Saturday, May 24, 2008

Equipment You Need

When I first began writing this blog, it was after a year of having only the barest minimum of standard equipment. At the time, I’d had to start completely over, with just a few items. I thought this would be difficult, but really, what I discovered was that most of the gadgets we keep in our kitchens are just fluff. I bought one knife: a medium chef’s knife with a serrated edge- it was enough! I use it for everything. Now I’ve adopted the following rule: With very little exception, EVERY piece of equipment must multitask. This tends to keep cleanup to a minimum, as well. There’s just less stuff.

With this in mind, I have compiled this equipment list for you. Most of it is probably in your kitchen right now! If you don’t have something, try to improvise before you go out and buy it. Here’s what you will probably need:

· Small and medium to large frying pan (mine are non-stick, but any will do)

· Small and medium pots with lids (or use foil if necessary, or even a plate)

· One great big stock/soup pot (wonderful if it has the steamer/strainer insert)

· Cookie sheets- I have some large, heavy aluminum ones that managed to survive my move to the new kitchen. I bought them at a restaurant supply store a zillion years ago, and they last forever. P.S… I got them for a song, and they are much better than dept. store and grocery store cookie sheets.

· Roaster pan, pie pans, bread pans, etc. If you don’t have these, get the foil kind and try to use them a few times before you give up on them. That’s what I had to do, and it works fine.

· Foil, and plastic wrap, regular and sticky. Plastic bags are an optional item I don’t buy for environmental reasons.

· Bar towels, which you buy in bulk. This is an optional item that I picked up on after having that restaurant I mentioned earlier. First, when there is a real mess, paper towels frustrate me when it takes half a roll to get the job done. One real towel, and poof- mess gone. They are reuseable, (trust me, just throw them in with the whites as you go about your week, and besides the folding, you will see no difference) and save me a fortune in paper towels. We go through about one roll of paper towels/month. If you have children, do yourself a favor and pick up a pack of bar towels. This might be a great item to pick up at a restaurant supply, too, but discount stores carry them as well. After a while, they become car towels or pet towels, then they get used for ugly messes on a throwaway basis. I use two or three/day in the kitchen, and it takes a really long time for them to become so threadbare they need to be thrown out.

· You will need at least one wooden spoon or silicone (heat-proof) spatula/spoon for cooking, and I like the spatulas because they… multitask.

· Slotted spoon, and a “pancake turner.”

· Some mixing bowls, or use a large measuring cup if necessary.

· A whisk, at least one, medium sized. This is not a pricey item, but if you don’t have one, in most cases you can use a fork.

· Stand mixer: This is an expensive item, but worth its weight in gold. If you are going to really use the principles in this book, this is an invaluable tool. Mine is about 18 years old, and still cranking. One of the very few items in life I’d put on a credit card if necessary. However, you can get by without it, kneading dough by hand, or using a regular electric mixer, or even a wisk.

· Food processor: Those Magic Bullets (link provided was cheapest I could find today, but shope around) are a pretty good stand in if you don’t have one. In any case, it’s another optional item that makes life a LOT easier. Also, you can use it to chop vegetables when you are in a hurry- and pop in the dishwasher. Another thing: if you have kids, you can use the bullet to hide vegetables in foods by blending them up. See Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld for lots of great ideas.

· Blender or stick blender. Again, that Magic Bullet blender thing is a good stand-in. I personally like those, because they… multitask! Stick blenders are made so that you can put them right into your pot and blend. Kind of wonderful for milkshakes, too.

· Parchment- Coolest stuff ever. Makes any pan non-stick, and you can even cook in it by itself, by making it into a “pocket.” That’s a classic French technique that you can use for more than fish or chicken. It’s microwave safe, as well as reusable, if you are just using it to bake cookies on. Who needs expensive silicone mats when you have parchment?

· A microplane, or grater, for zesting citrus, grating nutmeg and ginger, etc.

· Measuring cups and spoons

· Knife. At least one good sharp one. Mine is a medium chef’s knife, with a serrated edge, and I use it for everything. I’d like to have a couple, in different sizes, though.

· Colander and at least one wire mesh strainer. If you only pick one, get a larger size. They have myriad uses.

· Standard hand-operated can opener- which you most likely have.

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