Saturday is designated as “Best and Worst” day, so I decided to look around my kitchen here on Forest Street, and think about the things I use constantly and truly love, and those items which could disappear without my knowledge. There aren’t many of the latter; I am a pretty good weeder, but they exist. Here goes:
The Best Things in Forest Street Kitchen (Besides the Food)
- My KitchenAid stand mixer, which was a gift from my husband a few years back. Its big, and strong, and red and shiny and makes my life easier every single day. It mixes my batter, kneads my bread dough, whips my heavy cream and egg whites, and does all of this while I am doing something else.
- My kitchen scissors. If you don’t have a pair, get up right now and get some. I’m serious. I use them to cut chicken bones, bunches of herbs, San Marzano tomatoes in the can, scallions, bacon, cooked poultry for salads and casseroles, salad greens…you get the idea.
- Onions, garlic, olive oil and kosher salt. Every day. There is just pretty much nothing that I cook that doesn’t involve at least one of these things.
- Silicone baking sheets. I have nothing against parchment paper, and I keep it in the house for “cut-to-fit” baking like the bottoms of cake pans, but for cookies, this is where its at. Nothing sticks, they’re easy to clean, and there’s never that moment when you realize that the little overhanging part is on fire in the oven. (Not that I’ve ever actually had that experience, mind you). Also great for oven roasted including potatoes, vegetables, and for making those little rounds of shredded Parmesan that I can’t remember the name of.
- Flexible, washable, plastic cutting boards. I have a set of four, and I go through all of them during a busy session in the kitchen. One for the chopped veggies, one for the meat, one for the side vegetables, one for the salad veggies, and they all go into the dishwasher like good little soldiers to be sanitized. They eventually get bent up and yucky from washings, but they are so cheap that I feel no compunctions about pitching them and buying a new set when I no longer like the looks of them.
- The Pot I stole from my mom. This doesn’t look like much; its a big (I think 8 quart), lightweight pot with a strainer insert that fits inside, a shallow steamer basket that fits in the top, and a lid. This is the best example I can find. Despite its humble exterior, this is a major workhorse in my kitchen. I use the bottom to boil pasta, and potatoes, and while I am boiling the starch part of dinner I can steam a vegetable on the top. Pasta cooks while the broccoli steams, potatoes boil while the zucchini slices team; you get the picture. As a bonus, its a great way to boil vegetables for blanching. I boil green beans, broccoli, cauliflower or whatever I want to blanch in the pot while I make a big ice bath, and when the color is bright and the vegetable is tender crisp, I pull the strainer out and set it into the icy water.
- The Pampered Chef Gooey Stuff Measuring Cup. I do not readily own up to owning Pampered Chef products, but this is a great invention. (I also own their Batter Bowl which is nice, but not as earth-shattering as this thing). I would buy it for peanut butter measuring alone; from Thai sauces to no-bake cookies I am enthralled by just spooning peanut butter into this thing and then ejecting it, no mess, into the mix. Its also nice for molasses and honey and probably other stuff I’m forgetting.
- Wooden Spoons. If I could have a million of them, I would. I use them to stir, scrape, and to lift pot lids. I use the, to taste and then throw them into the sink and reach for another. I use them to caress risotto and polenta into life, and to mix pretty much anything that doesn’t require a whisk.
- 4″ Knives. I do lots of things with these that should properly be done with a chef’s knife, but these feel so right in my hands that I find myself using them to mince garlic, dice onions, and cut carrots and celery. I am hoping (she hinted broadly) to get a decent chef’s knife for Christmas. I have one, but its
- Pizza Cutters. I have two of these, and they are indispensable for cutting through a variety of things that are destroyed by sawing with a knife. I use it to cut most bar cookies cleanly (although I sometimes have to finish the edges with a knife), to cut dough into strips for lattices, or just to trim a piece of dough to size, and to cut crusty breads like foccacia and ciabatta with pressure. They are also great for cutting sandwiches into quarters and (don’t ask) for cutting off crust in a hurry. Oh, and pizza.
- Round cookie cutters. Obviously, they can be used to make round cookies, and you can make great “O”‘s – important, since both my high school and my college have names that start with “O.” You can also use them to make doughnuts, biscuits, and perfectly shaped eggs – just set a round cookie cutter of the right size in the pan, slide in your egg and let it set into the perfect circle.
- My cast-iron skillet. Perfectly seasoned, this serves a variety of purposes from cooking eggs, pancakes and bacon, meat and with a nice brown crust to warming up tortillas and serving as a panini weight.
- A glass jar with a lid. I think this was a spaghetti sauce jar in its past life. I use this to mix up salad dressing, peanut sauce, marinades, and all manner of things that do not have to be run through the food processor.
- Big Zip-Top Plastic Bags. What did the Pilgrims do?! I use these to coat things for frying, to marinate, to mix up certain squishy things (just bag ’em up and squish ’em around), and I fill them with batter when I make cupcakes or muffins so that I can snip off a corner and control the amount that goes into each compartment in the tin. In a pinch, you can use them to pipe frosting. They are also useful for getting cheese filling into stuffed shells.
The Worst Things in Forest Street Kitchen
- Square silicone hot pads. I have two versions of silicone hot oven mitts. I quite like the set that looks like castanets, but I find the thin, square version to be useless for most tasks. They don’t let me get a good grip on the edge of a pot or pan because they aren’t very flexible, and they tend to get slippery. I have relegated them to use as trivets.
- A sifter. Its vintage, and pretty, but I very rarely sift anything, even when I’m supposed to.
- The nonstick pan that sticks. Like a fool in love, I keep trying this again on the theory that it was so expensive that it really should work. No matter how many chances I give it with layers of cooking spray, oil and/or butter, and no matter how lovingly I hand wash it and refrain from scratching it, everything sticks and is destroyed.