There are three pieces of equipment that seem to be continually mentioned in the recipes in this book. One is a spider, another is cooking tongs and the third is a ridged cast-iron grill pan.
The spider is an open wire scoop with a long handle, used for retrieving items from boiling liquid or fat. In my experience the best ones are available in Chinese supermarkets and consist of a bamboo handle with something that resembles a flattened pan scourer at the end. They do the job much more efficiently than the European equivalent, or, what is often suggested, a slotted spoon. They are cheap, but not particularly durable.
Over the last five years, an American version of cooking tongs has spread throughout professional kitchens. They are springy, come in various lengths, and have a scalloped spoon at the end of each arm. They are made in Taiwan, and are incredibly cheap. Catering suppliers fail to stock them at their peril. They are simply the best thing for serving pasta, as they allow you to lift out individual portions of pasta and plonk them on a plate. Have you ever had to serve six plates of spaghetti and then resorted to scissors on particularly recalcitrant strands? The longer-handled versions are essential for barbecues. Incidentally, these were unknown in Italy until I introduced them, as were pizza wheels . . .
Dry-grilling on a ridged cast-iron grill pan is a healthy way of cooking. It is useful for steaks, other meats, fish and vegetables. The pan is heated until very hot, and the food is cooked directly on the hot surface, the ridges imprinting the food with dark stripes.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.