Goodies for foodies

It’s that time, when we’re all searching for just the right thing to put under the tree, next to the menorah, at the Kwanzaa table, or whatever. If you have a foodie or two in your list, you’re in luck. There are a ton of gadgets and equipment for all budgets. Some must-haves I think belong in every kitchen include:

Sharp vegetable peeler

One the best pieces of equipment in my culinary school knife kit turned out to the Messermeister Serrated Swivel Peeler ($8). It’s light, nimble, and sharp. Even better, Sur la Table sells it in a selection of juicy colors.

Digital thermometer

I use my Taylor Commercial Instant-Read Digital Thermometer all the time. With a capacity up to 450 F, it’s  versatile enough to test the doneness of meat or keep track of sugar as it cooks for candy.

Kitchen scale

I’m hopeless at eyeballing ingredients, so I use a digital kitchen scale for everything from weighing out pasta to scaling ingredients for baking. My favorite is the Oxo Good Grips Food Scale ($49.99), which has an 11-pound capacity, removable stainless-steel deck (makes it easy to clean), and a light-up digital display that pulls out (nice when you have a large bowl overhangs). Of course, it also has a taring function and the option for Imperial or metric weight.

Good knives

Mac the Knife: These imported Japanese knives live up to the hype.

A good knife is a cook’s best friend, and everyone has their favorite. Mine is the Japanese-made Mac knife, which is lightweight, well-balanced, thin, and maintains a sharp edge. Their knives are also well priced (starting as low as $25 for a paring knife). Shop around online to find the best deals.

If a quest to eat cheap and/or local fare means spending more time in the kitchen breaking down whole chickens or filleting fish, a good boning knife is a helpful tool. These knives boast thin, super-sharp, flexible, 5- or -6-inch blades that make it easy to separate meat from the bone or skin a fish. Again, check out what Mac has to offer.

Stand mixer

A KitchenAid stand mixer is the workhorse of many professional and home kitchens. Why? It’s versatile. You can use it to mix a cake batter, knead bread dough, or whip up a meringue. Optional attachments extend its reach to include making ice cream, grinding meat, stuffing sausage, or rolling out pasta. (Hint: I’m asking for the pasta attachment this Christmas.) Mine mixer is from the tilt-head, 5-quart Artisan series ($299.99), and I confess I bought it because, well, it was apple green and went very nicely in a kitchen I had just remodeled. It still does a terrific job, but if I were buying a stand mixer know, I’d pay a bit more for the Professional 600 series ($399.99). It has a more powerful motor and 6-quart bowl for bigger jobs.

If someone already has a KitchenAid stand mixer, surprise them with a Beater Blade ($20), a paddle attachment with rubber bumpers so it scrapes the bowl while it mixes. KitchenAid, why didn’t you think of this?

Thursday’s tapas

We covered Spain yesterday in our whirlwind world tour known as International Cuisine class, so I’m all about the little nibbles this week.

Quote of the week

The Roma “is truly the eunuch of the tomato world and doesn’t deserve your time.”–Lynn Rosetto Kasper, The Splendid Table

Picture 2Score one for the South

Last night’s episode of “Top Chef” restored my faith in the show, as the contestants cooked for some of the world’s top French chefs and demonstrated they have impressive culinary chops. I love Atlanta-based chef Kevin Gillespie, who wowed Daniel Boulud by serving escargot with Southern-style bacon jam and won the quickfire challenge. Gillespie’s red beard and wide-eyed enthusiasm remind me of a young Kris Kringle; he may look like a humble son of Dixie, but fellow contestants would do well not to underestimate him. The best quote of the night came from fellow Atlantan Eli Kirshtein, who affectionately likened Joel Robuchon to a “unicorn.”

Picture 3Cheap–and sharp

I love my Mac knives, but if I were in the market for a new one, I’d definitely check out the colorful, affordable Pure Komachi 2 knives from Shun. They’re made of Japanese carbon steel and cost less than 15 bucks.–Serious Eats

Picture 4The high price of health food

Peeps think healthy fare is too expensive in this economy, so they’re ordering junkier food at restaurants, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. In a previous story, NRN reported that $5 is the magic number of consumers, as eateries from fast-food outlets like Subway to high-end restaurants load menus with 5-buck fare to attract budget-conscious diners.

Picture 5Food safety clearinghouse

Have questions/concerns about food safety? Check out the new government site, The site includes updates on food recalls as well as tips about food safety.

Picture 6Meat matters

Don’t know a ribeye from a T-bone? This handy chart can clear up the confusion.–The Food Paper (Gayot)