June 11, 2014 at 10:42 PM
A good chef can aspire to become a great chef, but her task is much easier with the right tools. There are many kitchen gadgets out there, but some tools will definitely make cooking simpler and meals more exciting. As a devoted chef and food enthusiast, I’d like to share the top 5 must-haves in my culinary arsenal:
#5- The bread maker
This machine is bread-making at its easiest. I’ve made a wide variety of breads, ranging from whole-grain white, to cinnamon raisin to sourdough. Most bread machines operate on the same basic principle: the ingredients for the selected recipe go straight into a metal bread pan, and from that point forward, the machine does all of the work! A metal dough hook combines the ingredients and kneads the bread for you, so there is no need for mixing, resting or even baking. When the bread is done, remember to watch out for the kneading hook that’s inside of the loaf. To remove it, insert your finger through the bottom of the cooled bread and pull it out. Although using a bread machine is straight-forward, baking one loaf takes about three hours from start to finish, so advance planning is necessary if you want your bread to be ready in time to serve with your meal. Nothing complements a meal more than bread made from scratch, especially when the baking process is worry-free.
#4- The bench scraper
The bench scraper is easy to use and very handy. It is a simple, two-piece device consisting of a stainless steel dull-edged blade and a plastic scooper. Bench scrapers are used mainly for scooping ingredients that have been chopped or crushed. Often you will see cooks use the side of their knife to transfer ingredients from their cutting boards. This technique can be dangerous, and often, food is dropped in the process. With a bench scraper, chopped food can be scooped up and transferred to the desired location. Bench scrapers also can be used to divide pasta or bread dough. The metal blade has a built-in ruler (usually in inch increments) that lets you measure out dough to a precise size or ensures that you have that perfect ½ inch dice.
#3- The immersion blender
This tool is exactly what it sounds like--a hand-held blender that is immersed into a container holding food (such as fruit, vegetables, etc.) in order to liquefy or puree the ingredients. The immersion blender takes the place of a regular blender, which can be hard to clean. I have made countless fruit smoothies and batches of freshly made hummus using my immersion blender. I would certainly purchase this item for its ease of use and its versatility.
#2- The pasta maker
Simple to use, a pasta maker produces great results in no time. Either pre-made or home-made dough can be used to create freshly made pasta in many shapes and forms. Ravioli, linguini and angel hair are all equally easy to make. Most pasta makers come with three settings: thick for spaghetti or linguini, thin for angel hair, and flat for thinning out the dough. My pasta maker is a stand-alone tool, but some pasta makers are attachments for stand mixers. Eating fresh pasta is a delicious alternative to traditional boxed or other dried pasta.
#1- The microplane
My all-time favorite gadget is the microplane--a hand-held, small metal rod with blades running up the metal. A microplane can be used as a grater or as a zester. Why take out a giant box grater when you can use a small hand grater instead? There’s less clean-up and a whole lot less frustration. In addition to being simple to use, there’s less risk of injury compared with traditional box graters. I use my microplane for grating fresh nutmeg over butternut squash soup or for zesting a lime for crunchy corn and jicama salsa. Finally, because the microplane is so portable, it can be used table side, which adds an elegant touch when serving guests.
All of these gadgets, while not essential, are fun to use and very practical. They are a great addition to any cook’s kitchen.
Emily is a 7th grader at Randolph Middle School. She’s been cooking since age 7, and has participated in numerous cooking courses. She is the founder of ‘Mitzvah Meals from Emily’s Kitchen, a monthly volunteer-based program run out of her synagogue in Morris Plains.
Emily is a 7th grader at Randolph Middle School. She began cooking at around age 7, and since that time has taken numerous cooking courses in New Jersey as well as Vermont. She is the founder of Mitzvah Meals from Emily’s Kitchen, a monthly, volunteer-based program that provides meals to members of her synagogue who are experiencing hardship.
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