Good ingredients is only one aspect of cooking successfully. Good
gadgets is the other. But what, you may ask, does one really need?
Well, for starters, really excellent knives. This is one area where you
dont want to "cut corners." I have Chefs Choice
and Henckels, which are two of the best brands made. Also, get a good
sharpener. It doesnt have to be electric, but it should be high
quality. I have the Chefs Choice hand sharpener, my brother has
the Chefs Choice electric sharpener; once a year I take my knives
to his house for a supremely good edge, but the rest of the time, the
hand sharpener is enough. A sharp knife is really a lot safer than a
dull knife, since you have greater control and dont have to press
as hard, but I do suggest you watch at least one good gourmet cooking
show, to learn the proper chopping method, with fingers curled under
and knife against the knuckles — it could save you a couple of
digits. (Match their form, but dont worry about matching their
speed — you have to slice thousands of veggies before you can get
that fast without hurting yourself.)
If someone gives you really expensive pots and pans, dont
refuse them (unless you cant lift them), but dont worry if
thats not what you have. Nice Silverstone or Revereware pans, or
the equivalent, are good enough, and you can usually get a full set for
a reasonable price. Really crummy pans arent a good idea, since
heat distribution is uneven, but you dont need the stuff
thats $100 apiece.
I cant imagine why anyone in the world would own any vegetable
peeler other than the Good Grips version, since there are few things
more painful than peeling a dozen potatoes with an old, skinny, metal
A cutting board is a most useful item, and if you only have one, make
it wood. A few years ago, everyone started buying acrylic, thinking it
would be healthier and safer. Its not. A study published in the Tufts
University Diet & Nutrition Letter reported that tests on wood
vs. acrylic prove conclusively that wood is a lot safer — germs
grow wildly on acrylic and not at all on wood. In fact, they went so
far as to introduce e.coli bacteria onto wood boards, and it was
dead in 24 hours. (This doesnt mean you dont still have to
clean it, just that youre dramatically reducing your risk with
wood.) I have two boards. I use the acrylic one for things like
tomatoes, which are highly acidic, or onions and garlic, which are
antibiotic (also, you might not want everything you cut to smell like
onions or garlic — though thats hard to imagine), and I use
the wood one for everything else.
A couple of wooden spoons (some things, like sour-dough starter,
cant be mixed with metal spoons) and a Pyrex measuring cup (you
can use it in the microwave without blowing it up) are also wise
choices. Everything else — even essentials like measuring spoons
and mixing bowls — are pretty much a matter of personal style,
budget, and the cuisines you wish to prepare. I have favorite toys, of
course, like a citrus peeler, Royal Worcester soufflé dish, and
porcelain ginger grater, but your toys may be completely different
— or completely absent.
The following recipe calls for no fancy utensils, just those sharp
knives and wooden cutting board. Its a Bulgarian recipe, and is
one of those good, hearty, warming, and thoroughly delicious stews that
fill the bill when Februarys winds are blowing, and you
dont think youll ever be warm again.
2 pounds boneless beef, cut in bite-size pieces
(no more than 1-inch cube)
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. paprika
dash or two of cayenne pepper (optional)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 15-oz. jar Aunt Nellies Whole Holland-style onions
(these are not pickled onions)
1 clove garlic, diced
In a large frying pan, brown the beef in the oil.
When beef is browned, add chopped onions and cook until transparent.
Mix flour, paprika, and cayenne together, then add to the beef. Stir
well, making sure flour mixture is evenly distributed, and cook for 2
minutes. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and wine to beef, then cover and
simmer gently for 1 hour, or until beef is tender. (Hot water or more
wine can be added if dish appears to need more liquid.)
Add tomatoes, drained whole onions, and garlic. Cover and cook over
low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the tomato is cooked. Remove
the bay leaf and serve.
This dish can be served on a plate over brown rice, or in a bowl with
a hunk of dark bread on the side, depending on your mood. Before
serving, snip fresh parsley over the top. Serves 6.
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