Happy Saturday and welcome to Weekend Cooking. As we head more fully into spring, I'm in the process of transitioning between hearty, warming winter meals to lighter dinners using farm-fresh ingredients.
Our farmers' market opened a couple of weeks ago, which always gets me in the mood for summer. So far, there isn't a lot to buy in terms of vegetables: some early greens, rhubarb, and asparagus. On the other hand, I was happy to see that the flower sellers, cheese and egg booths, meat producers, and local wine and beer makers have all returned for another year at the market.
I haven't talked about new kitchen discoveries in a while, so that's the theme of today's post.
In the interests of easy entertaining and saving money, we've been experimenting with boxed wines. Although we normally like variety and enjoy learning about food and wine pairings, sometimes a basic, reliable table wine is all you really need and want, especially if you're hosting an informal gathering of friends. Enter the box: you sure can't beat the price (about $20 for the equivalent of four bottles), and the air-tight bladder means the wine lasts a long time.
After much research and lots of tasting, we have become fans of Bota Box wines. We've tried most of the reds (and none of the whites . . . yet) and found them all drinkable, but we like some more than others. Our hands-down favorite is their red blend called Nighthawk Black, with Red Revolution and Shiraz coming in as close seconds. The Merlot, Malbec, and Pinot Noir are fine, but we weren't crazy about the Cab or Old Vine Zin (two wines we normally like).
As the weather warms, we'll be turning to lighter wines, and one wine that's going on the summer list is Chateau Saint Pierre Tradition Rose. I was lucky enough to get a taste of this last week and found it crisp, light, and refreshing and not at all sweet. I think it will be super for sipping during a warm evening on the deck.
Three new items found a home in my kitchen over the last few months. As you may remember, I was in the market for my first electric tea kettle. I did some research, asked some friends, and finally decided on the Cuisinart kettle with different temperature settings. I had no idea how much I would love having this gadget and have not regretted giving it counter space. I use it for all sorts of things besides making tea. For example, instead of boiling a big pot of water to blanch or wilt greens, I just put the veggies in a colander and pour the boiling water from the tea kettle over top. Faster and easier than using the stovetop.
We have tried many different types of salad dressing jars and bottles over the years and have found they all suffer from one or both of these problems: difficult to get clean (we don't have a dishwasher) and/or drips dressing onto the table when in use. Although I usually try to stay away from plastic, I decided to give this salad dressing bottle made by OXO a try (mine is black, not green). What a life-saver! The bottle unscrews at the colored band, which means it's easy to clean the jar. Even better, the hinged stopper top seals well and the spout doesn't drip. Best $10 I've spent in a long time.
Finally, after decades of getting mad when my crackers or cookies fell through the bars of my cooling racks, I finally broke down and bought myself two gridded cooling racks. Um, duh. So now I wonder why I waited so long to make the switch. It's the little things that take away the stress.
I bought all these items with my own money; my opinions came free.