Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's the most important kitchen tool?

The thermometer?

It makes sense. Check out this article from the Orange County Register. The premise is that thermometers are essential because they tell you when food is cooked. With that information, you avoid foodborne illness.

Of course, the highest tech thermometer in the world won’t save you if you don’t follow proper cleaning steps. Avoid cross contamination, work only on clean surfaces and always wash your hands.

I don’t eat meat, so I don’t worry about getting sick from undercooked food. But I use a thermometer all the time. I use it to keep fry oil at an even temperature, which allows me to make crispy French fries or fried “chicken” (seitan or tofu) without starting a fire. I stick it in baked goods to see if they’re done rather than guess with the old see-if-the-fork-comes-out-clean trick.

I actually wish I had an oven thermometer because the oven in my apartment is ancient. There’s a strange array of knobs on the backsplash, but I have no idea what they do – or if they even work – because they’re caked over with years of gross, gross grease splatter. Apparently, none of the previous residents of the apartment ever heard of a splatter screen.

Getting to Know Our ChefTools Foodies: Alison

I'd like to introduce you to Miss Alison.

Alison joined the ChefTools team almost 5 years ago and knows our company inside and out. She is originally from Maryland which is kinda funny because we have quite a few transplanted East Coasters who call ChefTools home. It makes for a fantastic variety of opinions, ideas and creativity - and we like it that way!

Although Alison loves food, she is not a cook herself. In fact, if she had it her way she’d eat out every night at a new restaurant until she’s “tasted everything under the sun”. One thing she cannot live without is crab cakes – but since she moved from Maryland, Alison has not found one that can compare to the cakes from back home. (Any local suggestions out there, Seattle?)

But to show that even non-culinary artists have their favorite kitchen tools and gadgets, Alison provided us with a list of her favorites. Either she has reviewed these items for our own site, bought them for friends and family, or just thinks they are pretty darn cute. This list just goes to show that even the non-cooks out there can benefit from great tools in the kitchen.

So… let’s get you cooking!

Alison’s Top 10 List

And of course, Miss Royal Kitty herself
Lucks Edible Image - Royal Kitten

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No More Dirty Dishes!

If there's one thing I really can't stand it's coming home to a kitchen full of dirty dishes. I'm sure that sentiment is shared with many. It just makes me not want to cook - and that's a big deal because I LOVE to cook! I believe in the old adage: one person cooks, the other person cleans. However, it would help if both people in the relationship felt the same way.

In my household, I cook and I clean. Again, I absolutely love to cook so that’s not a problem for me. However, the last thing I want to do after creating and eating an elaborate meal is doing the dishes afterwards. So to make my life easier, I’m always on the hunt for good cleaning tools & all-natural cleaning products.

Thankfully, I started working at ChefTools and voila! I entered the world of gadgets galore and found some products I will never be without. Since today is National “No More Dirty Dishes Day” I figured I’d share with you my favorite cleaning products. And if you loathe cleaning dishes as much as I do, you will appreciate these recommendations, for they have made my life MUCH simpler!

Last night I made sure the dishes were done so I could come home tonight to a clean kitchen – ready for me to create my next culinary delight! (Well, at least I hope it’s delightful! HA!)

Happy No More Dirty Dishes Day!

(Above photo copyright "Fotosearch", source: DigginBeingDozier's)

Houseworks Rub Away Bar
We've all seen these stainless steel bars and wondered "do they really work?" Well, I'm here to tell you they do! I can't stand going to bed and smelling garlic on my hands and since I start with garlic in practically every dish I cook, this little bar has made my hands much less smelly. Yay!

Being a Calphalon and Le Creuset addict, I needed something to scrub, but not scratch, my gooey messes out of my nice pans. Our fearless leader - Walter - introduced me to these beauties and I'm now just as addicted to these Spaghetti Scrubs as I am my cookware. They have saved my nice pans and made clean-up a cinch - without any detergent! Trust me, once you try it, you'll never be without one in your kitchen.
Can't fit your hand inside your wine glasses? Either can I. So this little Glass Brush makes it easy and it won't scratch your nice crystal glasses! Love it!

And last, but not least, this little baby is awesome for scrubbing my circa-1976, faux-butcherblock countertops. It's made of microfiber which is awesome for amazing absorption and it has a little scrubby pad built into it for getting up the sticky, dried-on sauces that get splashed all over. And they come in cute colors that match my kitchen, which makes me happy.

Happy cleaning everyone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Copper River salmon arrive in Seattle

The first shipment of Alaska Copper River salmon arrived early this morning at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport here (just a couple of miles from the ChefTools HQ). I’m not a fish eater, so I don’t share in the fuss, but a lot of people are apparently really excited for these fat, oily sea dwellers. From the Seattle Times, via the Associated Press:

“Some Seattle chefs went to Sea-Tac Airport early Tuesday to greet the Alaska Airlines flight carrying the season's first shipment of the highly prized Copper River salmon from Alaska.

Cooking stations were set up next to a cargo facility for a cook-off by three chefs.

Alaska Airlines says there will be at least five more flights Tuesday from Cordova to Anchorage to Seattle and across the United States.

Last year Alaska flew nearly 700,000 pounds of Copper River salmon.”

The Times’ account is a little thin. So I did some research to find out why Copper River salmon are so prized. According to FishEx (a play on FedEx, I believe), a fish exporting company in Anchorage, Copper River salmon are special because of the extra-tough journey they make to spawn (a journey that is, um, interrupted by fishermen, and probably later by bears). The Copper River, which runs 300 miles from the Gulf of Alaska up to toward the Yukon, is extremely turbulent, so the fish have to be strong, thus the extra fat and oils they store. And fat and oils equal taste. Three kinds of salmon run this river: King, Sockeye and Silver. Fishermen wait at the Copper River delta to catch them. From FishEx:

"Hundreds of fishermen try their luck, flooding the local Alaskan fishing town of Cordova in a "salmon rush" frenzy. The 500 some gill-netters fish the 35-mile wide Copper River Delta(mouth) where depth and sandbars change yearly. The rushing waters of the Copper River empty steeply from the mountains above while breakers pound in from the ocean. Unpredictable weather and extreme tides make fishing the "Flats" of the Copper River a dangerous endeavor. However, the prized catch has come to be world-renowned."

Now you know where your Copper River salmon come from. Anyone have a suggestion, or a good recipe, on how to cook these guys? Grill, oven … raw?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Excellent Italian ... Food

Do you like interesting food blogs? Do you like hardcore punk music and/or steely, sardonic post-hardcore? How about world-renowned recording engineers?

Even if you like only one of the above, you might want to check out Mario Batali Voice. It’s a food blog by Steve Albini, who started such bands as Big Black and Shellac; he’s also a renowned and revolutionary recording engineer (perhaps most famously, he recorded Nirvana's "In Utero"). He’s also, apparently, an excellent cook.

His entries are detailed, thoughtful and easily replicable. I also like the bits of personality he throws in, like how he discovered a kind of pasta called trottoli at his local Jewel (for those who are not familiar with Chicagoland grocery stores, it’s your usual big 26-lane supermarket; Stop and Shop or Pathmark for East Coasters, Safeway, Ralph’s and QFC for West Coasters). And he prepared it simply (letting pasta cook for a few minutes in sauce, by the way, is essential):

"I boiled the pasta and made a sauce by sweating finely chopped celery, onion and garlic in butter, then adding some white wine and the packing liquid (tomato juice) from a can of San Marzano tomatoes. I reduced it all down to a fairly dense paste, then added the pasta and a little of the pasta water. Cooking the pasta in the sauce for the last couple of minutes, tossing frequently, I was able to get the sauce to fill the crevices of the noodle just as I had hoped."

So, read Albini’s blog, try his stuff out at home, and put on a copy of “Excellent Italian Greyhound” to put a little pep in your step as you chop onions or sear meat.