A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Essential Kitchen Implements

My friend Kerry pointed out this story about the bare minimum equipment needed for a kitchen. You would think a list of basic kitchen items would be uncontentious, but no: I disagree with at least a third of these suggestions. He has things on that list that Lawson and I, with our merged and overflowing kitchen, don't have. Tell me how a salad spinner is essential. And a mandoline? Minimalist? My knife skills suck, too, but come on.

An instant-read thermometer would have been nice when I was learning to cook, but I didn't have one until last year, and we only use it for barbecue (and, lately, for measuring the temperature of the compost heap).

The more I think about it, every cook's minimal list would likely be quite different -- not just a sharp knife and a saucepan, as you might expect. Cookbooks with lists of "essential" equipment always contain some truly puzzling items, right? My theory: unless you grow up insanely privileged, you probably first cook on your own under somewhat financially distressed conditions, and what you do and don't have during that time shapes what you consider essential. I cannot imagine dealing with the plastic cutting board recommended in the article, but I could happily do without a food processor, a skimmer, or a slotted spoon. Oddly, I have never owned a slotted spoon. But I've always owned a big heavy chunk of wood on which to chop.

I guess I should balance that rant out with a picture and a recipe. Here are chard stems:

And here is my favorite way to cook chard:

Saute in 2 tablespoons olive oil:

- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- one small dried red chile (de arbol, Thai, whatever), deseeded

Turn heat to medium high and add:

-1 big bunch chard, washed, stems separated and cut into 1/2" pieces

(Add the stems first, then the leaves a few minutes later. Chard stems are soooo tasty and should not be thrown away unless they are horrendously tough.)

Saute for a few minutes until stems are soft and leaves are wilty. Remove from heat and sprinkle with:

- 2 or so ounces feta (think of it as seasoning, not topping -- this is in lieu of salt)

I like it best after about fifteen minutes, just above room temperature.

I leave for the beach tomorrow. I will cook some good food there and post about it.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I like my salad spinner a lot, but I think Mark Bittman should get a different job. That was a really bad article.

I have his FISH cookbook--The Complete Guide, etc. etc.--and although it's an adequate reference book, I have cooked fish twice a week for the last ten years and only used two or three recipes from the book.