Grate News!!!


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Over the years I learned to disguise the presence of onions in my cooking by using one of my favorite kitchen tools: the box grater.

It’s on my counter, ready for action. When the kiddos were younger they did not like to see onions in their tomato sauce, or meatballs…..or anything. I discovered that by grating the onions the sauce still had the onion flavor, but they were with one with the sauce. I do the same thing with meatballs. I just grate the onion into the hamburger instead of finely chopping them. When I make my mother’s potato salad recipe, I grate the onion into the mayonnaise mixture. Perfection!

I love using packaged grated cheese for the ease. Sometimes when I make lasagna, I buy some mozzarella cheese and grate it myself. It really is better. The trick is to unwrap the mozzarella and put it on a plate and freeze it for about a half hour. You just want it be firm and not necessarily frozen. It grates easier this way. I usually grate it into a bowl or on parchment paper. Whatever you don’t use, pop into a plastic bag and save.

During the winter months I make a lot of soup. One of my son Nick’s favorite soups is Tortellini Sausage Soup. The recipe calls for grated zucchini.  I have tried doing this with a box grater and in my food processor. I prefer the results using the grater.  I also think the box grater is easy to rinse off or placed in the dishwasher. Most people don’t even know there is zucchini in it. It cooks up and helps thicken the soup. Well, that and the Parmesan rind I toss in near the end. That’s a great trick to add flavor to soups. Some stores even sell just the rind.

You can use your box grater for baking. I prefer using a home made pie crust. It’s not a complicated process but there are some helpful hints. The trick is have the butter and the water very cold. I unwrap the butter required for my recipe and freeze it. After it’s frozen I grate it and then re-freeze the gratings until I am ready to make the pie crust. I use my food processor to make my pie crust. You only want to mix it until the dough sticks together when you squeeze a handful of the mixture. You want to have specks of butter in the raw dough. This makes for a flaky crust. I put ice cubes in a pyrex measuring cup and then add cold water and let it sit for about 15 minutes. When I am preparing the crust, I pour out the amount I need, which usually about 1/3 of a cup of water. Cold ingredients make for a flaky pie crust. Even is you don’t want to grate the butter, cut it into very small pieces and freeze it until you are ready to make the pie crust. It really makes a difference.

I would also suggest buying a stainless steel grater. You don’t have to buy the most expensive one, but one that will last. My first one was aluminum and got rusty. I replaced it a nice solid box grater. There are different designs of box graters. You can get ones with handles and multi-sides and basins that collect your grating. I prefer simple designs.

Happy Grating!

Holiday Haze

It’s a week after Thanksgiving and I am still exhausted.  Food fatigue. Host-traumatic stress syndrome. Call it what you want. I don’t think I’ll be ready for Christmas. Thanksgiving has done me in. I am out.of.shape. That’s right, holiday shape. I need a regiment so I can stand and stir for hours, bend and scoop up drops from the floor, and a little lift and stretch to reach those holiday dishes on the top shelves. Forget “Hot Yoga”, enroll in Hot Holiday Hosting. That’s a program I would sign up for. You have to be in special shape for Christmas. It’s not just one day, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are presents and wrapping involved. Pretend hugs of love and cookies to dispense. It’s the hardest holiday of all. You also have to decorate and clean. Thanksgiving is a few pumpkins, cornhusks, and a handful of acorns tossed on the table. For Christmas, there is not one inch of your house that goes undecorated. You’ve got mantles to adorn, stockings to hang, stairs to flourish with fauna, and Christmas trees to decorate in yearly themes and windows to light, in place of the usual closed curtain sequestering.  And then….we’re back to cooking. We cook our traditional foods and try to introduce something new with great aplomb. It’s the holiday where traditions and past memories dim the perplexities of today. And let’s not talk about the lit inflatable yard waste. Nothing says CHRISTMAS like an inflated Snoopy. Let’s not talk about it!  Stick a fork in me. I think I’m done!