It’s always nice to get some feedback, especially when it comes from a fellow food writer. My last blog — on ripening pineapple and my handy-dandy new pineapple corer-slicer, elicited an email from Cec Handevidt, who has written a food column for the Jackson Pilot since 1982. I don’t always get to see the Jackson paper, but when I do, I always look for Cec’s column, so it was a pleasure to hear from her, especially since she included a precaution about using fresh pineapple in gelatin — something I was aware of once but had forgotten.
“Did you know pineapple contains an enzyme, called bromelain, which aids digestion by breaking down the protein structure in food?,” writes Cec. “ While that is a good thing, it will also break down the protein in gelatin (Jell-O) and keep it from setting up. If you want pineapple in your Jell-O, used the canned kind. (I suppose you could cook it with a simple syrup, too, but that sounds like WAY too much work)”
I also got an email from Carolyn Benson, who shared about her favorite kitchen gadget:
“I read your article about gadgets, and immediately thought of my ‘push-pull-pal’ that my sister made for me, out of a paint-stir stick. It had rounded ends, with one having a rounded notch, and about 2 inches down on one side, a notch that fits an oven rack just right. You pull the rack out with the notch on the side, and push it back in by the notch on the end. I cannot imagine ever using my oven without it. Of course, sis has it decorated with flowers on the paddle, and it is sanded smooth. It is right by my stove, and I am always using it, and could not go without my ‘push-pull-pal.’”
Love that ingenuity. I may have to put Hubby Bryan to work on fashioning such a device for our kitchen.
I’ve also done some thinking about other can’t-live-without gadgets in my own kitchen. I admit that there are number of items that mostly languish in the drawer, mostly because I don’t think about using them. But then there are also my go-tos, such as the just-right-sized silicone spatula that gets put to use on a daily basis. I also couldn’t do without what my mother always called “a blending fork,” although I’ve never used it for blending. This oversized fork was a staple in DotMom’s kitchen,and I had trouble finding a replacement when my well-used model suffered a broken tine. But I did locate a new one, and get it out whenever I’m browning ground meat — it easily breaks apart the meat and helps it to cook evenly.
I often also grab my favorite small whisk — a gift from dear friend Annette Rath, who runs a kitchen store called the Cooking Depot in Cuero, Texas. This whisk has a small ball on its end — I think it may have been called an ice tea whisk or something like that — that is ideal for blending small-batch concoctions, such as salad dressings, or just a couple of scrambled eggs. It gets a lot more use in our kitchen than does its larger relatives.
With salad season on the horizon (if it ever warms up again!), I expect that little whisk will get even more of a workout at our house. During the warm weather months, we try to do one salad night a week, focusing on the abundance of fresh vegetables and greens. In searching through my mom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook,” I recently came across this longtime favorite spinach salad recipe, which I think will make an early appearance at our supper table.
Spinach and Lettuce Salad
½ large head lettuce
½ pound fresh spinach
½ pound bacon
3 hard-cooked eggs
1 red onion
½ cup mayonnaise (NOT salad dressing)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Wash and dry lettuce and tear in bite-size pieces. Wash spinach, remove stems and tear into smaller pieces.
Cut bacon into small pieces (freeze briefly for easier cutting), fry and drain well on paper toweling. Slice hard-cooked eggs. Slice onion thinly and separate into rings.
In large bowl, toss together all the above ingredients, reserving some of the bacon, eggs and onion for garnish.
For dressing, combine mayo, sugar and vinegar. Toss dressing with salad just before serving, topping with reserved items. Serves 6.