Thursday, May 7, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Kitchen Things

My home computer is kaput, so uploading photos of dishes I’ve made is not currently an option. Instead, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on essential cooking equipment.

You really don’t know how amazing life is until you have good sharp knives. I was Dorothy in Kansas before I received a gift of good knives for Christmas. I woke up in Oz the next morning when I first used my big butcher knife to mince fresh herbs. I wanted to mince herbs for the rest of my life! If you’re going to take the plunge, buy the expensive knives – Wusthof are really the best (I have since bought two of those to add to my first collection and they are worth their weight in gold and more.) All good knives are pricey, so my suggestion is to get a cooks knife (pictured above) and if a second one is possible, a smaller, paring knife. Honestly, I could use just those two (and a cheap bread knife) and be completely satisfied.

Cast Iron Frying Pan
Cast iron is the original no-stick pan, with no worries about ingesting dangerous chemicals (in fact the iron is actually good for you!) I know lots of people can be put off by the idea that they have to “season” the pan first, but this is something that only has to be done the first time you use the pan. After you finish with that, it will become your favorite pan in the kitchen. I use mine for pan frying anything – potatoes, saut├ęs, eggs of any stripe, fish, shrimp. You name it, I’ve probably put it in my pan. The best part is that, similar to a wok, you don’t wash it with soap, just rinse (and scrape when necessary) any of the leftover bits after using it. Rinse and then to prevent rust, dry it by placing it on a burner on high heat until all of the beads of water evaporate. Since you don’t use soap, the oil from your frying soaks into the cast iron and creates a natural non-stick surface. In fact, it’s a great indicator that your food is done when it no-longer sticks, meaning that it is cooked enough to have formed a crispy edge.

Most pans have handles of cast iron, which make it easier for placing them in the oven (for making frittatas or cornbread). Mine has a wooden handle, which has burn marks due to my predilection for frittatas. It’s the price I pay!

Seasoning a Cast Iron Pan, Demystified
1. Before using a new pan, wash it in soap and water and dry.
2. Place pan on the stove top on high heat and once all of the water is evaporated and you can feel the heat through the pan, add 1 tablespoon of high heat cooking oil (peanut, safflower), allow it to heat up and then swirl it around to cover the whole pan.
3. Remove pan from heat and with paper towel, well wadded up to protect your fingers from heat, smear the oil into the pan.
4. Reheat pan until no droplets of oil remain.

Unlike a wok, you don’t need to do this several times. As noted above, each time you cook with it, the oil you cook with will begin to soak in, creating the “non-stick” surface.

Canning Funnel and Mason Jars
While I’m under no illusions that my readers will become canners anytime soon (but I’m happy to share tips on that if you like) I would highly recommend using mason jars for storing leftovers and the canning funnel makes this such a breeze. Mason jars as storage containers help me because 1) I can see the food, so am more likely to remember to eat it before it starts to look scary! And 2) while I don’t know the science on this, I feel better with my food in glass rather than plastic.

If you have kitchen equipment that you can’t live without, be communal and share!

Love and hugs!

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