Tuesday, June 29, 2010


How I adore her! The jazz bass player Esperanza Spalding first came to my attention in an article from the New York Times Magazine, a sunday section that I peruse for the photos and a quick glance at the captions, but never fully read because the articles usually irritate me so. But this was different, a profile of this young, beautiful and talented jazz musician- I had to know more. Her eponymous titled CD is heaven to listen to. Esperanza sings too, in a sweet buttery smooth, sexy voice with lots of Brazilian inflections. Her musicality hits me right in the heart. When I saw that she was playing at Summer Stage, the free outdoor concert venue in Central Park, last week as part of a lineup with McCoy Tyner and Ravi Coltrane, I HAD TO GO!

The CareFusion Jazz Festival at Summer Stage in Central Park last Wednesday night.

The show was fantastic  (despite the heat) and the beautiful sunset just added to the summer-in-the-city ambiance. The music was riveting.  Esperanza in person was all I hope for: cute, sassy and bouncy AND the girl has chops!
The hot but happy crowd! Did I mention that the Stanley Clarke Band knocked our socks off when they played the second set?
As the evening wore on the air cooled off a bit and it became a gorgeous night in Central Park.

I decided right then and there that I want to dedicate a recipe to her and I immediately thought of green olive salsa. Esperanza is young and still green, but with tons of depth, lots of piquant spice and pizazz AND she draws on a long history, just like green olives - what could be more appropriate?

Summer Stage is hosting some wonderful food vendors this summer and that evening I was enjoying  delicious pizza from Pizza Moto (they bring their own wood burning oven on site!)  Green olive salsa would be fantastic on a slice of their ricotta and tomato pie.

Green Olive Salsa
1 cup of pitted green olives
1/2 cup fresh tender herbs (parsley, mint, basil, cilantro)
2 garlic cloves
1-2 chilie peppers
zest of one lemon
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse till well chopped, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as you go to make sure the texture is even. Serve as a condiment or directly on crackers.

makes about 1.5 cups

Sounds like a fantastic night in Central Park! Not much beats a summer night in NYC. Deb's salsa is so versatile, I can think of so many different ways to enjoy it. Definitely on the pizza as Deb suggests. Spreading a little on some garlic rubbed grilled crostini would be superb as well, or alongside some simple, broiled fish.

Deb's Green Olive Salsa would pair wonderfully with a glass of Cabernet Franc, especially if the salsa were atop pizza. Cabernet Franc is a cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon, but because of its thinner skin it has lower tannin levels. It thrives in cooler climates, and is a very important varietal in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions of France. Though it has been grown successfully in warmer climates like Australia, California and South Africa. It produces a fruity wine and is a bit more subdued than Cab Sauvignon. Typically, a glass of Cab Franc will demonstrate flavors of bell pepper, raspberries and perhaps a bit of tobacco. I love the idea of these characteristics paired with the salty, herbal flavors of Deb's salsa. I think it's a match made in heaven!

Some of my favorite Cab Francs are Chinon, from the Loire Valley in France. The area produces mostly red wines, based on this varietal. The wines are fresh, light and subtle. Chinon Rose's are amazing as well. One of my favorite producers in this region is Couly Dutheil. They produce a lovely, bold Cab Franc called La Baronnie Madeleine. I love this wine! The Wine Spectator, in it's review of this wine, makes note of it's "green olive tapenade" flavors. My favorite summertime Rose also comes from Couly Dutheil - Chinon Rose Couly Rose. I like to refer to this wine as "summertime in a glass". Either one of these wines would be a tremendous hit with Deb's Green Olive Salsa!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Love My Little Green Fruit

I am in love with avocados. I am good for one a day. Thankfully, they are incredibly healthy. I can salivate over their buttery texture and subtle nutty flavors. And I have found numerous ways to enjoy them. Who would've thought the name "avocado" actually derived from the Aztec word for "testicle"? (ahuacatl). I guess it makes sense.

One of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy an avocado came from an issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. In this particular issue, one of the featured chefs was talking about how she best enjoys snacking on this exquisite fruit. To my dismay, I cannot remember her name, for I would love to give her credit for introducing me to this perfectly healthy idea of a midday bite. For my version, I toast a slice of Ezekiel Organic Sprouted Whole Grain Bread till it's hot and a little crunchy. Then, I take about half an avocado, and while the bread is hot, I mash the avocado onto the bread. The avocado actually "melts" onto the bread. I drizzle on a little bit of good quality olive oil and finish it off with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. Delicious! After the gym, when I crave something light and healthy, but don't know what to have - this is what I eat. It is the ultimate snack.

The other day, I brought an avocado into work to have as a snack. Seconds after I took my last bite, I was called to the tasting room in the shop to sample some wines with a vendor. The first wine I tasted was a Sauvignon Blanc from Australia. Having just eaten the avocado, I realized what a tremendous match this was! The Sauvignon Blanc had good richness of fruit, but something about it's flavors and textures was incredibly enhanced coming off the nutty flavor and creamy texture of the avocado.  It was the pefect example of how a food's flavors and textures can effect one's impression of a wine. The avocado took an average Sauvignon Blanc to a whole new level! When incorporating avocado into a recipe, I would definitely go for a white with rich,  lively, fresh fruit. An Albarino from Spain would also be marvelous as well.

I try to incorporate avocado into any recipe I can. I make delicious black bean burgers. I love to spread some fresh avocado on top with a dash of hot sauce. And when I want a salad, but need something a little more substantial, I throw avocado into the mix to give it some extra weight.

If anyone has any unique recipes or ideas for avocado use, please - I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, June 21, 2010

so close and not so far

It is fun to be in the right place at the right time. My friend Katie, from the A Party in my Pantry cooking blog, and I went exploring the scene at Rockaway Beach in Queens last week, just a stone's throw from my house (who knew?)
The fabulous boardwalk at Rockaway beach. Love that bleached wood!

Katie had been tipped off by her surfing buddies to check out Rockaway Taco on Beach 96th Street. This very authentic, humble hipster joint had, unbeknownst to us, just been featured in the current issue of Edible Queens and fresh copies of the magazine were everywhere. There was a decided buzz in the air and an obvious pride of place, but we were busy licking our fingers over the super delicious and fresh tasting tacos they serve for an incredibly reasonable three bucks a pop (four bucks if you get the guacamole. Get it).

Rockaway Taco

Their food was great, the vibe could not be more chill, the location (on the edge between development and total collapse) was beachside perfect. I kept repeating "we will be back" like an inane mantra.

Around the corner was the charming coffee bar/woodshed/organic produce market: Jack's Coffee. Everything seemed weathered and well loved. Could not get enough of it all and well, we will be back!

The beautifully displayed produce sits right next to Jacks Coffee and some of it comes from Blooming Hill Farm, which was featured in one of our blog posts  last summer.

Inspired by the menu of Rockaway Taco,  I made a batch of scrambled eggs with tortillas, tomato and cheese. So yummy- it is a perfectly light yet filling and scrumptious meal for anytime of the day.

Scrambled Eggs with Tortillas, Cheese and Tomato

1 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 eggs-broken into bowl and beaten with a fork
1 corn tortilla-torn into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup grated chedder cheese

Melt butter in small pan, add onions and cook 5 min. till softened, add tortillas and cook two min., add eggs, cheese and tomatoes and cook another 3 min. till done.
serves one

I certainly do miss NYC when I read about all the great places you visit! Nothing much exists like those places in this neck of suburbia! This recipe might just be my dinner for tonight. I bet my kids would even like this (minus the tomatoes, of course). However, my son has been really good about trying different things. This weekend he tried fresh basil (and liked it), garlic hummus (did not like it) and he revisited mango (surprisingly didn't care for it). But he is definitely on the right track as far as broadening his horizons! And the bribes only cost me a pack of silly bandz and a 3D bookmark! Not bad.

Right away, the recipe makes me think of Tempranillo. I would enjoy a delicious, light, fruity style with Deb's Scrambled Eggs, Cheese and Tortillas. Something easy-sipping, and affordable. I would probably throw a little hot sauce on the eggs, so I would definitely want to avoid a wine that was too tannic. A wine with plenty of soft fruit would quell the heat. Also, stick with a young, fresh Tempranillo. One we just started offering at Wine and Spirit World is Castello de Monjardin, which is a steal at $7.99. Campos de Enanzo also produces a simple Tempranillo which also sells for $7.99 and would be a great match with it's simple, easy-going style. Either one would be terrific. Of course, if you can't source either, you can always ask your local retailer for suggestions.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

home town brew

The solstice is almost upon us and these long days mean staying outdoors as much as possible to soak up the beautiful weather. New York City is busting out with great summer concerts for the next several months and there is truly something for everyone. This weekend will find me in Prospect Park to hear Bitches Brew Revisited, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Miles Davis classic by a fantastic line-up of jazz musicians. My friends and I have a favorite spot under the trees where we picnic and enjoy the music with the crowd. It is total fun and the perfect way to spend a summer solstice evening in NY.

Picnic fare can be almost anything for me. I tend to bring vegetable salads, while another friend will bring fruit and cheese. Our pot luck picnics are one of the great joys of the summer. The incredible use of outdoor space in NY is one of the many reasons why it is my favorite city on earth!

These tiny blossoms- the yellow is from mustard greens and the pink is from a radish, make a pretty and tasty garnish for summer salads.

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

2 quarts salted water
4 cups of trimmed green beans
1/4 thinly sliced onion
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. black pepper
2 Tbs. whole grain mustard
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs like dill, tarragon, basil, parsley (optional)

Bring water to a boil and cook the green beans until bright green and tender, about 10 minutes. Drain beans and rinse quickly under cold water and set aside to allow them to dry. Put sliced onions in a cup with enough cold water to cover them and let the onions soak for 5 minutes, then drain.
Make the vinaigrette:
in a small bowl put the vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking as you go to create an emulsion. The vinaigrette will be thick.
In a large bowl combine the green beans and the drained onions and toss with the vinaigrette. Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. Just before serving toss into the salad any fresh herbs you may be using.
serves 4

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

still pretty

The Gulf coast of Florida, the Sarasota region in particular, was as stunning as ever this weekend. Jaw dropping sunsets, plenty of wild birds and hot, hot days in abundance. It was a melancholy relief to witness the continued good health of this gorgeous area. How long it will last is anyone's guess. A local landscaper and long time resident of Long Boat Key shared with us his belief that this particular stretch of coast will be sparred from the oil spill due to natural water currents. He was much less optimistic about the Florida Keys and even the Atlantic coast. Tragic.

The scorching hot days kept me close to water all weekend. Even a trip to the farmers market was an abridged version of my usual slow progress through every stand. Heartbreakingly, the fishmonger who usually has a long line in front of his booth stood alone and slightly dazed. I asked him how he was doing and his terse response was that he was very anxious about the future of his business. My companions and I bought some of his local snapper and whole shrimp from the Keys. Everything was incredibly fresh and delicious!
The extreme heat of the day limited the range of produce. Forget about lettuce. The best buy were these beautiful hanging baskets for $15!!

Our flight home was delayed and coming home dusty and tired the last thing I wanted to do was cook a meal, but we were hungry. A simple saute of spinach with some of the stir-fried black beans I bought at the Korean supermarket last week made a quick and delicious meal.
Black beans from the Korean supermarket in the package.

Black beans out of the package- a little salty, a little chewy.

A simple saute of greens in a hot pan with a splash of oil will become a delicious meal if you add some fermented black beans from an Asian market. Finish the dish with a little sesame oil.

Welcome back, Deb! Beautiful pictures! Time will tell what the ramifications of the oil spill are. But my heart goes out to the residents and workers of the affected areas whose livelihoods are now in jeopardy, and whose beautiful shores will now be challenged and possibly changed forever. It certainly is tragic.

I really like the idea of this quick, simple and healthy saute. My only problem is I don't think I have had fermented black beans before, so I'm a little unsure as to the flavor profile. Are they very different from "unfermented" black beans? Funny - I was looking at a recipe this week that called for the same ingredient and I was wondering where I might find them. Now I know!

I'm thinking Pinot Noir might be a good match for this saute. Pinot Noir from cooler climates is quite earthy and rustic. A Pinot Noir from Burgundy will not have the same jammy fruit flavors as a Pinot Noir from California. For this particular dish, I would look to a Pinot Noir which has those lovely earthy characteristics. A to Z Wineworks is a winery out in Oregon that produces some wonderful wines. Their basic Oregon Pinot Noir is elegant, with soft, dusty tannins and spice.  

A to Z also makes a lovely Pinot Gris that would also work well with this dish if you are in the mood for white. It, too, has great spice and minerality. This white has great acidity, as well as ripe fruit flavors of nectarines, and lychee. A to Z's basic wines typically run between $15 and $20.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

peaches and herbs

"Any sort of salad mixed without some enticing herb flavours can be a comparatively dull thing."
 -Audrey Wynne Hatfield, Pleasures of Herbs

When I think about cooking with fresh herbs I put them into two categories: the tender herbs that I feel free to combine in any proportion and use interchangeably versus the hardy wood stemmed herbs that have more pronounced essential oils and a dominant flavor.
The tender herbs are ones I would put in a salad, a salsa or a pesto. The hardy herbs work great in a braise, on the grill, in a soup, a stew or a stuffing. To put the flavor of these hardy herbs in a salad consider infusing them in vinegar or olive oil to extract the flavor with out the chewy texture of the actual leaves.
These are not hardened rules, just a guideline for easy cooking. It is fun to experiment with combinations and I urge everyone to do so as the pleasures of herbs are infinite. Some of the hardy herbs when young can be used as tender herbs, for example there are some varieties of thyme that seem to retain their tender stem. Also not to be overlooked are the blossoms from herb plants. These delicate flowers make a picturesque addition to salads and vegetable dishes and are flavorful too.
Basil and mint are tender herbs from the same family. The tiny leaves of globe basil on the left can be tossed whole into salads.

Tender Herbs 
-use whole or chopped in any combination in salads
lemon balm
Oregano and thyme are herbs I use more sparingly in salads.

Hardy Herbs
-use sparingly in salads when leaves are young
The chive blossom is composed of a cluster of tiny flowers. I snip them apart with a scissor at the base of the stem and toss them over a salad. These pretty purple sage blossoms have a lovely, fragrant sage-y flavor.

Edible Flowers from Herbs
Rose petals are edible and beautiful.
Composed Salad of Mango, Peaches, Goat Cheese and Herbs
The fruit is dressed with mint, rose petals, globe basil and sage blossoms. Crumble some goat cheese on top (not pictured)  and then lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic or sherry vinegar.

Deb does a great job of breaking down the herbs into two groups, and summing up in a concise way the best ways to utilize nature's flavor enhancers. Her "rules" make it very easy for novices like myself to allow our own "inner chefs" to confidently make our own, creative choices. That is what I love about her posts, and particularly this one.

As for wine, there are no steadfast rules to follow when it comes to herbs. There are so many different factors that come into play. I would, however, tend to pair reds with the heartier herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram. But still, there are other things to consider. You really have to consider the whole sauce, marinade or dressing. For example, you could have a light, herbal vinaigrette that would call for something lively, like Gruner Veltliner or Sauvignon Blanc perhaps. These wines typically have herbal characteristics themselves. But you could also have a creamy dressing or sauce which might be wonderful with a fuller bodied white like a Chardonnay. Always consider the texture and the acidity of the dressing or sauce.

Red wine often works better, in my opinion, with tomato-based sauces. So a typical spaghetti sauce with fresh herbs would work well with a Chianti, for example. And stews which utilize heartier herbs like thyme, marjoram, and rosemary will taste better paired with a similarly hearty red. It will also be important to consider the spices in a wine, and the heat they give off.

For Deb's salad in this recipe, as in our last post, I would once again choose a Moscato. Fruit salad just screams for this slightly sweet, frizzante dessert wine. (which also works beautifully as an aperitif).

Monday, June 7, 2010

still grilling


The pleasures of the season are coming hard and fast. To spend as much time outdoors as possible I am grilling in my back yard at least two or three times a week. This weekend I came up with a dish which will be my go-to recipe for the summer: a grilled vegetable salad with mango. The addition of grilled mango to the vegetables added a perfect sweet-tart-fruity and refreshing zing. I am going to experiment with grilled peaches and pineapple as variations on this theme.
Grilled fruit on its own is delicious and paired with grilled vegetables, SUBLIME!

Vegetables and fruit are cut into flat wedges to go on the grill.

Threading cherry tomatoes on to a skewer will keep them from rolling around the grill when cooking. I want to try this with grapes. I wonder how they would taste grilled?
Sometimes I cut peppers up before grilling, sometimes I just throw them on whole.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Mango

Fruit and Vegetables for the grill:
1/4 cup Olive oil or vegetable oil 
2 Bell peppers- left whole
1 sweet onion- sliced into wedges with the root still attached
3 carrots- cut into diagonal wedges
1 zucchini- cut into diagonal wedges
1 pint cherry tomatoes- threaded onto wooden skewers
1 mango, peeled and sliced into flat wedges

Lightly brush all everything with some olive oil. Cook each of the vegetables and fruit over a hot coal fire for about 8 minutes on each side. For the whole bell peppers, allow them to blacken on all sides, then remove from the grill and let them cool under a dish towel to capture the steam. When the peppers are cool to the touch, peel off the blackened skin and cut the flesh into two inch wide strips, discarding the stem, inner membranes and seeds. Place all cooked vegetables and fruit in a large bowl and toss together.

1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried mustard
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs (a single herb or any combination of: parsley, basil, chives, tarragon, dill, mint)

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking as you go to make an emulsion. Add the fresh herbs and taste to adjust seasonings. Pour vinaigrette over the grilled vegetables and fruit. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temp.

Serves four.

This recipe has "summertime" written all over it. Therefore, an equally "summery" wine would be an ideal match! Commonly known as a light dessert wine, Moscato d'Asti would be perfect here. I can't think of a better choice for Deb's Grilled Vegetable and Mango salad. Even if a wine has a particular "label" associated with it, like "dessert wine", don't be afraid to experiment with it by trying it with different foods.

Moscato d'Asti hails from Piedmont, Italy. Slightly "frizzante" with a low alcohol content (typically about 5%), this sparkler has lush, rich, fresh fruit flavors of peach, apricot and honey. Made from white Moscato grapes, the wine gives off a wonderfully fragrant bouquet. Simply delicious! The sweetness and refreshing characteristics of the mango bring out the best in Deb's dish, and will really make a nice connection with the Moscato. My mouth waters just thinking about it!

One of the most talented makers of Moscato d'Asti is Stephano Perrone, whose formidable reputation rests on the production of his two Moscatos: Sourgal and Clarte. Both are exquisite - summertime in a glass! The Clarte has even been rated Italy's finest Moscato! Moscatos typically range from $15-$20. Another fine producer is La Spinetta. If you have not yet had the extreme pleasure of sipping Moscato on a hot summer's day, and would like to try one, both of these producers are worth seeking out.

Friday, June 4, 2010

herbs and rice

This spring already feels like mid-summer. Ninety degrees today!? My herb garden is in full flourish and perfect for the picking.
Large handfuls of fresh chopped herbs are going in to everything I cook on these warm days.

A dear friend recently took me on a shopping trip to the Korean supermarket H Mart on Union Street in Flushing Queens. What a treasure trove of edible goodies! I had never been to a store quite like it. There was an entire wall display devoted to kimchee (natch) and spicy pickles in every imaginable and unimaginable variety. I was in awe. There were walls of shelves devoted to single items like varieties of soy bean paste and another for just sea salt! Too fantastic. I left with my arms loaded. One of the treasures I lugged home was this bag of organic short grain brown rice. 

The plastic package resembled rice paper. Who could resist such cuteness?

Brown rice seemed like the perfect vehicle for some fresh herbs so I made a salad. Brown rice salad usually steers my inspiration towards the direction of sweetness, with lots of dried fruit, but this time I wanted to do something lemony and fresh that would feature herbs and some vegetables. 

There were three varieties of brown rice in this blend (all from California, not Korea): Organic Brown Rice, Organic Sweet Brown Rice, Organic Black Rice. 

This brown rice salad can be made in advance and brought on a picnic. I am going to share it with friends tomorrow at the Belmont Stakes race. I hope it doesn't rain.

Brown Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1 quart water
3 Tbs. salt
1/2 cup green beans cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup zucchini cut into a small dice
1 cup of Brown Rice
3 Tbs. chopped herbs (parsley, mint, basil, oregano, marjoram, chives)
1/4 cup toasted nuts (almond, cashew, walnut, pine)
1/4 cup currents
2 scallions, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Bring water to a boil and add salt. Blanch the green beans in the boiling water till tender- 5 minutes. Lift beans out of boiling water with a slotted spoon. Add the zucchini to the water and boil for 1 minute, to get the raw edge of but not cooked through, lift the zucchini out of the water and set aside with the green beans to cool (shock the vegetables in ice water if you like. I just run them under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking)
Add the brown rice to the water and cook at a rolling boil for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain the cooked rice in a strainer and put it into a bowl with the green beans, zucchini, chopped herbs, toasted nuts, currents and scallions. Toss to combine ingredients, then add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Toss again. Add the olive oil and taste. Adjust seasonings.
Allow to rice to cool to room temp before refrigerating. Serve chilled or at room temp. Can be made the day before and stored in a covered container in the fridge.
Makes about 3 cups.

Deb, you shared this recipe at the perfect time! I am currently undergoing my annual "body cleanse". My diet for the next two weeks consists of all things natural. Nothing processed,  or out of a box (rice is OK). Just veggies, fruits, brown rice, eggs...you get the picture. So far, so good. We just have to see now how I get by this weekend without any wine.

A great hot weather wine that would be perfect with this light, summery rice salad would be Vinho Verde from Portugal. This delightful white comes from the Minho region in the northern part of the county. Low in alcohol, it is a pleasure to sip on a hot afternoon. The name means "green wine" - not in reference to the color, but rather its youthfulness. It is made to be drunk within a year. While it cannot qualify as a "sparkling" wine, it does have a "fizziness" to it.

With its characteristic citrus/herbal flavors, it would be wonderful paired with Deb's brown rice recipe. The rice salad (but not the wine) will definitely be on my menu over the next two weeks!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

day trippin'


As the summer approaches my mind turns to summer essentials- the things that help to celebrate the bounty of the land. When I think of summer cooking my idea is to head outdoors and hit the road. Whether visiting rustic cabins, beach cottages or campground tents, the right cooking tools can make all the difference. Here is a list of some of the tools the will make a perfect travel kit for the makeshift kitchen. These tools are my must haves for any time or place.

1. Heavy Metals
Chefs knife- Don' t leave home with out this. A good knife is the single most important tool. I truly don't need anything else when it comes down to it. Without a good knife life is a slow misery. It is.

Metal Spatula- If you have ever had to flip pancakes with a soft, limp plastic or rubber spatula and did not grind your teeth in frustration, you are a far more patient person than I. ONLY metal spatulas will get the flipping job done with any degree of control. What about non-stick cookware? Just flip carefully.

Tongs- Another kitchen must-have for turning pieces of food in a pan or on the grill. It can handle hot temps and leave you cool!

Kitchen Shears- I love these little cuties for snipping herbs, trimming pie crusts, cutting grape stems, and other endless uses. I keep them in my back pocket when I take country walks to clip wildflowers for the table.

2. What good is a boat with out a paddle?

Wooden Spatulas- I just cannot cook with out these. To me they are the perfect tool for stirring things inside a pot. I have a stash of them in my home kitchen and always bring them on any cooking vacation.

Rubber Spatulas- I like the small ones that can fit into a mustard or mayo jar. Perfect for wiping out a bowl of batter or getting the last drop out of a pot. Perfect!

Spider- These can be found in Chinatown for about $5 - they come in all sizes. I use them for scooping vegetables out of the blanching pot or for cooked pasta when I want to reserve the cooking liquid. This tool is so efficient that once you use it you are hooked.

Wisk- gotta have it for scrambled eggs. Love it for taking the lumps out of a gravy or sauce, particularly mayonaise based sauces.
3. Infinite Zest
Zester- How did we ever live with out it? When this carpenters tool hit the American kitchen the universe shifted in a minor but persceptible way. It never met a citrus fruit it could not master and it does some seriuos work on a block of aged hard cheese.
Mandolin- These mini-mandolins are another Chinatown staple. Perfect for quick thin slices of vegetables to go into salads. Watch your fingers and use the hand guard.

4.Pound for Pound

Mortar and Pestle- I got this one at Ikea and it is grand! Heavy and solid, I can smash ginger and garlic cloves by hand to make a paste. Smashes up whole spices and nuts too.

Pepper Mill- this is the first kitchen tool I ever encountered. My parents had one they brought home from a trip to France. To me as a child it was the essence of sophistication and glamor. Now as a cook it is the source of freshly cracked pepper. Mills come in all sizes and colors of wood. I love the classic shape of this one.

5. Not essentials but nice to have

Instant read Thermometer, Corkscrew (what am I saying? That's essential!), vegetable peeler, serrated bread knife, reamer, fine mesh strainer

Ok, time to hit the road and get cooking!