Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gift Ideas List---Finale

Sometimes a great gift is many little gifts all wrapped together. Choose a container that’s useful like a basket or a bucket or a bowl and wrap it all with a dishtowel or two or three or an apron or a picnic cloth and fill it with a bunch of fun kitchen gadgets. Like a child and her toys, the cook never has too many gadgets.

There are dozens and dozens to choose from. Here are a handful of my favorites.

The Whisk.
Select one large, one medium and one small in dishwasher safe stainless steel. Look for the classic shaped balloon whisks with smooth fat stainless handles (not plastic or wood). Some of the newer models have ergonomically correct handles---made of silicon or nylon---for greater comfort. Those are very nice too. Count the number of tines (wires). There should be at least 20. The more tines, the faster the job goes. What about some of those newer shapes you ask? Well, I prefer classic equipment that’s been around for a long time (and with good reason).

Okay, okay, let me backtrack a bit and qualify that statement. Several years ago my Christmas stocking produced a tiny whisk with a handle shaped like an egg.
I love that little thing and use it happily and often for small jobs like beating single eggs.


Shop for stainless steel with a nylon tip to avoid scratching non-stick pans. Self locking tongs close flat, store nicely and are a plus. OXO has a terrific line of kitchen do-dads and their tongs are winners. One long and one short should fit the bill.

Silicon Spatulas.
Le Creuset Exclusive 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set, Cobalt Blue 
The silicon spatula has got to be the greatest improvement in the kitchen gadget family that I have ever seen. No more dried out rubber bits crumbling into our food or misshapen rubber coming out of the dishwasher. These things are impervious to heat up to 800°, dishwasher safe and come in a multitude of fun colors that I adore. Big ones, small ones, spatulas that can scoop…..I love them all and have many. Look for smooth solid handles that are comfortable to hold. I prefer wood and Le Creuset offers a nice set (pictured) in a full range of colors.

Wooden utensils.

If I were starting out today I’d only buy bamboo. Bamboo is a renewable wood resource and that appeals to my environmentally conscious self. Bamboo is heat and stain resistant and will not scratch non-stick pans. It is dishwasher safe, light weight and built to last forever. Look for a set with spoons and spatulas of assorted sizes and shapes.

Graters (including the microplane).
One of my earliest favorite kitchen gadgets is the box grater. It is a turn of the century tool that has shown remarkable lasting power and is, for me, quite sentimental. I can still see my Mother, my Grandmother and Nana shredding their knuckles along with potatoes, cheese, chocolate and onions. The box grater is versatile and has benefited from updating. The catch plate that snaps onto the bottom of the newer models is very handy indeed and I do like the new ergonomic rubber grips. To go with the box grater are micro planes of various lengths and widths and enough specialty graters to fill a barrel.

A micro plane has joined my old grater and I do have one of those old fashioned (metal) rotating barrel graters that is going to rust and has many dents. I don’t have the heart to throw it away. It still works….sort of.
OXO Softworks Grater
Look for long lasting stainless when buying a box grater. Go for the ergonomic rubber handle and the catch plate on the bottom. OXO has a nice slim one with good sharp blades and a box at the bottom for catching and storing.

For micro planes, I like the medium grate flat bladed, long and skinny rubber handled models.

It will be labeled grater-zester because that is what it does and it does it very, very well. The brand I like best (and the one that my friend gave me) is actually called microplane. Look for this logo:

Zyliss Restaurant Cheese GraterThe old fashioned rotating cheese grater is especially nice to put on the table with a favorite hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Zyliss makes a rotating barrel grater that does a great (no pun here) job, is dishwasher safe and is the grater you’ll find on most restaurant tables. A model offering interchangeable barrels with finer and coarser grates is a big plus.