Potato Timbales, Polenta Cakes; Kitchen Gadgets – do you or don’t you?

Kitchen gadgets.

Toys for cooks.

The new and improved, must have tool for the wanna-be top chef.

How many of you buy them?

How many of you use them?

Here’s the tough question:

How many of you use them more than once?

More than twice?

How often do they become something you refuse to do without?

I freely admit that I have spent money on choppers and processors and fancy electric machines that will do all sorts of marvelous things in record time.

I will also freely admit that they are all languishing in the bowels of my cabinets.

When I do remember that I own them, I think about how much more work they are to clean then one sharp knife.

Then I grab the sharp knife.

It tends to be the simple tools rather then the expensive, fancy ones that I end up using.

Here are three that I wouldn’t do without:



You don’t recognize this?  It’s a hand-made opener for cans with pull rings.  I got it from a little old man in the mountains near our friend in Spain.  He carves them.

This is how it works:


Just slip it under the ring and rock it back.  Any shape opens perfectly and easily.

And for mincing/crushing or doing anything else to garlic, this can’t be topped:


Drop the cloves in, twist a few times and it’s done. Rinses clean in seconds.

For chopping herbs, this has been my favorite for more years than I care to count:


As to the ‘must haves’ that haven’t…. This is the current toy:


The rings; not the Apple Balsamic Vinegar…. I always manage to use food.

I knew when I saw them that I had to own them.  I knew they would soon be indispensable.

They’re simple things, just allowing one to make perfectly round or stacked foods… a universal goal for every chef!

This was my first effort, last January, right after I bought them:

Potato Mushroom Timbales

Potato Mushroom Timbales

2 medium potatoes, (12oz, 350gr)
2 medium shallots,  (3.5oz, 75gr)
3oz (60gr) mushrooms
1.2oz (45gr) Gruyère  cheese
2 tsp olive oil

Finely chop the mushrooms and shallots.  Shred the potatoes.  Heat 1 tsp oil in medium skillet.  Add onions, mushrooms and sauté until tender and starting to brown. Remove and set aside.
Heat remaining tsp oil and add potatoes.  Sauté until potatoes are starting to get tender and are partially cooked.
Put 2 ring on a baking sheet that’s been  lightly brushed with oil.  Pat 1/4 of the potatoes into each ring.  Divide and add the mushroom, onion, patting down lightly.  Top with the remaining potatoes.  Put the cheese on top and bake (400F, 200C) until brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Slip a spatula under the rings and transfer to plates.  Remove rings and serve.  

They were good.

They were pretty.

I have no idea why I put the rings in a drawer and ignored them for 8 months

I got them out the other day and made this:

Polenta Cakes

Sautéed Polenta Cakes

1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup quick-cooking polenta
1/4 cup Parmesan
4 dry-cured Greek Olives, pitted and chopped
1 tbs olive oil

Bring stock and oil to boil in a small saucepan. Add polenta, whisking constantly – or it will have little volcanic eruptions spewing polenta all over your stove. Turn heat down and cook about 5 minutes (or whatever your package tells you), stirring constantly.  When done, stir in cheese, olives and remove from heat.
Place 2 rings on lightly oiled cling film.  Spoon 1/4 of the polenta into each ring.  Let rest 2 minutes, then remove ring and repeat. (I only have 2 rings).  Allow polenta to cool.
Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet.  Add polenta and sauté until browned, turn and brown the other side.  Remove and serve.

These were good.

And they were pretty.

I’ll try to get the rings out more often.  To be honest I can’t remember why I had to have them….

Thankfully most of my compulsions are for cheap, simple things.

Although I have been yearning for a pressure cooker lately…..

What gadgets are hiding in your cupboards?

15 thoughts on “Potato Timbales, Polenta Cakes; Kitchen Gadgets – do you or don’t you?”

  1. I am a gadget junkie – they make me happy.
    Great rings! I love how tall they are.
    I see those timbales in my near future..

  2. Hi Katie – great idea to use the rings for polenta. I have them too which I have always used for making homemade gluten free Hamburger buns – they are great! I also could not live without my 20 year old Moulinex Food Processor – great for pureeing soups, for smoothies, jams, breadcrumbs, coleslaw, making almond meal and the list goes on! Also glad I finally invested in a really good chefs knife…would be lost without it.

  3. Kitchen gadgets are like puppy love – you fall for them, then grow out of them quickly. I’ve loved and tossed a thousand of them. The ones that stuck are a simple veggie peeler, my self-cleaning garlic press, an egg slicer, a contraption that slices bread into very thin slices and an ice cream scoop.

  4. I’ve always wanted one of those mezza lunas but every time I look at one longingly, it’s nixed. (We have a couple of formidable sharp <strike>lethal weapons</strike> knives that work awfully well for chopping herbs.)
    Your timbales look beautiful AND delicious.
    I have a couple of rings like that that I HAD to have too. I can’t remember the last time I used them… it might have been to cut circles for tart lids. I was thinking about getting them out to make English muffins. Now I’m thinking maybe we neeeeeeed some timbales first.

  5. Julia Child was a fan of gadgets — or so the Smithsonian Museum declared when I visited her exhibit (replete with her kitchen!). (I couldn’t recognize most of hers for their function.) So you’re in good company. As for me, I love the meat pounder, the food processor, the remote thermometer, the lemon squeezer and the food mill. After that, yeah, I’ve got three drawers of “stuff.”

  6. I just splurged on an earth friendly nonstick ceramic pan. I love it. I do like my food processor, but I think twice before dragging it out because I don’t like to clean it.

  7. Like Meridith, my favorites are my ceramic pans (from Cuisinart). They include a warning, “if you use high heat your food will burn!”, they’re so conductive. Also, I love my Mexican combo lemon/lime squeezer, like Rick Bayless uses. But best has got to be my silicone “scoop” spatula. It’s a spatula where the blade is formed like a shallow spoon. It allows you to scoop that last bit of sauce out of the pan.

  8. Ina, I do use my blender, lots, but the food processor stays in it’s box.
    Natashya, I love gadgets, too…. especially cheap ones LOL
    Zoomie, the ice cream scoop is one that didn’t make it… still have the melon-baller, tho.
    Pam, it’s a garlic crusher – I love it… easy to use and easy to clean.
    Elizabeth, it’s the little cutting board that came with the mezzeluna that really makes it handy.
    TikiPundit, I wouldn’t be without the remote thermometer!
    Meredith, the cleaning is always what keeps mine in the cabinet. What kind of pan? I’m jealous…. Love new pans!
    brassfrog, okay, now I have to have some ceramic pans… I’ve got a dutch oven I love. Want more!
    tasteofbeirut, it’s just a little plastic gadget but it works so well.
    Marika, I got the garlic press from Solutions.com. The little wooden lid pull was made by an old man that lives near a friend in the mountains.
    Nancy, I know… I still want them, tho ;-))
    Val, I should find out if he’s still making them….
    Nirmala, smart woman! I’m getting better. Moving has curtailed my urges a lot.
    manningroad, I don’t even know if he’s still alive – I’ll check it out on our next trip….

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