cooks Love presents recipes for using a range of cooking tools, pans, and other foodie equipment. While introducing these tools, Marie embarks on a global culinary adventure introducing recipes and techniques from cuisines throughout the world; some of which will be new to even the most seasoned of foodies.
We asked Marie to share with us her five favorite kitchen tools. Her choices provide an interesting glimpse into Marie's kitchen and food life. Marie has also provided some wonderful tips for using her favorite tools and at the end of her blog you'll find her recipe for "Miniature Zucchini Pancakes with Asian Dipping Sauce" from Things Cooks Love that uses one her favorite tools...
My Five Favorite Kitchen Tools
At first I thought I didn't have many "favorite" kitchen tools. After all hadn't I shunned the corn scraper and the avocado slicer? But when I sat down to write this blog, my list of favorite tools, much to my surprise, kept growing. With a lot of decision making angst here are five of my favorites.
We use our brightly colored yellow hinged handheld citrus juicer so often it rarely gets put in a drawer. My husband, John, is so partial to fresh Meyer lemonade- made from lemons off a neighbor's bountiful tree-that he has in fact logged in more hours with his hands wrapped around its now worn yellow handles than me. For those of you who have seen this handy tool but have never used one you place the cut side of the lemon in the curved well (the side with the perforations) so that when the two hinged handles are drawn together the ridged cone presses against the skin and turns the lemon half inside out pressing out the juice. The added bonus is that in the process of juicing some of the flavorful citrus oils in the skin are released adding a welcome hint of citrus essence.
Rasp Grater or Microplane®
I use my rasp grater as much for fresh ginger and cheese as for lemon and orange zest. The perforations can be razor sharp-especially on a recently purchased model-so I have to constantly remind myself to proceed with caution. There are many sizes from which to choose. My favorite is the long narrow curved metal grater with fine perforations and a cushy comfortable handle that I use mostly for citrus zest, fresh ginger and garlic. (It sure beats fine chopping!) A larger model with medium perforations is used to grate hard cheese, and when thin shreds are needed, for carrots and zucchini. The zester with the widest perforations is useful for "grated tomato" for bruschetta, cabbage for slaw, wide shreds of carrot and zucchini, and mozzarella for pizza. I notice there is now a box grater with different rasp-like perforations on each of the four sides. Now there is a tool I don't have. But, it's on my wish list.
Immersion or Wand Hand Blender
How did I ever made soup, or puree anything, without my immersion blender? The immersion blender is one of the most liberating tools in my kitchen. I truly love it. It's a long narrow rod with sharp rotary blades powered by electricity that yields perfectly smooth purees right in a cooking pot or a bowl. No more pouring back and forth, risking spills, dealing with messy work bowls or blender jars. It is a breeze to puree right in the cooking pot or mixing bowl. These days I use it more often than my stand blender or food processor for all the likely tasks like pureeing soup, berry sauces, or smooth dips.
Mortar and Pestle
For years my handsome mortar and pestle sat on a shelf in the kitchen where it held the odd cork or paper clip, but mostly it collected dust. Not anymore. Thanks to the research I did while writing my latest cookbook, Sur La Table's Things Cooks Love, my mortar and pestle has become a workhorse in my kitchen. My new favorite technique for making salad dressing is to mash the garlic with a generous pinch of coarse salt, stir in a bit of mustard and the vinegar with the pestle and slowly add the olive oil, stirring and pounding with the pestle until the dressing emulsifies. I also use it to mash avocado into guacamole, tomatoes into salsa, and of course I use it for making pesto, the best I've ever tasted. On a day to day basis I use it most frequently to reduce garlic to a pulp (I usually add a pinch of coarse salt, too) whenever a recipe calls for a clove of finely chopped garlic. I've found pounding garlic in a mortar and pestle is a lot more fun than chopping.
My original food mill was a Valentine's gift from my then new husband. We had only been married a few months, but it was his way of encouraging me to make tomato sauce like my mother's. My mother used it to puree her home canned plum tomatoes so there wouldn't be any tomato seeds, errant tomato skins, or chunks of pulp in her silken sauce. I used that food mill for decades and in fact only recently replaced it. The reason I like the food mill is that it purees and strains simultaneously. I also use it for applesauce thereby avoiding the time consuming task of peeling and carefully coring the apples. I like it for both sweet and Idaho "mashed" potatoes and for pureeing soups when I think the immersion blender isn't the best choice.
Miniature Zucchini Pancakes with Asian Dipping Sauce
From Things Cooks Love by Sur La Table with Marie Simmons/Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008
Prep 25 min | cook time 20 min | serves 4
Serve these tiny pancakes for a snack or hors d'oeuvre during the summer when zucchini are abundant at farmers' markets. They are delicious with a chilled glass of pinot gris or other crisp white wine. Use the wide (¼ inch) shredding blade on a box or flat grater for the zucchini-they are soft and shred quickly and easily-and carrot, and a rasp grater for the onion, garlic, and ginger.
Small Bowl, Spiral or Flat Whisk, Grater with Wide Shredding Blade, Rasp Grater, Large Bowl, Rubber Spatula , Rimmed Sheet Pan, Wire Rack, 10-inch Cast-Iron or Other Heavy Skillet (Not Nonstick), Slotted Spoon or Spatula, Wire Rack
Asian Dipping Sauce
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced jalapeño or serrano chile
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 3 small zucchini
- 1 large carrot, peeled
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 1-inch wedge yellow onion
- ¼ cup cracker meal or matzo meal
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- Canola or other flavorless vegetable oil, for frying
1. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, water, fish sauce, sugar, chile, and garlic. Whisk to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before serving.
2. Make the pancakes: Trim the stem and blossom ends from the zucchini. Working over a large bowl, rub the cut end of the zucchini over the wide shredding blade on a box or flat grater. You should have about 2 cups. Repeat with the carrot. You should have about ½ cup. Grate enough ginger on a rasp grater to yield about 2 tablespoons. Then grate the onion on a rasp grater to yield about 1 tablespoon. Add the ginger and onion to the zucchini, along with the cracker meal and cilantro.
3. Add the eggs and salt to the zucchini and stir with a rubber spatula until well blended. Let stand for 10 minutes.
4. Place a wire rack on a rimmed sheet pan. Add oil to a depth of ½ inch to a 10-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Heat over medium heat until a small crust of bread dropped into the hot oil lightly browns on contact. Drop rounded tablespoons of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil, forming pancakes about 1½ inches in diameter and being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once with a slotted spoon or spatula and adjusting the heat between medium and medium-low as needed to keep the pancakes gently sizzling, for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the pancakes to the rack. Repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture in 2 or 3 more batches. (The pancakes can be cooled completely, arranged in a single layer in a resealable plastic freezer bag, and frozen for up to six weeks. To serve, transfer while still frozen to a rimmed sheet pan and place in a preheated 300°F oven for about 20 minutes, or until sizzling.)
5. Serve the pancakes while they are warm, and accompany them with the dipping sauce.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.