Friday, October 3, 2008

A few of my favorite things (part 2)

How much do you love my salt grinder, pictured above? Isn't she great? She's a present from my sister, and can be used for salt or pepper, obviously.

That's the first item of this installation of "a few of my favorite things." Part 1 can be found in this post from August. The first part focused on recipes; this post is about things.

The salt grinder is new and looks just perfect on my dining table (though she makes the pepper grinder look just a little bit boring). I have other various items that I just love, items that simply make the kitchen a better place to be.

Our butter dish, a food-and-cooking-themed Christmas gift from my sister- and brother-in-law, is one. It's a simple, clear, glass design, and there's nothing better than soft butter on a warm piece of toast. Or, I should say, there's nothing worse than having a warm piece of toast and nothing but tough, cold butter!

Then there's my cat apron, a present to me from my parents, modeled here by my husband.

Our salad spinner (also a wedding gift) was an absolutely brilliant invention. I use mine all the time, for herbs, too.

And, my special Alsatian quiche plate, a hand-me-down from my mom, who used it for homemade quiche as well as a nice serving/cooking platter for plenty of au gratin sides. It has plenty of history for my family -- it's at least 30 years old -- and it came from a little store in Alsace.

Now on to appliances... I'm a huge fan of the show "Mad Men," and one of the things that always strikes me is how much time the women spend in their kitchens (kitchens that are a little too tidy, if you ask me.) It's just incredible how the convenience of various small appliances has changed the lives of people who like to cook, and if you imagine that you really hated to cook but are a housewife in the 1950s, well, too bad for you! Your family just wouldn't eat. And the neighbors would talk about you.

I have a few appliances that I can't live without, and they all belong in the kitchen. While I enjoy the monotony and repetition of slicing and dicing at times -- it's actually one of the things I love about doing kitchen "work" -- at other times, it's overwhelming. Some recipes require way too much slicing and dicing for it to remain fun throughout the prep process. For those, I appreciate my Cuisinart basic food processor. It was a wedding gift, but it's something I would spend the money on to get another, for sure, if it ever broke or needed any replacement parts (those are available separately). It's also indispensible for pureeing large amounts of food.

Small amounts of food can be pureed with my immersion blender, which also is great for just sticking into a pot of soup and allowing it to do its magic. Mess-free, at that!

I can't close this post without mentioning something Dan and I are big fans of, especially recently, when we've both been really busy. These Indian food packets, called Micro Curry from Raja Foods, are really yummy and have natural ingredients. Plus, they're cheap, and they cook in about three minutes. You just put the food bag in boiling water for about that long. I didn't like that idea of a food bag initially, then I tried it, and we often have them as "fast food." They are wonderful, especially because we can't afford to eat at our favorite Indian place, Cumin in Cincinnati. (Shanti Indian Cuisine in Bloomington is yummy, too!)

Coming up: A recipe for the best pork marinade I've tasted, a recipe I got from my pal Mike Leonard, a columnist at Bloomington's Herald-Times; a passion-for-pumpkin post; and (possibly) my first attempt at potatoes au gratin. Also, very unfortunately, I made something gross that I will tell you all about. It was a sad, sad night.

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