F&W Best New Chef 2016 Michael Gulotta is bringing back the mortar and pestle. "Grinding things by hand in a mortar and pestle is so important because it crushes up the ingredients' cells as opposed to slicing them. Slicing means that the cells still hold the oils and flavors, but crushing them really mashes out the flavor," says Gulotta. Here, the star chef shares three fantastic ways to use a mortar and pestle.
1. Curry. At MoPho, the kitchen turns out intricate curries that take hours to cook. "It's always a lottery for who makes them," he says. "But for the home cook, you could make an abbreviated curry with ingredients you already have in your cupboard. You'd definitely want to start with ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric and coriander. Then you can throw in some dried shrimp or shrimp paste and lots of cilantro for a vibrant bright green curry."
2. Pesto. There's more than one way to make pesto, but a mortar and pestle might be the best. "For spring, you can make an awesome pesto with fava beans, fresh peas, garlic, ginger, basil or mint and a little coconut oil."
3. Spring tartines. Gulotta uses a mortar and pestle to make fantastic toast toppings. "Start with spices in the mortar," he says. "Throw in some coriander, cumin and pound the hell out of them. Then add ginger, garlic and pound the hell out of that." He then tosses the mixture with fire-roasted avocados (which he sears with garlic and ginger in a cast-iron pan until the ginger begins to caramelize), and finishes the mixture with cilantro and fish sauce.