Like me, Sam of Becks n Posh has a June birthday, and one of the gifts she received was a very generous gift certificate to Sur La Table. She has asked us all to help her decide how to spend it by posting our favorite kitchen utensils and appliances – splurges and bargain basement deals. Of course, I’ll be interested in seeing everyone else’s suggestions, since my GlitterFreak friends gave me a birthday gift certificate to Surfas. *happy happy*
Unfortunately, I was at a bit of loss because, as I’ve written for The Cook Next Door, there are no wonderfully luxurious utensils in my kitchen. I cook like a renegade. A refugee. It's all done fairly primitively. I try to convince myself that I’m a purist and like to do everything by hand – chop herbs with a knife rather then a mezzaluna; grate, crush and mince with the side of my knife rather than a mortar and pestle or a microplane; get my hands all “fragrant” peeling garlic rather than using a peeler. But the reality, I’m just too cheap and won’t spend money on gadgets. Alright, so I have a little food processor that's great for a pesto and a hand mixer, that's absolutely essential for a souffle, but those are just...so boring (and I also didn’t buy those for myself).
And so, it all comes down to my knife. In my daily food blog travels, I've seen others, like Chubby Hubby and Delicious Days, who have taken beautiful photographs and written loving words about their knives, and I have to say, that truly, my 8” chef’s knife is my most cherished tool in the kitchen. There really isn’t a thing I couldn’t do with it, and over the years, I have learned that if you’re going to spend a pretty penny on any ONE thing, it’s a magnificent knife. Mine isn’t necessarily the best out there – there are some that are far more incredible, uh, also far more incredibly expensive, but for me, there is nothing better than the my Wüsthof I have. I do occasionally dream about having one of those sensational scythe-like swords that the sushi chefs use to slice fish, but that’s a little ways down the line for me. Is it strange that I dream about knives? ;)
But there is also another tool that I do love, and that’s an electric rice cooker. Every Asian household has at least one. There are lots of different brands, but I love my tiny white elephant - Zojirushi. Some rice cookers are small enough to make just one cup of rice, and others can make up to 10 cups of rice at once. We’ve all seen the giant rice cookers behind the sushi bar (or at a church picnic) that make enough rice for a dining room full of people. You know, the ones with wood paneling like those Buick stattion wagons that every family on your block had in 1982.
The funny thing is, I don’t even like rice all that much, so my tiny little elephant doesn’t get much daily personal use in my house. But when I’m cooking, especially Korean or Asian dinners, it’s so wonderful because it requires absolutely no attention through the entire cooking process. Just rice, water, press the button, and a half hour to forty-five minutes later, a little *ding!* and there’s a whole pot of perfectly glossy, steamed white rice – “bahp.”
People have gotten pretty creative with the rice cooker, steaming grains, beans, vegetables, fish, and even making chawan mushi, Japanese steamed egg custard. I remember one friend’s mom who used to mix tomato sauce, garlic, vegetables, and sausage in with the water and rice. After the *ding!* it was pizza-bahp. Very strangely creative.
They don’t cost all that much, so with a gift certificate to Sur La Table, Sam, you could probably buy five of them!