Shake It Smart
Cocktail shakers haven't seen much innovation in a good long time. That is, until Elevated Craft decided that the basic cobbler-style shaker— typically a stainless steel cup and cap with an integrated strainer—had plenty of room for improvement. The startup re-engineered the shaker entirely, giving it an insulated (and ample) cup, built-in strainer and measuring cup, and screw-on caps with silicone gaskets that ensure no leaks as well as easy opening and closing. At $53 each, the Elevated Craft Cocktail Shaker is pricier than your basic stainless model, but we found the ease of use—including a concave grip—made it well worth the cost. Order at ElevatedCraft.com.
The Creamiest, Richest Tahini. Ever.
Online shopping gone awry helped us discover the best tahini we’ve ever tasted. We ordered a 2-ounce package of sesame seeds; we received a 2-pound bag. Wondering what to do with this abundance, on a whim we decided to try our hand at making tahini, the savory ground sesame seed paste used widely in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. We dumped some of the seeds in a blender, added a bit of kosher salt and a splash of water, then hit puree. The result was unbelievably rich, nutty and satisfying. Adding more or less water made it a simple matter to get just the right consistency depending on how we were using the tahini. Best yet, the tahini held perfectly in a jar in the refrigerator and suffered none of the oil separation that’s common to commercial tahinis. To make, in a skillet over medium-low toast 1 cup raw sesame seeds until fragrant and warm, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree for 30 seconds to pulverize. With the motor running, add 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, then slowly add 2⁄3 cup hot water. Blend for 1 minute, until creamy and smooth. The mixture should be thin enough to spin in the blender; if it doesn’t, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until it moves freely. Transfer to a bowl or jar and cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a week.
A Better Way to Blow Off Steam
As we wrote our cookbook “Fast and Slow,” we learned to love the flexibility and reliability of Instant Pot cooking. One thing we didn’t love? The burst of steam that erupts from the vent— and nearly singes our hands—when we flip it to do a quick-release of the pressure inside the pot. The solution? Inexpensive caps called “steam diverters” that snug over the vents, redirecting the steam off to the side and making them simple and safe to turn. While there are plenty of comical designs— including dragons, cannons and politicians— we liked simpler designs. Most are made of silicone and are widely available online and at kitchen supply shops starting around $7.
The Subtle Side of Cinnamon
We'd never considered cooking with cinnamon leaves. That is, until we got deliciously lost exploring the website of Épices de Cru, a Montreal- based spice merchant. The leaves, sometimes called Indian laurel, were among the site’s many unexpected offerings. The leaves have a delicate cinnamon-clove flavor and are used similar to bay leaves—simmered in the cooking liquid, then discarded before the dish is served. They are common to some Indian dishes and often are cooked into rice and curries. We liked them simmered in squash and other vegetable stews. They are perfect for adding to rice pudding for a gentle cinnamon flavor. We also like to steep them in chicken or vegetable broths that are the base for Moroccan, Indian or Turkish dishes such as tagines and milder curries. When using, we suggest two or three leaves per recipe. Available in 5-gram bags (about seven leaves) for $7.50 at SpiceTrekkers.com.
It’s a Real Grind
Freshly ground toasted sesame seeds are a perfect savory-crunchy garnish for everything from Asian noodles and sushi to salads and roasted root vegetables. But grinding the tender seeds as we do most others—in an electric coffee grinder— can risk overgrinding. It’s why many Japanese households keep pepper mill-like manual sesame seed grinders handy. The handheld devices make the addition of coarsely ground sesame seeds fast and easy. The Internet abounds with a range of models at various prices, but we were happy with the Bell-One Sesame Grinder we got at an Asian grocery store for $7.
When it comes to pasta sauce, the late Marcella Hazan clearly has a hold on your hearts. And we completely get it. When we asked the tens of thousands of members of our Milk Street Facebook Community for their favorite weeknight-easy pasta sauce ideas, we were pleasantly surprised by how many cited variations of Hazan’s famous four-ingredient recipe— tomatoes, butter, onion and salt—that produces a lusciously rich and savory sauce. But we were equally excited by the many creative alternatives suggested.
Clare Hardy of Durham, North Carolina, cooks shallots and garlic in olive oil until golden, then deglazes the pan with dry vermouth before adding chopped tomatoes and saffron bloomed in hot water. Crème fraîche stirred in at the end enriches the finished sauce.
James Adcock of Bellevue, Washington, makes a pureed sauce that’s rich and velvety, yet has no cream. He blends sautéed onion, canned whole tomatoes, steamed butternut squash and roasted and peeled red bell peppers until smooth, then simmers the sauce to bring the flavors together.
And Karen Walman of Brookfield, Connecticut, creates a bold one-pot wonder by pairing a simple and briny puttanesca with creamy white beans and flaked tuna.
For Milk Street’s versions of all three recipes, go to 177milkstreet.com/communityrecipes.