5 Cooking Tools Every Latin Kitchen Must Have
When trying to recreate your grandmother’s recipes, recalling the ingredients is only half the battle. Along side the avocados and limes for guacamole, there was always a lime squeezer. Along side the chopped garlic for the mojo de ajo, there was always the pilon. Now that we can look things up so easily online, it can be difficult to remember that part of the success of the recipes was the tools used.
Though you might have taken the molcajete for granted, there are certain tools that were invented to add additional flavor and thought into every dish. And though while it’s often tempting to take the short road with the microwave, automatic juicer, or worse yet, the pre-made, everyone knows tortillas straight from the press taste best. Here, 5 essential tools for any Latin kitchen.
Mortar and Pestle
Piedra, pilon, mortero, molcajete: These are just some of the terms used to describe regional varieties of mortar and pestles. Because many of the rural regions of Latin America have no electricity, generations of families have grown up using a low-tech stone or wood mortar to grind spices, herbs, coffee, or any food that needs to be processed before consuming and they’re still widely used today. Latin American home cooks and professional chefs pride themselves on the rustic texture of their sauces that are crafted by hand in a mortar. For those looking for true Latin American authenticity, using a mortar and pestle is a must.
Although not as durable as metal cookware, clay cookware is very popular throughout Latin America and Spain. Inexpensive, with regional differences, many cooks and chefs prefer a batch offrijoles or caldo made in clay cookware. Some claim that they can taste the flavor of su tierra that the clay imparts to the dish. Metal works as a conductor of heat, which can cook food too rapidly and harshly. But clay is a natural insulator, which retains and builds heat slowly. Clay cookware bathes the food, instead of boiling it. Think of it as a relaxing spa treatment for your frijoles: wouldn’t you taste better too?
Back in Ancient Mexico, corn masa (dough) was ground by hand and was then patted into thin cakes before being placed on the hot griddle. Many women’s entire lives were dedicated to making masa and tortillas every day. Thankfully, with the invention of instant corn tortilla mix, the hand grinding of corn is a thing of the past, and corn tortilla presses allow us to whip up a batch of tortillas in a jiffy. And just remember, only corn tortillas require a tortilla press. Flour tortillas are rolled out using a rolling pin.
Times have changed and any modern cook needs a blender in their kitchen. Freshly made sauces, purées, and beverages are core signature elements of the Latin American culinary profile, all of which rely on the convenience of an electric blender. From piña coladas to pipian, smooth gazpachos and sofritos, salsas and chimmichuris, chefs across Spain and Latin America all need an electric blender to complete their batería de cocina. And we love those new-fangled immersion blenders: easy clean up, inexpensive, and minimal storage space required.
So many Latin dishes demand the tang of freshly squeezed lime juice that it makes sense to have a lime squeezer in your tool drawer. Ceviche, mojitos, and fish tacos are hardly worth the trouble of ordering if there’s no lime juice available. Like a laser beam, lime squeezers deliver the juice right to the spot where it is needed, without the mess and misfires that happen when you squeeze a wedge by hand. Save your pretty eyes for flirting.
From The Latin Kitchen