I just finished reading an article in one of my favorite cooking magazines about essential kitchen tools. It was filled with chinois, mandolins and other items used often in the professional kitchen. But, when fixing a fast and fresh dinner at home, I don’t often employ them. So, I thought I’d blog about some of my favorite new gadgets that help me produce professional results quickly. We all know that freshly sliced, chopped, grated and julienned vegetables taste better than the ones available pre-prepared in the store. So, when you do have time, it’s a big flavor boost to your food to do the work yourself. At our house, we love carrot and other vegetables julienned in our salads. So, the Julienne Grater is one of my kitchen must haves. Have you used one? It’s wonderful. It will allow you to easily make those beautiful little “matchstick” pieces of vegetable that you see in food photography and on TV. They cook quickly and each individual julienne looks the same. The first time I saw one was a couple of summers ago while on a chefs trip to France. While we were there, we ate at a wonderful 3 star restaurant. (Ooh la la!) Attached to the restaurant was a gift shop run by the chef’s mother. As I was running my hands along all the wares, I picked up a grater with a funny looking attachment. It was a Julienne Grater, she told me in heavily accented english. It will make beautiful julienne with no effort. I was intrigued, and because I love julienned vegetables, and hate having to make them, I took it to the cash register, and paid about $25 for it. Wowza. (I got lots of ribbing from the other chefs!) But it was worth it. I brought it home and voila-beautiful julienne. But you don’t have to pay that for one – there are several different brands out there for just about $8-$10. Treat yourself to a new julienne grater and discover all the different uses for it! Here’s a quick recipe to try with your new grater gizmo: Cashew Carrot Brown Rice Pilaf Saute 1 julienned large carrot and 2 thinly sliced shallots in 2 TB of butter, over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until shallot is wilted. Stir in 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper and cook for 2 minutes more. Add 3 cups low salt-lowfat chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 20 -25 minutes or until rice is done. Stir in 1/2 cup cashews and 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.