Doing Double-Duty

I remember many years ago when I was still in college, garlic presses were all the rage. I was flying home from California and asked my dad on the phone if he wanted me to bring him one since I didn’t think he could easily find a garlic press on Guam. He surprised me — “I have a garlic press,” he said. Impressed, I said my good-byes and prepared for my trip. Once back on Guam, I was making dinner one night and rifled through the kitchen drawers looking for that garlic press. Nada.

“Hey, Dad, where’s your garlic press?”
“What? What are you looking for?”
“The garlic press — you said you have one.”
“Yeah, I have a garlic press,” he said, and without a further word he reached for his 8” chef’s knife, placed the flat side of the knife over the garlic cloves on the cutting board, and gave the knife a whack with his palm. The garlic cleanly slipped away from their papery skins, slightly bruised and fragrant. “There!” Dad said. “The Philippine garlic press.”

Ask anyone who’s known me for more than a month of Sundays, and they’ll tell you: I do like kitchen gadgets. I have more than my share of the odd, the old, and the trendy. But deep in my heart I’m still my father’s daughter and I have a hard time throwing away gadgets, and feel guilty about having things like that garlic press that have only one purpose, taking up valuable drawer and cupboard space. With this inherited neurosis, I’m always delighted to find new uses for things that are sitting around my kitchen.

One item that often does double duty around here is the large coffee filter cone I tote around with me when I travel. This hard plastic filter holder has been with me since those storied college days, and now when we’re home it’s often used to drain plain yogurt to make thickened yogurt to use in raitas, salads, shrikand, or to substitute for sour cream and even whipped cream.

Chinese soup spoons make wonderful scoops to measure out dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, rice, etc. Especially when baking and when converting recipes between U.S. and metric systems, it is important to scoop dry ingredients — especially flour — into your measuring cup rather than to dip your measuring cup into the flour and treat it as a scoop. The latter method will often pack the flour and give you more flour than you realize.

And these flat-botomed spoons have the added benefit of eliminating the need for a knife to level off your measurements. Just pour to fill the measuring cup until slightly mounded, then level off with the bottom of the spoon.

This last trick always gets a breathy “Cool!” rating from people with whom I share this tip. In fact, I use the pastry cutter more often for this task than for its intended purpose of cutting in butter with flour.

Meet the ultimate hard-boiled egg chopper! It slices, it dices, it makes perfect chopped eggs for your egg salad sandwiches, potato-egg salads, or anything that requires a fine chop. And it does it in literally 20 seconds. Chop the egg in the same bowl you will make the salad, and you won’t have to wash up a cutting board too. But do wash the cutter as soon as you’re done with the chopping and it will clean up very quickly and easily. If you wait until your sandwich is done, you’ll have a bit of a challenge.

Of course, even after all this time, the “Philipping garlic press” is still the only one I have.

Please help me overcome my neurosis about single-purpose gadgets — Do you have a clever use for your kitchen gadgets to share? Laurie at
Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska taught me to use a meat pounder to bruise often woody ginger — a great tip I use when making Ginger Tea or using large pieces to make soups or broths. I’d really love to hear what unusual uses you have for your stuff, too!