As Kath & Christine have been showing us the past couple weeks, there’s tons to pick from the garden to get you busy this weekend in the kitchen. But- do you have all the tools it takes to whip up those culinary delights?
My Kitchen Must Haves—How to Outfit Your Kitchen with the Essentials
It would be easy for me to spend thousands on kitchen supplies. There are so many fun tools out there, one visit to Sur La Table could deplete my savings so much I wouldn’t have enough left over to buy any food to use them on! A select few of the tools out there are absolutely essential; others are just nice bonuses to have. Here I’ll share a couple of the items I use all the time and couldn’t live without, that don’t necessarily break the bank.
Cut to the Chase: Knives!
Good knives are essential. I’m sure you’ve all experienced sawing away at an onion with a dull knife; the knife doesn’t follow your hand, it makes jagged cuts in haphazard directions. A good, SHARP knife will shave hours off your time in the kitchen. Some novice chefs fear a sharp knife, but you are far less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife (that moves through meat and produce like cutting butter) than forcefully hacking away as your food jumps and slips around the cutting board. There are only three knives you must have:
- An 8”-10” Chef’s knife. This will be your main, go-to knife for 90% of your kitchen work, including chopping vegetables, butchering meat and mincing herbs.
- An 8”-10” Serrated Knife. The obvious use is slicing bread, but it is great for slicing tomatoes, citrus fruits, quiches and pies.
- A 3.5”-5” Paring Knife. For your delicate, precise jobs, like peeling and coring apples and tomatoes, deveining shrimp and cutting citrus segments.
A few more notes on knives
- Knives need to be sharpened at some point—this can be done in-house or sent to a specialist.
- Hand wash your knives. Dish washer is a no no!
- Pass on glass or acrylic cutting boards. Wood and plastic boards are the best to avoid dulling the blade.
Grilling Pan (AKA Chestnut Roasting Pan, I just learned!)
This is my favorite item for healthy dinners. I loved the flavor of grilled vegetables, but was constantly fishing my veggies out from in between the grates with tongs as they burst into flames—until I discovered the grilling pan. It’s shaped like a deep frying pan with a long handle, but the bottom of the pan is lined with a series of holes that allow exposure to the fire, but not enough space for foods to fall through. Grill onions, zucchini, squash and peppers to perfection and don’t worry about losing any to the fire!
Get Macro Flavor with a Microplaner
Microplaners are nothing new, but they really are an efficient tool in the kitchen. By finely and delicately shaving foods, the microplaner allows you to extract essence from all sorts of food, including lemon zest, nutmeg, fresh ginger and parmesan cheese. The thin shavings easily blend into dishes and kick the flavor up tenfold!
Reuse and Repurpose—Fantastic Plastic?
At this point, most of us use our own canvas grocery bags and elect to buy goods with the least amount of packaging (when we aren’t growing it ourselves!). That being said, despite our efforts we all end up with at least a couple plastic bags and plastic containers laying around. Here are a few techniques to repurpose these items:
- Bag shakin’: Use plastic bags to toss diced bread with fresh herbs and olive oil before making croutons, or sliced potatoes with garlic, oil and rosemary to make delicious roasted home fries. I set the plastic bags next to my cutting board as I slice and throw the chopped items directly into the bag. Add the desired marinade and spices, firmly grasp the top to seal the bag and shake, shake, shake! Toss onto a cookie sheet to toast/roast and you’re done with the bag (no dishes to wash!).
- Plastic fruit & vegetable containers: I like to reuse the plastic boxes that items such as grapes, berries and cherry tomatoes are sold in. They have built in vents, so they allow fruits and vegetables to breathe and because they have a sturdy frame, they will protect more delicate items in your fridge, like tomatoes, peaches or avocados. I also use them to stow remainders of sliced vegetables- perfect for the second half of my cucumber and bell pepper after making a salad.
Have any kitchen essentials you can’t live without? Share here with other kitchen gardeners!