School may be out, the weather may be heating up and COVID restrictions may be easing, but even as summer debuts and the swimming pool beckons, at least one aspect of our lives remains unchanged no matter what the season—everyone still wants to eat. With the prospect of being able to finally get out and go places looming large, it makes sense to stock your kitchen with practical tools that are in sync with your lifestyle and give you the ability to whip up goodies as quickly and as easily as possible.
It wasn’t all that long ago that my blender used to spend most of its life sitting in the corner of my kitchen cabinet and maybe making its way out if I felt inspired to bake a cheesecake or something else of similar consistency. But with blenders having improved over the years and smoothies being all the rage, things have changed in our kitchen and it seems like my NutriBullet Blender Combo gets used practically every day. With 1,200 watts of power and five different speeds, this blender quite literally crushes it, pulverizing ice, nuts, seeds and even dense fruits and veggies into smithereens, giving you the ability to make your own nut butters, soups and practically any kind of frozen beverage, cocktail or smoothie your brain can possibly imagine.
Versatility is key here, with a 64-ounce pitcher as well as 24- and 32-ounce smaller cups, and this blender is a rock star when it comes to pureeing soups and juicing whatever produce happens to be kicking around in your refrigerator. Other smart additions are to-go lids, for on-the-run smoothies and iced coffees; and a tamper to safely dislodge those bits of food that inevitably get stuck on the blades without cutting your fingers or damaging your kitchen utensils. (Been there, done that on both of those.)
While I know that most people consider soup to be a winter food, we serve it year-round here at the Hotel Eller, giving my Chefman 12-speed immersion blender a good workout on many a night. It might seem counterintuitive to love an immersion blender because its blades are encased in plastic housing, but metal immersion blenders are death to nonstick cookware, and this one is tough on ingredients but goes easy on your pots, keeping them scratch-free. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I could just puree my soup by throwing it into my Nutribullet,” but I always end up dripping soup on my counter, and besides, isn’t it easier to skip all that ladling and just stick an immersion blender straight into the pot and be done with the whole job in just a minute or two?
If I had to point to one item in my kitchen that I find myself suddenly reaching for again and again over the past year, it would have to be my wooden cutting board. No longer just for slicing and dicing, wood boards are doing dual duty these days as serving platters, whether for a London broil fresh out of the oven waiting to be sliced or for an array of cold cuts, sliced chicken, beef jerky and assorted condiments gracing your Shabbat table.
My Joseph Joseph Cut & Carve bamboo chopping board is up to the task for all those things, attractive enough to bring to the table, but practical enough for heavy kitchen work. With its bumpy center ridges, this board is great for holding a roast in place for carving, while the angled cutting surface funnels juices to the lower end where a raised lower lip keeps them from running all over your countertop. Nonstick feet keep this guy from sliding around while you are busy slicing and dicing, and best of all, bamboo is a low maintenance wood with high bacteria resistance, which is probably why bamboo cutting boards seem to be everywhere these days.
Another newcomer to my kitchen that is also turning out to be a star is Joseph Joseph’s Grip-Pin ergonomic rolling pin. Truth be told, I religiously avoided recipes that involved rolling pins since they always seemed like too much work, but the unique ergonomic design here beats the pants of the Plain-Jane rolling pin that I got years ago. With a beech wood surface wrapped around an inner cylindrical core and wide, flat handles, this rolling pan does the heavy work, taking the pressure off your wrists and saving your knuckles from smashing into the counter as you roll out that pie crust or those cinnamon buns. Also helpful are the design and weight of this rolling pin, which keep it from accidentally falling off your counter, one of those things that always seemed to happen on those rare occasions that I actually dig out my old rolling pin.
If you have ever tried heating up a kugel by trying to balance it on top of your urn or your cholent pot, you will absolutely love the Chefman warming urn. With a completely flat top and a small metal tray shaped to fit securely over the lid, this urn gives you a stable surface on which to safely and halachically perch any dry food, heating it up about as nicely as anything can be heated up on Shabbat. Developed in conjunction with a team of rabbonim, the pot comes with a 28-page booklet detailing all of the halachic issues involved, which also includes being able to refill the pot on Yom Tov. Just in case you were wondering, yes, the water does stay good and hot, and the nice folks at Chefman were nice enough to include a child-safe dispensing mechanism. While I had the opportunity to test out a prototype of this unique urn, it isn’t on the market yet—look for it online and in stores in time for the Yomim Tovim.
Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected]