When do you save and when do you splurge? It’s a huge question, especially when you’re on a budget. If you’re watching every dollar, or if you’re just hoping to save a few, deciding to make a purchase can be tough. Often I ask myself, is it really worth my money?
And then there are the times I’ve been so enthralled with a new tool I’ve rashly made a purchase without really considering its practical application. There was the stainless steel garlic masher I’ve never used; the “adorable” dessert fondue tray which scorches chocolate; and the electric coffee grinder with no removable parts, that’s impossible to wash, and is now so rancidly acidic it has no hope of turning out grounds anyone would want to drink. Think you and I are alone? William Grimes documented several big name chefs who have fallen into the kitchen-tool-woes in his article “Must-Have Gadgets for the Kitchen? Think Again.”
When it comes down to it, where should you save and where should you splurge? Here are two tools I use on a regular basis. One’s a save and one’s a splurge.
SAVE – Colanders
A colander’s, a colander’s, a colander. As long as it has small enough holes not to let your food slip out. Buy that baby used and save yourself dollars. Think Good Will. Salvation Army. The second hand store down the street.
SPLURGE – Thermapen
Thermapen is Cooks Illustrated’s recommended instant read thermometer. It’s pricey – $96.00 pricey. And, it’s worth every penny. Those people at Cooks Illustrated know what they’re talking about. This onetime purchase will change the way you cook. Forget standing in front of the open oven waiting for your thermometer to slowly register. In just six seconds, Thermapen accurately gives you a temperature. Stop cutting into your meat to check if it’s finished cooking. Test it with your Thermapen. Re-heating a casserole? Gone are the days of finger-in the-center checking. (You know you’ve done it.) Thermapen well tell you exactly how warm it is.
Now, put your Thermapen into action with this Crusted Tilapia. We all know, protein is almost always the most expensive part of your meal. With Thermapen, there’s no guessing. Only cooking and eating.
Pan Seared Tilapia
4 tilapia filets
3 TPS olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Season tilapia filets with salt to taste. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add tilapia filets and allow to brown on one side (about 3 minutes). Flip and transfer immediately to oven. Allow to cook until the center registers 145 degrees (about 5 minutes).
Remove from oven. Transfer each filet to a plate and top with pesto. Serve immediately.
1 bunch basil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup parmesan, finely grated
In a large food processor, pulse basil, pine nuts and garlic until well chopped. With food processor running, stream olive oil into mixture. Remove from food processor and stir in Parmesan. Serve on top of fish, tossed with pasta or spread on bread.
Note: If you don’t want to use your pesto immediately, omit the cheese and freeze the pesto. Consider spooning into an ice cube tray to freeze pesto in individual servings.
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