Anne Freeze writes today about kitchen gadgets. Here, she uses a wand blender to puree avocado. Also on the cutting board is a microplane grater that can finely grate hard cheeses or garlic cloves and also zest citrus. Her Swing-A-Way jar opener is next to the cutting board. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
March 1, 2017 11:04:22 AM
I began a recent cooking demonstration by showing the group a few of my favorite kitchen helpers. I've never been one for a lot of gadgets suited for just one job, although I will say that I've hung on to my mother's bean stringer/slicer. It's a little thing, about 4 or 5 inches long with an oval opening over four small blades. You pull a string bean through the hole and blades and it strings the sides of the bean and slices it into three or four long thin slices, a la Frenched beans. The process is quick, but it is one bean at a time, so it isn't practical for a large group. She would use it to make a wonderful salad of marinated beans, served in a tomato in the summer or on lettuce in other seasons, topped with curry mayonnaise, crumbled bacon and finely shredded hard-boiled egg. That is all I use it for.
I love my Swing-A-Way jar opener. This thing is fantastic at opening any kind of lid from little to large. I see online that the manufacturer is listed as Swing-a Way in some places and Amco in others. We have used it on tough screw-on bottle caps, olive jars, pimento jars and more. It is under $10, worth every penny and takes up very little drawer space. I ordered mine from Amazon, but big-box stores may also carry it.
I love my microplane rasp-style graters. The two I have have been around since 2004 and are very basic, without a handle at the top. The microplane is a type of grater that grates very finely. Mine is long, about 8 inches, and maybe 1 inch across. I use it to zest citrus and to grate Parmesan cheese. It does not work well with a soft cheese, but leaves a hard cheese fluffy and fine, which means you have more volume of cheese. I have also used it to grate garlic cloves as I find it is easier to clean than a garlic press.
I have found that I use my immersion or wand blender more than my stand version. I had one for years that probably cost $15. It was an early version and just finally bit the dust. My newer model has speeds and is harder working. When I make small batches of soup it is so nice to be able to puree the soup right in the pot. I don't have to pour the hot soup or sauce back and forth from the blender to the pot which lessens mess on the counter. Now, our kitchen at the lake is very small so I outfitted it with a wand blender to be the workhorse for all blending. We found that it won't make smooth smoothies, although I've read otherwise. I also read that it will whip cream, but I haven't tried it. It will make pesto sauce and whisk a large amount of eggs for scrambling or make salad dressing easy to master at home and is perfect for pureeing tomatoes for tomato sauce.
As I said, I try not to have too many appliances or gadgets that can't do double duty. I'm sorry I asked for a waffle maker or let Terry buy the snow cone machine at a yard sale, or asked for a pasta maker attachment for my mixer before I knew how to make pasta. I wish someone had filmed me (or Lucy Ricardo, as some know me) making pasta for the first time as the long strands were streaming out of the machine and I hadn't planned where to put them. It was very much like Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory, except I couldn't eat the raw pasta as it kept coming at me! But, the items listed above make my life easier, as does my 30-year old KitchenAid mixer which I now use without fancy attachments.
Enjoy today's recipes. On the green bean and bacon salad, I pieced together the recipe from various sources to approximate what I do. Use your favorite vinaigrette to marinate the beans.
GREEN BEAN AND BACON SALAD
1-pound French green beans, stems trimmed, or regular beans sliced using bean slicer
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut in small dice
One shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon hot water
Pinch of sugar
One lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped or grated.
Curry mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Paprika for garnish
CREAMY AVOCADO CILANTRO LIME DRESSING
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup low-fat sour-cream or Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper