Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Microplane herb mill

I remember the first time I saw a Microplane zester. It was the late '90s and the Microplane still looked like the woodworking tool that it had started out as (just a straightforward rasp, no fancy handle). Flash forward a decade and Microplane has a whole range of kitchen tools with colored handles and beautiful design.

And the word Microplane has become a part of recipe language. When you write a recipe and you want to be sure that people are getting the same type/quantity of citrus zest as you're expecting them to get, you pretty much have to tell them that you used a Microplane. (See my post on the subject.)

Anyway, blah, blah, blah. Here we are in 2010, and Microplane continues to put itself in our kitchens in a way that makes it hard to imagine how we accomplished these tasks before their tools existed. Microplane's fiercely sharp cutting edges can now be found in an herb mill. Put fleshy herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint, dill) in the body of the mill and a simple twist of the handle produces perfectly minced (not smooshed and bruised) herbs.

Not content with the sleek stainless steel look of the mill standing up, Microplane also made the bottom of the mill (with it's surgical-grade blades) pretty darn cute.

The mill is available for $24.95 exclusively from Sur la Table through the end of this year. Starting January 2011, it will be available nationwide.

Friday, October 22, 2010


My grown-up side tells me that nesting glasses is a bad idea. You want the middle one and you have to undo the whole stack of glasses to get it.... Or how about those times when bowls or glasses mysteriously refuse to come apart when you've stacked them on top of one another.

But the kid side of me wants these nesting Babushkups. They're from my favorite crazy designers at Fred & Friends and sell for $18 from Perpetual Kid. The 3 glasses hold 8, 10, and 14 ounces.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When life hands you lemon zest

Sometimes you're just in the mood for that incomparable flavor that lemon zest brings to food. But you're ready to cook and, OMG, that fresh lemon you thought you had has turned into a beautiful greenish-blue science project....and you really don't want to go out to the market just to pick up a fresh lemon.

Well, here's a cool idea for keeping that fresh lemon-y flavor in good supply: Air-dry your own lemon zest*. Here's how:

With a vegetable peeler, take off strips of lemon zest (1), making sure to only take the very thin colored portion of the lemon peel, the part with all that great lemon-y flavor.

Set them aside on a plate (leaving space between the strips of zest) for a couple of days. They will shrivel up (2) and turn a brown-yellow color.

Put them into an airtight container.

When you're ready to use them, you can either throw them straight into a soup, stew, or stock; or add them to the cooking water for rice or beans.

Or, if you want fresh lemon zest for salads or baking, all you have to do it reconstitute the lemon zest. Let it sit in cold water for 1 hour and it will regain its original yellow color and will be easy to sliver or mince or whatever. (You might be able to hasten this process by throwing some boiling water on the zest, though somehow I imagine that'll wash off some of the great lemon oils. But maybe not. Worth a try.)

Do this with fresh lemons that you bought just for the juice (pull off the zest strips before you squeeze them). Or do it with lemons you bought "just in case." Surprisingly, the lemons that have the zest taken off them (but with the white pith still intact) don't seem to go bad any sooner than a lemon with its full peel still on.

This is one of those things that made me think: How come I didn't always know I could do this?

*Of course you can buy dried lemon peel. But that's different. That's the zest plus the spongy white pith part, which tends to be bitter.