Moving Beyond Kitchen Essentials

Let’s be honest, there’s not much you need in your kitchen for delicious meals beyond a few good pots and pans, a hefty cutting board, a knife, and a well-stocked spice cabinet. However, there are a few extra items that can really elevate your cooking and/or save you time. A few of my favorite things…

  1. Food Processor. I had never quite understood the love affair people had with their food processors until recently. Sure, it was pretty handy for making nut butters (if it didn’t overheat and shut down) and the occasional batch of mayonnaise, but most of my “food processing” was just as easily done by hand or in the blender. Then, one fateful week, I borrowed my friend’s food processor; hers was a little different than mine, and I got to experience the full glory of slicing blades. For months, I had been coveting a fully outfitted food processor. When I saw one with a sale price of just under $100, I decided it was time to fully commit. (Chiffonading brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, BAM!) Every time I use those slicing blades, I get a little giddy.
  2. Citrus Squeezer. Fresh squeezed citrus is phenomenally better than pre-bought bottles of juice, but hand squeezing citrus is painful and boring when you have to use more than a tablespoon or so of juice. Citrus squeezer to the rescue! We have a beautiful enameled yellow one that makes me think bright happy thoughts whenever I use it.
  3. Julienne Peeler. Although I’ve heard that all you really need for summer squash noodles are some tip-top knife skills and an endless amount of patience,  who really wants to spend the time hand noodling when for less than $20 you can get a hand-held tool that does all the work for you? Not only that, but I swear certain foods taste different when they are sliced differently; sliced carrots versus long, skinny slivers = different flavor sensations! This stainless steel Kuhn Rikon peeler takes the prize for my most fun kitchen purchase of the last year.
  4. Pepper Grinder. Nothing tops off a fresh dish like a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper. This ratchet grinder from Kuhn Rikon (yep, we love their stuff) has us going through peppercorns like crazy.
  5. Cookbooks. While the internet and your imagination are more than enough for millions of potential recipes , a few good cookbooks are invaluable. Find a chef who makes recipes that you enjoy; it’s normally worth the investment. I have two general sets of cookbooks – the 80%, i.e. those that I turn to for good, day-to-day, “paleo” eating,  and the 20%, those for special occasions when I might not care about ingredients and just want something decadent. (Note: many of the recipes in non-paleo cookbooks are gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free…or easily made so. Just get creative with substitutions!)

    For everyday Paleo eating, Well Fed, by Melissa Joulwan, is hands down the best cookbook out there (and I hear there’s a second one coming!). She embraces the inherent deliciousness of vegetables, meats, and spices, and her recipes showcase the food in creative ways. I also appreciate that there is not a heavy reliance on nut flours or honey/maple syrup; while I will eat all of these things, they typically are used in my indulgence meals, not in everyday eating. My favorites? Cauliflower pilaf and the velvety butternut squash.

    For special occasion dining, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin. Many of the recipes are easily made gluten-free or dairy-free, but they are all fairly labor intensive, taking them a out of the realm of reasonability for day-to-day cooking. That said, every recipe has been well worth the effort. My favorite? Warm squid and chorizo salad with olives.

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