Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gadgets

I have always had an overweening pride about the fact that my kitchen is not overly equipped -- I do not have endless tools and gadgets in my drawers, I proclaim loudly, no corn kerneler or breakfast sandwich maker or automatic paper towel dispenser or what have you. I make do, I say, with some basic knives, a minimum of pots and pans, and a few other things that are necessities. The sign of a good cook, I tell myself, is to be able to do a lot with a little.

Pffft. Last night, at the last session of my winter cooking class, I started talking about the kitchen gadgets I can't do without. And the list is longer than I expected -- not Williams-Sonoma long, but long. So consider this my mea culpa.



Appliances I can't do without:

  1. Microwave: My twenty-year old microwave finally gave up the ghost this past fall. My mom bought it for me in 1993, when I was a grad student in New York. She took me to Macy's at Herald Square, and we paid about a hundred bucks for it. Longest relationship I ever had; outlasted my marriage. And while there were a couple of rebound microwaves -- sent back to the stores for being too big, not bright enough, inconsistent, too many hot and cold spots -- I never really fell in love with another one. So I thought I'd do without. This lasted until my mother came to visit in December. Horrified to see me alone, she took me to a store -- Sears this time -- and bought me a new one. Very much like the old one, except without all the baggage.
  2. Stand mixer: When I got married, I did not put one of these on my gift registry. Seemed so bougie, or maybe I thought it signified suburban cookie-baker more than badass New York cook, and besides it seemed so freaking expensive. Then P's first babysitter -- the unlikeliest person ever, a late-20-something man, totally beautiful, the former choreographer of the New York Knicks dancers, a volunteer at one of the top neo-natal intensive care units in New York City, and the partner of the head of UN law enforcement in Kosovo -- regifted me one of the three he had been given in the past few years. (Yes, in addition to all these other qualities, Glenn was someone to whom people gave $300 kitchen appliances on a regular basis, because he was so nice.) I've used it infrequently over the years, but for things I cannot manage to do by hand because my hands, apparently, are severely lacking in some ways -- most crucially, for making doughs. I seem to have no capacity for doing them the old-fashioned ways.
  3. Pressure cooker: There's a reason that people in India consider this the basic tool of the kitchen -- it's simply the best way to make beans and lentils on a daily basis without having a pot on the stove, draining your cooking gas, for hours on end. I've already written about the joys of pressure cooking here; I won't belabor the point. 
  4. Food processor: Do these things ever die? I mean, they do eventually, but I remember my mom's Cuisinart hanging around for 30 years before it gave up the ghost. She hardly ever brought it out, mind you, finding her knife faster in almost all cases. I'm pretty handy with a knife, but sometimes I get bored with all the tedium. I'm constantly whipping it out lately.

Appliances I can do without:

  1. Blender: Finally threw mine out a few months ago in a fit of rage. It was the most poorly designed piece of garbage I'd ever encountered. Dragged my feet on replacing it, then realized I didn't need one. The only thing I really used it for was making smoothies and grinding curry pastes. For the latter, I'm going to ask my parents to bring back one from India, which does a far better job at the task than my stupid blender ever did. For the former, I now put the ingredients in a jar and make my daughter shake it up. Builds arm muscles, and probably character, too.
  2. Everything else.


Mango Lassi

Serves 2

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped mango (peeled and stone removed) or ¾ cup mango puree
4 teaspoons sugar, to taste
A dash of ground cardamom (optional)
A few cubes of ice

Put mango, yogurt, milk, sugar and cardamom into cocktail shaker or jar and shake for 2 minutes, then pour into individual glasses, and serve. Can sprinkle with a little cardamom.

Aloo Paratha (Potato-Stuffed Flatbread)
Makes 6

4 smallish potatoes
3 TB chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp red chili
juice of ½ lemon
kosher salt
2 c whole wheat plus 1 c all-purpose flour
¾ c hot water
3 TB canola oil

1. Boil potatoes: place potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for about 20 minutes until fork tender. (The cooking time will vary by size, so check it every 5 minutes or so.) When cool enough to handle, peel off skin and grate on a box grater or mash. Mix together the potatoes, cilantro, garam masala, red chili powder, lemon juice, and salt to taste.

2. Mix together flour and 1/2 tsp salt, then add water to make a smooth dough. You can knead it by hand for 10 minutes or in a stand mixer for 4-5 minutes. You'll end up with a fairly stiff dough, but one that holds together and is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 6 balls. On a floured surface, roll out into 4 inch disks. Add 1/6th of the potato filling to the center of the disk, and bring the edges together as if you're making a purse, and pinch the top together. Flatten the “purse” and dust with flour; roll out into a 6 inch circle. Repeat for all 6 parathas.(This is a fairly straightforward process -- the dough is easy to work with and gets even easier when the potato filling is added.

4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and brush with oil. Place paratha on the hot pan and cook for a minute until it's got golden brown spots on one side. Brush top with more oil and then flip over. Cook for another minute or so until browned and crisp. Adjust the heat as necessary. Keep warm, wrapped in a clean tea towel, while you cook the rest.

3 comments:

Natasha said...

We use a cheapo coffee grinder for curry spices. Yes, another gadget, but a small one and it works like a charm.

The Invisible Flaneuse said...

That's what I use, too, Natasha. No need for anything more complicated or expensive.

Che Sho said...


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