Here are five fabulous ways those tools can make holiday foods stand out.
A zester/scorer is handy for scoring and finely shredding fruits and vegetables. Use the zester part of the tool, the end with the sharp edge and small holes, to remove tiny strips of zest from citrus fruits. Use the scorer, the sharp rounded point located in the center of the tool, to create long, narrow strips of citrus peel.
You also can use a scorer to create playful patterns down the sides of cucumbers and zucchini before slicing them to serve with a dip or in a salad. A zester can be used to make an attractive carrot garnish for salads and soups: Simply peel a large carrot, then use the zester to create long strands.
Using a zester/scorer, score around a lemon, removing a long, narrow strip of peel; discard strip. Cut lemon in half, and remove the pulp with a melon baller; discard pulp. Place the hollowed-out citrus bowls in festive glasses, and add scoops of lemon sorbet. Garnish with mint leaves.
Whether it features one or two bowl cutters, rounded or scalloped, a melon baller can be used to hollow out melons, citrus fruits, zucchini, and even baked potatoes to form decorative bowls for fillings and stuffings. The melon baller is also noted for making attractive bite-size shapes of melon that can be used in salads and compotes. For an hors doeuvre or salad topper, core poached apples or pears with a melon baller, then stuff the fruits with nuts and softened blue cheese. Chill the fruit, and cut into wedges.
A melon baller with a scalloped bowl forms decorative shapes of herb butter to serve at holiday meals. Stir together 1/2 cup butter, softened, and 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour so the mixture is nice and firm when you make the decorative shapes.
Cut a lengthwise slice from a zucchini; discard slice. Using a melon baller, scoop pulp out of zucchini; discard pulp. Spoon your favorite stuffing mixture into the shell, and bake at 350 degrees F till heated through.
Round cutters aren't just for cookies. An 8- to 15-piece set of nested cutters also works nicely for making appetizers and garnishes out of breads and vegetable slices. To make your own croutons, cut rounds of bread, brush them with melted butter, and toast in a 300 degree F oven in a baking pan for 15 minutes; stir after 10 minutes. Or, serve the toasted rounds with spreads and dips. The cutters also come in handy as guides for drawing circles on parchment paper for recipes such as small meringue shells.
Use both large and small round cutters to create a showy garnish for soups and bisques. Roll out a sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed, and cut out circles. Bake the circle cutouts as directed on the package and cool on a wire rack. Just before serving soup, arrange the circles and a sprig of dill on top of individual servings.
Think beyond circles. Round cutters can even form oval- and crescent-shape appetizers. Cut a 2-inch-diameter circle from toasted rye or pita bread. Move the round cutter off-center, and cut through the bread circle again to create a crescent and an oval. Top the bread with your favorite cream cheese, chopped or shredded vegetables, and herbs. If you're hosting a brunch, try the same technique on sweet bread slices, and top with cream cheese, jam, and assorted fruit.
You won't go wrong with any of these timesaving tools as gifts for friends and family who love to cook.
JAR OPENER Great for gripping stubborn jar lids. Choose one that will adjust to various sizes.
KITCHEN SHEARS Useful to quickly snip fresh herbs and dried fruits, to cut up hot pizzas and bread doughs for rolls, and to open packages with ease.
VEGETABLE PEELER Perfect for peeling vegetables and citrus fruits, and for making chocolate curls or large coconut flakes.
SMALL ICE CREAM SCOOP Convenient for spooning cookie dough onto baking sheets.
SMALL TONGS Terrific for serving bite-size hors d'oeuvres or a fruit-and-cheese course.
EGG SLICER Slick for slicing eggs, mushrooms, strawberries, and kiwifruits.
GRATER A whiz at grating citrus peel, hard cheeses, chocolate, and even spices such as cinnamon. The Microplane Grater and Zester has ulstrasharp blades that yield an abundance of grated food in seconds.
PARING KNIFE Great for detail work, such as removing strawberry hulls or peeling tomatoes.
MINI SPATULA Handy for removing the first bar cookie from a baking pan.
FRUIT PITTER A must-have for removing pits from olives and cherries without a lot of mess.