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The Magic of the Mortar and Pestle

Nothing beats this hands-on tool for unlocking flavor

Fine Cooking Issue 14
Photos: Susan Kahn
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There is a simple kitchen tool that may be close to perfect. It is certainly one of the oldest, and still is almost universal–in use from Japan to Mexico to Italy, and everywhere in between–and can be made from many materials, including clay, cast iron, brass, marble, and wood. It is easy to clean and needs no power source other than your hand. It’s the mortar and pestle, of course, and there are many good reasons to use one. Nothing is better for mashing herbs and spices, or grinding nuts, especially in small quantities; for mixing a spice rub; for making a garlic paste; or for making an authentically rustic pesto (which is named for the pestle). Casas helps you choose the mortar and pestle that’s the right size and made of the right material for your purposes, and gives a few tips on how to combine ingredients.


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