There’s something magical about being able to make a healthier version of French toast bites with the help of an air fryer, or whipping up an easy, healthy meal in an Instant Pot with little effort. Even I, a person whose greatest culinary skill is putting Everything but the Bagel seasoning on whatever I pull out of my fridge and sticking it in the oven, own a few trendy kitchen gadgets. But the one thing you need to take your cooking to the next level may just be a mortar and pestle. Mortar and pestles, or some variations of, have been used for centuries around the globe, from the Aztecs to ancient Egyptians.
A mortar and pestle is, essentially, a bowl and a club. Cue the Stefon voice: It has everything. The ability to smush avocado, grind spices, crush garlic and nuts, make pesto… the list goes on. “Anything that you want to have in finer pieces can go right in the mortar and pestle,” Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, says. “It’s a great one-‘dish’ catch-all anytime you’re looking to blend flavors.”
Glassman likes to use a mortar and pestle to crush whole spices. “They offer so many antioxidants, which have numerous health benefits,” Glassman says. “For that I’ve always been a huge fan of adding them in whenever, and wherever, you can.” (Definitely read that last part as Shakira.) “Having a mortar and pestle around is a fun way to promote creating your own spice blends, too.” She adds that it is a quick way to mash up an avocado. “It doesn’t even have to be a full-on guacamole with all the fixings to create a mash perfect for dipping veggies, or topping toasts. Avocado, sea salt, a little pepper, and garlic… and you’re done,” she says. They’re also relatively inexpensive: the top 20 bestselling mortar and pestles on Amazon are all under $30. (Though, like with most kitchen tools, there are some that run much pricier.)
In addition to being a relatively easy way to upgrade your cooking, it’s also considered a sign of someone who knows what TF they’re doing in the kitchen. Chef Nancy Silverton told NPR that she if she’s at dinner at someone’s house, she always checks the kitchen to see if they have a pestle and mortar, and that’s how she knows she’s going to get a good meal. *Lines kitchen countertop with mortar and pestles.* Plus, doesn’t the act of grinding your own spices or mashing some garlic sound oddly soothing? (Adding it into my therapeutic cooking-as-meditation routine).
Online shopping for kitchen tools is my new online shopping for clothes. Here are five other tools experts say you can use to cook basically everything. And these are the foods you should always buy in bulk, according to a sustainable dietitian.
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