Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas Shopping For The Cook

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Selling kitchen stuff has been my job for the last 17 Christmas seasons.  I obviously love what I do.  But I also live what I love.  I cook or bake, or both, pretty much every day.  There are many things I use in the kitchen that I believe to be great tools, indispensable in what I like to make.  These have nothing to do with the cookie world, we are talking everyday use...or close!  Most were bought at Williams Sonoma, some are different or no longer available.  I also shop at Crate and Barrel, Sur la Table and Baker's Catalog, etc. so no paid endorsements here.

The Food Lover's Companion is a must have for any foodie.  Really, it is way better than Google when you want to learn about an ingredient or something food related.  It is updated every few years, so if your food lover has a dog eared copy, update it for them.  I have learned a lot from this little book.

I call these tail-gate knives.  They are made by Kuhn Rikon and come in an assortment of colors and blade styles.  Paring, serrated utility, bird's beak, even cleavers.  They are metal blades and are very sharp.  And if you are smart enough to wash and dry and put its little protective sleeve back on, they will stay sharp.  I always travel with one.  They run about $10 and are handy to peel an apple on the go.  Toss one in your tail-gating box or glove compartment and always be ready!

These juicers have changed form many times over the last few years, but it really beats a reamer for juicing a lemon or lime.  They aren't terribly expensive, and I feel like I can really wring out the citrus with it.

I have acquired a lot of cookware over the last 16 years, and this grill pan is my latest.  It is called a Komin and is a light weight cast iron.  I love the thin ridges on it, as I can get great grill marks on my meat and vegetables indoors.  It cleans up like a breeze. Runs about $100.  All my old grill pans are gone!
You will also see 2 measuring containers.  Neither one is from WS, but I use them all the time.  The one on the right is a plunger mechanism, and if you are measuring peanut butter, syrup, Crisco or anything dense it pushes right out.  Comes apart for easy cleaning and has lots of measurement capabilities all around it, including liquid and dry.  Yes, they are different!  The small glass beaker is also for liquids, and when I need 6 Tablespoons of something this is what I use.  I do use this for every cookie recipe I own!  The small wooden spoon is made of olive wood, and is rather flat.  It is for avocados.  Can I get an avocado out of its skin without it?  Yes.  But it is a beautiful piece of wood, was really cheap, and slides that gorgeous green flesh out perfectly every time.  Finally is the Microplane grater.  Do not accept any substitutes.  This is the original which zests citrus in a flash.  I also like the snowy fluffs of parmesan cheese it makes.  And it's made in Arkansas.  USA.

If the cook in your life is buying jarred garlic, please buy them a garlic press.  You will thank me.  Nothing tastes like the real thing.  After you squeeze your garlic, let the press sit on the counter for an hour or so.  The garlic remnants inside will dry up like parchment paper and fall right out.  The wash in soapy water.  Like just about everything on this not put it in the dishwasher.

Inexpensive things I use all the time.  Ramekins.  I have made creme brulee in them once or twice, but I pour hot bacon grease in them and the chill until it is hard and pops out into the trash, I use them for mise en place when I am cooking, I use them to store leftovers, lay out pizza toppings, eat juicy food out of them so it doesn't touch other things on my dinner plate.  These can go in the dishwasher.  Mine are Apilco, French porcelain, and will outlive me.  The blue and red things are the greatest for sealing up bags of powdered sugar and brown sugar.  Spring loaded and easy to use...they come 3 in a set, but buy more.  People steal them.  I am guessing Bed Bath and Beyond for these.  And finally tongs.  Once you use them, you can't live without them!  These have silicone tips so they don't scratch a non stick pan.  You can get them stainless too.  Buy 2 pair.  Trust me.  And they don't have to be expensive.

This photo should go under food gifts, but I have to brag on the BonJour blender.  Battery operated, I use it every day to emulsify my salad dressings.  I also use it to mix up sauces.  It has a home in the top drawer, and I buy batteries in the jumbo pack.  Hands down beats any salad dressing maker out there.
And what to season your life with?  Penzey's of course.  I am a big fan.  The cinnamon is flavorful and they offer many kinds.  The salt free Mural of Flavor, Tuscan Sunset and Sunny Spain are fantastic.  My hubby loves their cinnamon sugar, and the Black and Red Pepper blend is my go to for everything.  Heat and flavor!  If you sign up for the catalog you get coupons to try free jars about 4 times a year!

I have seen both of these tools on lists of ridiculous kitchen gadgets.  But if you eat mangoes or pineapple, they make your life a lot easier.  Both do the job, and for the price, you can't beat them.  The one on the left will core and slice a pineapple like nobodies business.  I don't care how good your knife skills are, it is awesome.  The mango pitter on the right makes a very messy job much easier, and I get so much more mango to use in my salsa.

My favorite knife.  The shape is a Santoku, a flat Asian blade that makes any knife work a breeze.  This particular brand is Shun (pronounced shoon...really), and I love everything about it.  No matter what kind of knife you buy, hold it in your hand, understand how and who is going to sharpen it for you when the time comes and NEVER, EVER, put it in the dishwasher.  Or else.  The cutting boards....4 for $10.  I have gorgeous wood boards I use all the time, but these are great for cleaning meat, chopping juicy pomegranates, stinky onions etc.  They are thin, fit in a drawer on top of other stuff, go on the top rack of the dishwasher.  Sometimes I use them all prepping dinner.  No cross contamination of flavors, meat juices, anything.  Not designed to last forever, but they make easy work of a big chopping job.

Finally, this book.  I have bought a number of them for Christmas gifts, and if you come to visit me, there is a good chance I will take you to Hog and Hominy to eat some of this amazing food.  It is very on trend, and the chefs are honestly 2 of the nicest guys you would ever meet.  I will be giving away a signed copy of their book before Christmas, so stay tuned!!!

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there in the madness, stimulate the economy, SHOP for the food lover in your life!  I'll be the one in the green apron....

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