Tag Archives: kitchen

The Indispensables

27 Mar

Anyone who spends time in a kitchen can tell you there are a few things they use to cook that they can’t live without.  It might be a particular pan or a Silpat or even cooking range. For me, it’s my chef knife, my Dutch oven & my trusty wooden spatula.

Getting my chef knife was a big deal to me. As I wrote in A Bit About A foodNURD, I was afraid of knives when I first started cooking. I would insist on using, essentially, a steak knife to do all the prep work. Years later, I have graduated to the Big Girl Knife and I love it. It gives me a sense of confidence in the kitchen: I can wield this thing and get the work done. (It also reminds me not to get too big for my britches with its sharpness. I have a scar on my left index finger from the time I was carelessly, quickly chopping rosemary with it. Whoops. It served as a good reminder and I haven’t sliced myself since.) It’s so important to get a knife you like: it will make your time in the kitchen simpler and more enjoyable.  I encourage you to do some research and see what might work for you!

My weapon of choice.

Finger frenemy.

The Dutch oven was a present to myself before the foodNURDling arrived. I’d wanted one for some time: I had a slow cooker (which nearly made this list, but lost out to the oven) and I had pans I could get hot enough to get a good sear, but not the all-in-one glory of the Dutch oven. Soups, stews, sauces, chilis…you name it, it goes in here. (Though, for the sake of transparency, J is the resident chili maker and it is goooooooooooooooooooood.) It is a solid beast – I have the 8L – of enameled cast iron which allows me to make large batches of all sorts of things from Mexican pot roast tacos to chicken cacciatore to Thai red curry mussels. It holds heat beautifully (watch out for the hot handles! Ouch!) and it ain’t bad to look at either.

purple

She’s so pretty.

Finally, there is the trusty, ancient wooden spatula. I’ve had it forever and it shows. Useful in almost every dish cooked in the kitchen from scrambling feta-laden eggs to flipping roasted potatoes, it is the all-purpose, unsung,  unsexy but entirely necessary tool. It’s the workhorse. It’s starting to wear down from use but I won’t give up on it until it becomes a dangerous nub. We have other, similar spatulas but I prefer this one.

So what about you? What are your prized kitchen gizmos and gadgets?

Divisions of Labour

6 Nov

We’ve all heard the old adage: when you live with someone, once you do a chore it becomes your chore. Take out the garbage a couple of times? Now it’s your job. Vacuum the dust bunnies? Oh yeah. You and the bunnies become mortal enemies. I have found the same to be true in the kitchen:  make a dish or prep an ingredient and find yourself doing it again and again.

In my house, I am the shrimp peeler, the rice/quinoa/couscous maker, the pork puller, the soup stirrer, the slow cooker obsesser. J is in charge of breakfast, omelettes, proper macaroni & cheese, broccoli rabe, deep frying and cornbread. These are our unofficially assigned jobs and only in the strangest circumstances do they change.

Do you have specific tasks in the kitchen? Certain dishes or preps that only you do?

My Kitchen Essentials: Pantry Edition

25 Sep

Our pantry shelves collapsed a couple of weeks ago. We don’t have a huge pantry, but it’s generally pretty well stocked so when the shelf brackets decided to go on strike, we lost a lot of counter space to cans and bottles and bags of things. The only positive to come out of this was that we were able to take stock of what we had, what we needed and what we had in triplicate. So what did we have in there? What do we always have in stock?

  • Peanut butter. Not only do we have this staple in the pantry, but we have it in the cupboard, too. I don’t think we have less than two jars at any time. God forbid we run out of it. Pandemonium!
  • Apple juice. Because our inner 6-year olds are not always satisfied with just peanut butter.
  • Four Tupperware containers full of spices. We have enormous bags of cumin and chili powder – the two spices we use most – but everything else is in smaller quantities: thyme, oregano, peppercorns, paprika, mustard seeds, turmeric, bay leaves, ground ginger, curry powder, etc. I love having all those spices available as it makes cooking on the fly a lot easier.
  • Every variation of canned tomatoes possible. Crushed, diced, whole, paste…we’ve got ’em. J makes a lot of pasta sauce and I make tomato soups and tomato-based stews so these are in constant demand in our kitchen. They may also be the shelf-collapsing culprits.
  • More rice wine and balsamic vinegars than one needs. Same re: plum sauce.
  • Nutella. Since discovering a recipe for Nutella brownies, it’s rare I can’t find a jar in the pantry.
  • Pasta. So. Many. Noodles.

There is also a whole pile of Tupperware in which to store leftovers  and the foodNURLDling’s pureéd goodies, beans of all sorts and other assorted odds and ends. Ninety percent of the above items were scattered over the various surfaces of our kitchen driving me justifiably batty. The only good thing was that we got a chance to reorganize and rethink our shopping list: do we need so much apple juice? Do we need more Nutella?

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