Jude's Culinary Journey

Gizmos and gadgets

By JUDE WATERSTON
Posted 2/26/20

I admit I’m drawn to kitchen gadgets. I don’t mean machines like pasta makers, food processors, bread bakers, crock pots and the like. I’m talking about the strange little gizmos …

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Jude's Culinary Journey

Gizmos and gadgets

Posted

I admit I’m drawn to kitchen gadgets. I don’t mean machines like pasta makers, food processors, bread bakers, crock pots and the like. I’m talking about the strange little gizmos that fill three of my kitchen drawers, some of which may not at first glance be recognizable as tools for cooking.

There is the olive pitter (also useful for cherries) that does a clean and swift job of forcing the pit from the fruit. I have a melon baller with a small scoop on one end and a larger one on the other; I have found it useful for seeding cucumbers, as well. I use a rubber-tipped muddler to mash lime wedges and fresh mint when I crave a mojito cocktail and a special grater just for nutmeg when I’m roasting root vegetables or baking pumpkin muffins and want that true spice flavor. There is a long, vintage, metal two-pronged fork with a Bakelite handle that is good for spearing the tiny slippery pickled onions in a jar of French cornichon pickles should I want to add them to tuna fish salad, along with one of the cornichons.

For coring medium to large tomatoes, I have a small serrated-edged tool that also worked wonders when I wanted to scoop out the flesh of cherry tomatoes so that I could stuff them with herbed goat cheese as a novel hors d’oeuvre. A strawberry huller sounds unnecessary, but it works magic snipping that tuft of green atop the berry. And a sturdy tool made solely for zesting citrus peels gives me long perfect strips of rind rather than the mush I get using a micro-plane grater (another indispensable tool), which is best used for hard cheeses, ginger, and garlic.

A wooden-topped mushroom brush that looks like a mushroom is a necessity for cleaning fungi without using water. And a slim off-set spatula is great for frosting a cake or smoothing the surface of gratins or anything gooey or lumpy. Kitchen shears come in handy for clipping off the tips of chicken wings or cutting through lobster shells.

I like my pizza cutter wheel for slicing puff pastry tarts or frittatas into portions. Silicone basting brushes are way better than the paintbrush-like pastry brushes that eventually shed their bristles. And I have wooden toothpicks and skewers in various sizes and thicknesses to do anything from testing the doneness of a baked muffin to grilling kebabs.

I couldn’t live without spatulas or rubber-tipped tongs. A small mesh strainer is perfect for rinsing the salt from a spoonful of tiny capers; Kuhn Rikon’s Swiss Y-shaped vegetable peelers are the best. I have wire whisks, both coated for non-stick surfaces and plain metal, for whipping up vinaigrettes and smooth sauces.

I have to admit there are a few kitchen implements I own and have never used. I am afraid of both the oyster and clam knives that are used for shucking raw mollusks, and I have a mysterious metal citrus juicer that looks like a large corkscrew that I have never attempted to use. And I don’t know how I came to have a long, pointy-tipped wooden-handled zucchini corer from Italy.

Kitchen appliance shops are to me what hardware stores were to my brother. I like to walk the aisles handling the merchandise and buying a thing or two I feel will add to my collection of tools and gadgets at home. One time I eyed a small multi-chopper from Japan. I inspected the photographs on the box, and it appeared that all one had to do was put a handful of fresh herbs or an onion or two into the bowl, screw on the lid, and press down on a pump. No electricity needed. I opened the box and pulled out an instruction sheet, which was absolutely nonsensical with phrases like “the most or less great number of knocks determines the fineness of the cup” and “knocked vigorously on the bud Superior hand opened.” Flummoxed, I returned it to the shelf and left the store. But I’ve wondered since if I should’ve taken a chance on that gizmo. It might’ve been just what I needed to complete my collection.

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese

Makes 24/serves 4

Cherry tomatoes are available year-round in supermarkets, so you don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy these little treats.

24 cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of yellow and red
4 to 6 ounces fresh herbed or plain goat cheese (chevre)
1 to 2 teaspoons milk or heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons very finely chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley (or both)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, break up the goat cheese using a fork. Add a little milk or heavy cream to make the cheese slightly looser. Add chives, salt, pepper, lemon zest (if using) and basil or parsley (or both). Mix gently with a fork to combine.

Using a sharp paring or serrated knife, slice the top off each cherry tomato. Using a small serrated or demitasse spoon, or a small melon baller, scoop out the pulp from each tomato to make a hollow yet sturdy shell. Drain off any juice that accumulates. Using a demitasse spoon, fill each tomato with about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Arrange the filled tomatoes on a platter and serve. If you have a bunch of fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, or basil, it looks attractive to lay the tomatoes atop them on the platter. 

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