Thursday, 23 January 2020 13:22 Written by John Reardon

Hello my Foodie Friends!

In kitchens throughout the world, there is one piece of technology that has been the same since the Stone Age: the mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle is one of the most primitive kitchen tools. You place ingredients in a bowl usually made of stone or ceramic and them pound them with a tiny club. 

Why should every good cook—and everyone who loves herbs—own and use at least one mortar and pestle? Several reasons include: from history; the ceremony of using ancient tools and the joy of knowing the rhythm of how they work. For celebration: food feeds both body and soul, and the act of preparing it should be a pleasure, not a chore. And finally, for quality: there is a depth of flavor to spices and fresh herbs prepared this way that you just can’t get from a food processor. Mortars and pestles have been used for crushing and blending seeds, roots, herbs, and other foods. This dates back to prehistory, although information on their origins is hard to find. It’s only logical that early man and woman picked up the nearest rock and used it to crack open the nuts they gathered. Eventually they found similar tools to grind seed or grain into a powder, so that they could mix it with water to form a gruel and grind herbs and roots to flavor it.

Here’s a list of cooking tasks you can accomplish with a mortar and pestle:

• Grind your own peppercorns and spices including cinnamon sticks, coriander, and cloves.
• Remove cardamom seeds from their pods and then crush to use in Indian cooking.
• Grind sea salt to the fine texture of popcorn salt and season your movie night treat.
• Crush whole dry chilies into flakes.
• Crush capers to use in homemade tartar sauce recipes.
• Smash fresh peeled ginger to use in Asian recipes.
• Crush some flax seeds to release their benefits and add to yogurt for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
• Crush lavender to use in baking or potpourri.
• Crush herbs and seeds to make medicinal teas.
• Make fresh, homemade nut butters.
• Turn fresh garlic cloves into a paste and spread on Italian bread with olive oil for some intense garlic bread.
• Crush some fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts together in the larger sized units. Then mix in some olive oil to make super fresh and flavorful pesto.

The mortar and pestle is available in a wide variety of sizes and can be found made of ceramic, glass, porcelain, wood, metal, granite, marble or bamboo. The advantage of a using a mortar and pestle rather than an electric grinder or food processor include easier (as in no) assembly required, less noise and easy cleanup — no small parts or sharp blades to wash.

One of the most classic uses of the mortar and pestle is for pesto.  Combining the flavors of basil, pine nut, Parmesan, garlic, and olive oil can make a wonderful pesto to add to pasta, spread on a sandwich, or eat by the spoonful.  When it comes to making pesto, you can’t go wrong with a pestle and mortar. You could make it in a food processor, but you just won’t get the same flavors as when you’re pounding and crushing all that lovely basil by hand. 

Cooking can be fun! No matter how long you have been cooking, there is always something new to learn. The mortar and pestle may take a little elbow grease, but it is the tool that will not fail you.  Go back to the old grind for a while, stepping away from modern technology and use the mortar and pestle for your incredible culinary creations. Stop at Compliments to the Chef; your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place to get your “cool” Tools for Cooks. Remember; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON Pesto


Read 632 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 January 2020 13:24