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My Kitchen Gadget Addiction

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See how nice and neat these egg and avocado slices are? Because gadgets!

Confession: I have a kitchen gadget addiction. I hoard everything from the tiniest garlic chopper to counter-hogging “small” appliances like the air fryer. I have a particular weakness for the little plastic single-purpose thingies that are among those celebrity chef Alton Brown despises and rants against in this hilarious video.

He’s right. I know he’s right; all you really need is a great knife. It’s just that he’s coming from the perspective of someone who’s had years of training and experience wielding pointy kitchen utensils, probably drinks less wine than I do and is definitely not perimenopausal, which lends a charming unpredictability to all of my endeavors, kitchen and otherwise.

I used to be firmly anti-gadget, constantly battling clutter in my too-small kitchen. Somewhere along the way my resistance evaporated and here I am, contemplating a cake pop maker.

Here are my current favorite kitchen gadgets in order of favoriteness. (Note: These are just little handheld gadgets, the gateway drug to small appliances and mixer attachments, which are posts in themselves.)

OXO avocado slicer. Yes, I own the exact same gadget that appears in the above video. I eat a lot of avocados. They present varying degrees of cooperation ranging from mushy to underripe, and if you’re dealing with an uncooperative, underripe avocado, pulling the pit out and trying to peel the skin off with a knife can be time-consuming and, for me at least, dangerous. Enter the OXO avocado slicer. It has a perfectly adequate yet not life-threatening blade on one end—the kitchen version of kindergarten scissors—and a slicer on the other end that gets all of the avocado out of the peel in nice thin slices, perfect for toast. Even when you want chunkier pieces for a salad or smoothie, the pit remover in the middle is a great way to avoid accidental amputations.

KitchenAid egg slicer. This is basically the same thing as the strawberry slicer in Alton’s video. I saw the cute red gadget on the wall at Target and grabbed it mostly because it was cute and red. Then I realized how much fun it is to slice eggs and other things as well: Strawberries and olives are frequent flyers. Sure, slicing with a knife is not hard, but this is more fun and satisfies my obsessive-compulsive desire for neat, same-sized slices.

Lekue microwave omelet maker. I picked this up at Publix on a whim when we were eating low carb, which meant making a lot of mini “quiches” in muffin tins for breakfast. I was tired of cleaning the muffin pans, and sometimes we’d run out of mini quiches before the end of the week. I thought it would be nice to throw some eggs and veggies into the microwave for a couple of minutes. It’s been great for those (many) times that I don’t get around to advance go-breakfast prepping.

Genius Nicer Dicer. I own a much simpler, older version than the kit they offer now, but same principle. It’s another great gadget for OCD foodies because it cuts perfect little same-size squares, which make a beautiful mango salsa, for example. The smaller size is perfect for dicing hot peppers without getting the oil all over your hands. It also dices onion neatly (as opposed to the food processor. Or me.) and eliminates all the crying.

Avocado Toast

1 slice Ezekiel 7 Sprouted Grains Bread, toasted
1/2 tablespoon Chosen Foods Coconut Oil Mayo (or your favorite mayo; I just like this one)
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced thinly
dash Penzey’s Sunny Spain seasoning

Spread mayo on one side of toast. Slice avocado and fan across toast. Sprinkle with Sunny Spain seasoning.

How to Make Eggless Homemade Ravioli

Uncooked ravioli squares lined up on parchment paperRecently I’ve had a couple of people ask me how to make homemade ravioli. Okay, it wasn’t all that recently. It was before the holidays, when I typically make a lot of ravioli. However, during the holidays I generally don’t have time to do anything more than make the ravioli and post a show-offy picture on Facebook, then collapse from exhaustion. Now that I’ve recovered, I thought I’d share my totally non-expert thoughts on making ravioli.

Though I’ve been known to make occasional random batches of ravioli here and there year-round, we have a tradition of having it on Christmas Eve at our house as part of our Feast of the Two Fishes. (This is based on the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but as we are a small family and only two of us are part Italian, we’re down to two fishes. Actually, they are usually crustaceans and bivalves, if you want to be exact, but hey, at least we have a tradition.)

I’m not sure when this got started, but clearly it was sometime after I learned to make ravioli, and then found a really good butternut squash ravioli recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse. I usually pair it with broiled shrimp and scallops with just a touch of Cajun seasoning on them.

As I said, I’m no expert in pasta making. From what I’ve been able to determine so far, my ancestors hailed from every western European country except Italy, so I’m not sure where I got my affinity for Italian food. If you want to learn about ravioli from an expert, check out this video from Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyThe Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family (Norton, 2008). I also highly recommend the book.

To paraphrase the book jacket, Schenone has clearly mastered “… the mysteries of pasta, rolled on a pin into a perfect circle of gossamer dough.” That’s not how I do it, and to be honest, I’ve never had anyone fall out of his chair raving about how gossamery my pasta is. However, they do gobble it up and ask for more, and my way is a bit faster and easier, so I’ll share it. Note: My son is allergic to eggs, so I use Mario Batali‘s recipe for Eggless Pasta.

Things You’ll Need

Before we get started, I’d just like to say a thing or two about ravioli molds. I have a ravioli mold that makes a dozen medium-sized ravioli at a time. It’s easier than cutting them out individually and pressing them together, but the drawback is that it sometimes allows for air pockets. These are considered uncool among the ravioli crowd, I believe because they can cause the ravioli to break open. A friend tried a ravioli stamp and wasn’t crazy about it. My dream tool would be a ravioli pin like the one Schenone uses in her video. But then we’re getting into rolling-out-circles-of-gossamer territory, so it may be a while.

Instructions

First, make your filling. If you make the full recipe for Batali’s pasta, you will have enough for a batch of butternut squash pasta and a batch of another. I make cheese (recipe below). You can also halve the recipe for lesser occasions.

Next, make the pasta. The traditional method calls for piling your flour in the center of a cutting board, making a well in the center and adding your water (or eggs, if using) a little at a time, stirring with your hands, and then kneading. My method calls for piling the flour in a large food processor and adding water a little at a time with the processor running on a low speed. As soon as it comes together, take it out and divide into two balls. Cover one and set aside. Knead the dough by running it through the pasta machine on the widest setting 8-10 times. Cover and set aside. Repeat with remaining pasta. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.ravioli2 (2)

To fill the pasta, roll it through the pasta machine at increasing settings until it is thin but not so much that it won’t hold filling. I usually stop at level 4 or 5. Lightly flour the pasta mold and lay the dough across it. Use the plastic thingy that comes with the mold to make indentions for your filling. Using a small (teaspoon-sized) cookie dough scoop, fill each section. Cover the ravioli with another section of dough. Seal the ravioli by rolling with a rolling pin, starting in the center of the mold and working outward. Flip the mold over and gently remove the ravioli. Place the ravioli in a large dish sprinkled with cornmeal (I also use wax paper between layers). Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill in refrigerator until ready to cook.

To cook, simply drop in boiling water until ravioli floats to the top. Many people recommend salting the water for various reasons. I’m going to leave that up to you.

Cheese Ravioli Filling

Makes enough filling for 1/2 of Mario Batali’s Eggless Pasta recipe.
8 ounces ricotta
4 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch nutmeg
Mix ingredients in food processor or by hand.
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