Tools of the Trade

I’m not much for kitchen gadgets.  A few reliable, multi-purpose tools do the job and take up less space in my already over-stuffed kitchen cabinets and drawers.  I thought I would share with you my basic tool kit; what I take to my clients’ homes and what I use on a daily basis.  I have linked to websites where you can buy each item if you click on the tool name.

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From left to right:

6 1/2 inch Santoku knife.  This guy is the jack of all trades.  For me it’s the perfect size, I love the wood handle, and it’s light.  Another chef turned me on to Hida Tool in Berkeley where I found it (and bought another).  If you live in the Bay Area it’s a great place to check out, full of authentic Japanese tools for all sorts of projects.

8 inch mini whisk.  This little whisk is perfect for making salad dressings.  Of course a big one is good for lots of other projects but it’s too much for smaller batches of sauces and vinaigrettes.

Soup ladle.  I love this one from Ikea because it’s shallow and has a flat part to get into the bottom of the pot and scoop out and remaining large pieces of food.

Microplane.  Next to the knife, this tool can do it all.  I grate ginger, garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan, and nutmeg.  And probably some other things that I’m forgetting.  I really think this is a must-have.

Vegetable peeler.  I’m very particular about my peelers.  I wouldn’t use anything but this one.  It’s very inexpensive, nimble, light, and will stay sharp forever.

Citrus juicer.  Living in California, I covet my Meyer lemons and want to get as much juice out of each one as possible.  This juicer is the best I’ve used and will give you every last drop.  They come in a few sizes, but a large one just won’t work for small limes, so I recommend the small or medium sized.

Wooden spoon.  All-purpose, won’t scratch non-stick pans, won’t melt in high heat.  The only bummer is they can’t go in the dishwasher.

Sharpening steel.  The steel I use is different from the round, smooth ones because it actually sharpens instead of just honing.  It’s flat and removes metal, sharpening as it realigns the edge.  It keeps my knife super sharp so I rarely need professional sharpening.

Mini spatula.  I have several shapes of these and have found them to be indispensable.  They’re great for getting the last bits out of the food processor or blender, or just mixing small batches of sauces.

Silicone spoonula.  This is my latest acquisition and I don’t know how I went without it for so long.  Perfect for stirring risotto or mixing batters.  The silicone is heat-resistant so it won’t melt and the stainless steel handle means it’s dishwasher-safe.

Large serving spoon.  This one speaks for itself; who doesn’t need a large serving spoon?

Metal spatula.  This 6 inch spatula is great because it’s so thin yet very sturdy and doesn’t bend.  It easily gets under food and its size makes it nimble enough to flip items in small pans.

Tongs.  While I do use silicone tongs on occasion, I find the metal ones grip the food better with less chance of it slipping out.  It’s good to have a variety of sizes; long ones for the grill and small ones for the saute pan.

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I can never have enough kitchen towels.  Way back in culinary school we were limited to two for the entire day; one to grab hot pans with and one to sling onto our apron string to wipe our hands.  That was awful.  They’re cheap, last a long time, and are thin enough to fold up and stash away in any pantry, so do yourself a favor and get a few dozen.

If You Care (great name, right?) makes really strong compost bags.  The other brand I used to buy would leak and made a mess.  These are sturdy and come in a variety of sizes.

Grab Green makes fantastic products.  I think I’ve tried every “green” cleaning product under the sun but their power degreaser actually works.  It cleans up stove top grease without just smearing it around.

You can never go wrong with regular old masking tape and a sharpie.  I normally use cute little labels for my clients’ food, but when I run out, I rely on masking tape.  It’s good to make a habit out of labeling and dating your food at home.  That way when you pull out that container in the back of the freezer with the unidentifiable green goo in it, you’ll know what it is.

Organic extra virgin olive oil is my staple.  I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic co-op where I can refill my bottles, but I also buy a gallon of it at a time to refill my smaller bottles at home.   You don’t need the super expensive oil in the skinny bottles, the ones that are peppery and grassy and green.  Those are for drizzling not cooking, where the flavor of the oil is supposed to shine through.  Anything that says “extra virgin cold pressed” is fine.

I like to use Portuguese unrefined sea salt for every just about everything (in bulk, at the co-op).  The kind I buy is very fine, powdery almost, and  just barely wet .  I love how fine it is because I feel like I can really control how much I use and it dissolves easily in anything.  The only time I would use large flake salt would be just before serving, perhaps sprinkling some gray salt on heirloom tomatoes or a dash atop soup.

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