Monday, August 2, 2010

Tools of the Trade - My Favorite Gadgets

Are you a "gadget" freak? If so, your kitchen is probably brimming with tools and appliances galore, right? If you actually do use them, mostly, then you'll agree that you probably couldn't do without them. All of them serve a distinct purpose. From bowls, spatulas and measuring spoons to whisks, thermometers and food processors, the proper tool can make the cooking process easier and more enjoyable. If you're a novice cook, you may not have much but you are intrigued by them and want to accumulate more. I'll periodically cover a "gadget" that I think is important to have in a well-stocked kitchen.

But let's work on the terminology before we begin, shall we? Why call them "gadgets"? To me, the term implies the thing is frivolous. We all know better. They are tools. As any professional can tell you, tools are needed to work, whether you are a mechanic or a doctor or a woodworker. The home cook is no different. That said, my first post will be about a frivolous thing I once bought and have hardly used. Ha!

The first Tool of the Trade that I wanted to write about is the Yogurt Strainer. See, I told you - not totally necessary like a bowl or a spoon, but if you like Greek yogurt (regular yogurt with a thicker consistency, almost like a fresh cheese) as much as I do, I've got news for you: you can make it yourself for less than that expensive Greek stuff.

My Yogurt Strainer was designed for that purpose only.  It looks like a coffee filter but it's taller. It works by draining the whey (liquid) from the milk curds. If you find yourself without this "tool", fret not; a large mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth will work just as well. In fact, on one website someone left a comment about making his own Greek yogurt and his grandfather, from the old country, swore by a clean white t-shirt as a filter! Just make sure your strainer is large enough to hold the amount of yogurt you want to use and ideally has a fine mesh screen. 

You might already have a colander but that's not what I'm talking about. For yogurt, that probably won't work well because the holes are too large (unless you use a fine gauged liner such as a T-shirt or cheesecloth).

Since this post is about the strainer, let me stress its importance in the kitchen, as it can be used in any number of ways. Use it to drain cooked foods, catch citrus seeds while squeezing the fruit and it's ideal when making stocks and sauces. You can filter out the vegetables and chunky bits that have given all they've got during the simmering process, leaving behind a flavorful broth or smooth sauce.

This morning I put a whole tub of yogurt into my strainer and I'm going to let it drain while I'm at work. Usually only 3-4 hours is required. If it's too thick I can always add a little bit of the drained whey back in to thin it out but I actually like it thick. We'll see what it looks like this afternoon. It's been so long sinch I've used this thing, I can't remember. It has Graham Kerr's name on it. For those of you old enough to remember who he was, he had a cooking show back in the late 60's called "The Galloping Gourmet" and I loved watching him because he was silly and didn't take himself, or cooking, too seriously. For those of you with cable, the new Cooking Channel is showing reruns. The little recipe book that came with it has all sorts of ideas for how to use the "cheese", particularly a few  "healthy cheesecake" recipes that I plan to finally try. For now, I'm content to eat my home-made strained yogurt "as is" with a little fruit on top. Why didn't I dig this out sooner?!

I hope this will be my only post of a kitchen gadget / tool that hardly ever gets used, as I plan to make much more Greek yogurt from now on!

For a description of "Greek" style yogurts around the globe, click here. For how to make strained or Greek yogurt, click here for step-by-step directions.

1 comment :

  1. The yogurt that resulted was great, by the way. Thick and creamy. I didn't use my favorite yogurt this time, but will try it again using a different brand and see what that will be like.

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