12.13.10 Mistress Gadget
There's nothing especially hi-tech about any of these tools. In fact, most of them are quite rudimentary and have been around for ages. It's surprising how little you really need to get by in the kitchen. With a sharp knife, a good pair of tongs, a wooden spoon and the will to succeed, there's not much you can't accomplish. And yet people accrue all manner of nonsense: garlic presses, panini machines, immersion blenders. Just visit a Williams-Sonoma if you don't know what I'm talking about. Even the 5 pieces above—tiny whisk, mezzaluna, reamer, shears and microplane grater—might be seen as superfluous by some kitchen minimalists, and could probably be replaced by a fork and the aforementioned tongs and sharp knife. Still, these are some of my staunchest allies, helping me make short work of countless tedious prep tasks. If you don't own them all, perhaps you should.
I've mentioned the microplane before, touting the recent arrival of a box grater version that blows the old-fashioned kind out of the water. I believe they began as woodworking tools (!) before crossing over into the kitchen. (Knock yourself out with this selection, though I recommend a slim classic with handle.) Nothing creates a fine, high drift of parmesan or a neat little pile of lemon zest like this super-sharp, toothy tool. Also great for shaving chocolate, ginger and your finger if you're not careful.
I don't know about you, but I use a ton of fresh lemon juice—for salad dressing, cocktails, to zhoosh up soups and greens and sliced fruit. You can use the closed tip of a pair of tongs, but I am quite partial to a very basic, ridged and pointy wooden reamer. It's not really good for anything else (except other citrus), but I think that's enough.
This happens to be a pair of poultry shears—mostly because they look much sexier than my plain old kitchen shears—but what I'm getting at is a good, sturdy pair of scissors that will cut through parchment, string and bone without any problem. This is a very nice specimen. I use mine for dismantling a chicken, snipping herbs and cutting through those annoying wire twist ties they put on everything in the produce section.Speaking of snipping herbs—or chopping onions or mincing garlic or nuts—the mezzaluna will be your friend. (That's "half moon" for any of you half-wits out there.) It's also great for pesto if you want to make it by hand but can't be bothered with a mortar and pestle. I saw Nigella using one of these fab double-handled curved blades (she lived in Italy, you know) and it does make you feel a bit like a busty Tuscan home cook. As for the mini whisk, what can I say? It's just that much better than a fork at emulsifying salad dressing, or whisking honey into your tea or small amounts of flavoring into your mayonnaise. It delivers quite a bang for, literally, one buck.