Most good cooks know that a few helpful tools and a desire to cook are all you really need to make a great meal. While a gourmet kitchen with all the top-of-the-line gadgets and gizmos will certainly make you look good while you are cooking, it won’t automatically make you a good cook (just a happy one). Realistically, most of us do not have the space to store all the specialized tools anyhow! When I got married, I immediately registered for the best cookware (Calphalon, I still swear by it). Shamelessly, when I entered my mother’s kitchen, I pooh-poohed her stainless steel Faberware pots and pans. Incidentally, she received them as a wedding present and still uses them 40 years later to create wonderful meals. I was a little bit younger, and lot more naïve. However, the more time I have spent cooking - and now that I have less time to do so - I have learned that frivolous items, like an electric steamer, just take up much-needed space in my kitchen.
According to author Mark Bittman (“A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks”, The New York Times, May 9, 2007):
“Like cookbooks, kitchen equipment is a talisman; people believe that buying the right kind will make them good cooks. Yet some of the best cooks I’ve known worked with a battered batterie de cuisine: dented pots and pans scarred beyond recognition, an old steak knife turned into an all-purpose tool, a pot lid held just so to strain pasta when the colander was missing, a food processor with a busted switch. They didn’t complain and they didn’t apologize; they just cooked”.
In the article Mr. Bittman describes how you can outfit your kitchen with the essential tools you will need to cook fabulous meals for only $200.00. He not only gives a list of these essential items, but also gives the reader a list of the fancy, expensive items to stay away from. As the article points out, not only can you equip a kitchen for little money, but also (unlike when we buy our jeans) we don’t need to be so label conscious. “It needs only to be functional, not prestigious, lavish or expensive”.
Rachel Ray’s web site, yum-o, also gives a list of essential tools for the kitchen. You’ll be surprised at how few items you really need. The website also gives a handy list of the items that should always be in your pantry or fridge, so that you aren’t constantly running out to the store every time you want to make something delicious!
Enjoy this weeks recipes!!
Irish Lamb Stew**, Braised Short Ribs with Honey, Chipotle and Black Beans, Stir-Fried Shrimp and Scallops with Cashews, Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts.
**cooked in a slow-cooker
Items already in your pantry or fridge:
butter, salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano, Parmesan cheese, vegetable oil, olive oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, Dijon mustard, ground cumin, honey, red wine, Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound fresh scallops
1/2 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
4 pounds beef short ribs, cut into individual rib portions
1- 3/4 pounds white potatoes
3 large leeks
3 large carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 (12 ounce) package of fresh green beans
3 chipotle chilles
1 cup of cashews
1 bulb of garlic
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 large onion
1 large red bell pepper
1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14 ounce) cans of chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can of beef stock
2 cans of black beans
1 (16 oz) package vacuum-packaged gnocchi
1 (10 ounce) package of fresh spinach
**Most recipes are for 4-6 servings. If you are making more, or less, you will need to adjust the shopping list accordingly**
Irish Lamb Stew ( Source: The Palm Beach Post: Jim Romanoff for the Associated Press. March 4, 2009).
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 pounds white potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large leeks, whites only, halved, washed and thinly sliced
3 large carrots peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
14- ounce can chicken broth
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
In a 6 qt slow cooker, combine the lamb, potatoes, leeks, carrots, celery, broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover the slow cooker, then cook on low until the lamb is fork-tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Stir in the parsley just before serving.
Braised Short Ribs with Honey, Chipotle and Black Beans (Source: The Palm Beach Post: "Divas of Dish", Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Hodges. March 4, 2009).
4 pounds short ribs, cut into individual rib portions
salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup of dry red wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 cups of beef stock
3 chipotle chilles, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, big enough to hold all
ingredients, heat the olive oil over high heat. Sear the ribs in batches on all
sides until nicely charred and caramelized. Remove from pan and reserve. (If the
ribs are particularly fatty, pour off some of the fat.)
Reduce heat to medium and saute the onions and red pepper, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then pour in the wine, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce for about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, mustard, cumin, oregano, beef stock, chipotles, Worcestershire and honey. Return the ribs to the pan and bring to a simmer. cover and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender.
Remove the ribs. If the sauce is too thin, turn up the heat to reduce (uncovered) until thickened. Stir in the black beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve ribs atop beans and sauce with crusty bread.
Stir-Fried Shrimp and Scallops with Cashews (Source: Paula Deen's Quick and Easy Meals-2009).
2 tbsp of vegetable oil, divided
1/2 pound fresh scallops
large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (12 ounce) package fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped cashews
1 tbsp mined garlic
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
Hot cooked brown rice
Garnish: toasted and chopped cashews
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add scallops, and cook for 3 minutes. Turn scallops, and add shrimp to pan; cook for 2
minutes. Remove scallops and shrimp from pan; set aside, and keep warm.
In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add green beans, cashews, and garlic; cook for 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and sesame oil. Add broth mixture to green bean mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Return shrimp and scallops to pan, stirring to combine. Serve immediately over brown rice. Garnish with cashews, if desired.
Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts (Source: Cooking
Light, January/February 2009).
1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach, torn
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Parmesan cheese
Cook gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until butter and nuts are lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add gnocchi and spinach to pan; cook one minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.