Monday, January 10, 2011

Lucky # 7-Kitchen Essentials

I figured since we are going to be cooking together, it would be appropriate to begin by introducing you to these 7 kitchen essentials.  And, I’m not talking about those fancy gadgets sold on infomercials!  These 7 items are for the most part the real deal.  But, don’t worry if you don’t already own all of these; you can acquire them slowly over time.   

If you absolutely had to survive in the kitchen with one knife alone, the choice would be a chef’s knife, our first kitchen essential.  Using one will save you time and increase your efficiency in the kitchen.  Now, many of you may be afraid to use one of these.  Yeah, I know it’s big, you’re not sure how to use it, and quite frankly you’re worried you’re going to cut into a finger instead of a vegetable.  Well, no need to agonize; I will be sharing a few basic knife skills in an upcoming blog post.  And after a while, your knife will become a natural extension of your arm that you use to craft master pieces, and you’ll wonder why you ever used anything else. 

They are sold in varying lengths, but I prefer an 8-inch blade.  They can be pricey, but as long a you keep them in good condition by sharpening them a couple of times a year and honing them after each use, this puppy will be with you for life.  So, invest in a high quality knife and put those lame itty bitty utility knives aside (and those of you using one, you know who you are), because here comes your new best friend in the kitchen!

A chef’s knife is really the one essential knife you need, but you may also find a paring knife to be useful at times.  It is helpful for smaller jobs like peeling a piece of fruit or coring an apple.  It’s as simple as that.   

One gadget that I love and use constantly is a microplane, our next target on the list.  I want to confess from early on that I LOVE Lemons, because you’ll be seeing them in my recipes.  Well, this tool is perfect for zesting those citrus fruits and even grating ginger (another favorite).

I plead guilty.  I have another “love” (and I’m not talking about my adorable husband).  It is my cast-iron and carbon-steel skillet.  I use these to cook just about everything, aside from sauces and soups.  You can get by with just one or the other, but it’s nice to have both if you can afford it.  Both work perfectly for pan searing fish and they are even oven safe.  They are also essential for braising greens and sautéing veggies.  These high quality pans will also be with you for life if you be sure to maintain their seasoning and keep the soap and sponge away from them.  We’ll be talking more about the proper cleaning and care of these skillets in a future blog post. 

Our next essential is a heavy-bottom stainless steel sauce pan, which is a must for cooking grains, beans and sauces.  All-clad is the best, but enameled cast-iron works too if you prefer.  They vary in size from 2-quart and go up to 4-quart.  

A 6-quart (or larger) stock pot is also a definite must.  You’ll want one of these to make nourishing broths, stocks, soups and stews.  I prefer either Le Creuset’s enameled cast-iron pot, their enamel-on-steel or stainless steel (ah a trend).    
 Nothing beats the fresh flavor of whole spices, so last on the list is a coffee grinder that you will designate as a spice grinder.  Whole spices pack a great deal of flavor and nutrients that you usually can’t achieve with the pre-ground varieties, and this serves the same purpose as the more traditional mortar and pestle.  Just be sure to not use it for coffee, because you’ll never be able to get rid of the coffee flavor.  To clean the grinder between uses you can run salt, bread crumbs or rice through it. 

If you are wondering what brand to get, I have made some recommendations below in my Amazon wheel.  Also, I’d like to add a food processor and pressure cooker to the list, but they are not actually “essential.”  If in the future you want to invest in these, I say great.  And now yes, there are plenty of other kitchen tools such as a wooden spoon and cutting board, a spatula, a glass baking dish, a serrated knife, a blender etc. that you will want to stock your kitchen with.  However, I figured most of you have these basics and that they were too obvious to be on the list.  Ok, enough said.  Get your kitchen set up today and let’s get ready to cook whole foods, the Thyme to Spice It Up way!

Yours In Cooking & Health,
Siona J 


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