One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year, for me, was shopping for school supplies – clean spiral notebooks, colorful folders and florescent highlighters. Sometimes there were even specialty items on a teacher’s list such as a protractor and compass.
This September, while students are shopping for back to school supplies, you should consider investing in some new kitchen supplies. Below is a list of gadgets and electronics that I use on a regular basis. They would make worthwhile additions to your kitchen cabinets and drawers.
- Ice Cream/Sorbet Maker – I recommend the Cuisinart ice cream maker that comes with an extra freezer bowl. When I conduct a cooking lesson or host a dinner party, an ice cream, gelato or sorbet is likely to be on the menu, whether as a dessert or a palate cleanser. This is the most expensive item on the list, running about $70, but it is well worth the variety of frozen treats that it will generate.
- Microplane Zester/Grater – This is a versatile tool that serves two main purposes in my kitchen. One is to zest lemons, which involves removing the outermost rind of the fruit for use in baking or seasoning. One of my favorite recipes calling for lemon zest is for the famous French tea cakes – Madeleines. The other function of this tool is to grate cheese, such as Locatelli or Parmesan, over pasta or into a meatball mix.
- Tapered French Rolling Pin – This type of rolling pin has no handles; rather, it is a solid piece of wood that is tapered at the ends. These pins are narrower and lighter than the more common roller rolling pins. As a result of their distinct shape, these pins are easy to maneuver to round your pastry and to lay the pastry into a tart pan or pie dish.
- Ceramic Quiche Dish – This is a shallow dish traditionally used by the French to make quiche; however, I typically use it for tarts, both savory – tomato or mushroom – and sweet – pear or apricot. I also use this dish to make flan, my favorite Spanish dessert, as it distributes the heat to the custard more evenly than any other baking dish.
- Nested Glass Bowl Set – My stackable glass bowl set is from Williams Sonoma and contains ten bowls. The larger ones are perfect for mixing batters and dough while the smaller ones are ideal for separating eggs and collecting ingredients to assemble into the larger bowls. I also enjoy using my set of brightly colored vintage Pyrex nesting bowls, which my husband Vincent gave me, and my retro “Cinderella” nesting bowls which have a pouring spout on one side and a handle on the other. The latter are the most useful for beating eggs and then pouring them into your batter of choice.
- Stainless Steel Strainer – The scoop on this strainer has a five inch diameter (although you could find larger ones) and has a bamboo handle. It is perfect for scooping foods from boiling water or hot oil. I use it most frequently to scoop gnocchi from boiling water as they float to the top and then transfer the gnocchi to whatever sauce is waiting for them in the pan on the neighboring burner – usually butter sage sauce or marinara.
- Salt Keeper – These containers are wood with a swivel top or ceramic with an open side. Using one of these vessels to store salt permits this favorite mineral to remain in easy reach on the counter at all times. As I cook, I am constantly reaching into my wood salt keeper for a pinch to add to a recipe.
- Wood Grilling Planks – These planks are made of maple, cedar or alder and add an interesting twist to grilling fish. Soak the plank in water and then place your fish, along with lemon, extra virgin olive oil and herbs on top of the wood. I prefer to enclose the plank and fish in aluminum foil to prevent drying, although you could put the wood directly on the grill. These planks keep the fish moist and add a unique smoky flavor.
- Tomato Knife – This knife has a serrated edge enabling you to slice through the tomato without “smushing” the tomato or indenting the skin without actually cutting through it. The blade also permits you to make very thin slices, an effect that regular knifes will not accomplish.
Happy shopping…and cooking!
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2013. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.