Parmesan Morel / Microplane

The final item on the top 10 is the microplane. The microplane is the utensil that will make a fine lemon zest for a blueberry cobbler, fresh nutmeg for any baking or alfredo sauce, and make the quickest, lightest pile of fresh parmesan that you’ve ever seen.  A block of fresh parmesan is a staple in our refrigerator, and we like cheese, so needless to say we utilize ours quite often. To demonstrate the usage of the microplane we took spring’s finest, most elusive treasure the morel mushroom and tried to do it justice. If you’re not familiar with this fungi you should be. They’re only around for a short time- actually you have minimal time to scavenge these, and the elements have to be just right-  just enough rain and warmth from the sun before they sprout. You have to get to them before grass creates a camouflage that will make it impossible to find. We were blessed with a small bounty of these beauties from a colleague of mine, Kim Folsom. We cannot and will not reveal the location of her source- we’ve seen them sold for up to $20 a pound, so you can understand the confidentiality. With that said- we didn’t go too crazy with this already amazing mushroom, but we did spruce it up a bit. Here’s our tribute to those who introduced the morel to us, who have shared their morels with us, and to the morel itself.


Pepper Seared Beef / Pepper Mill

Number 9 on the list of essential tools.  Everyone should have a pepper mill in their kitchen.  One main thing to consider is the mill should be adjustable and easy to clean.  As you start to cook often you will realize that it is the small details that will elevate your dishes, and often they are affordable as well.  Fresh cracked pepper has a fresher, more pure flavor than pre-ground pepper, and peppercorns don’t have an expiration date. Do a taste test if you’re skeptical.  Not only that, you have the option of the size of the pepper you add to your dish from a fine ground to a large, rough ground.  I’m sure that most of you have a pepper mill, but if not you should buy one for they are one of the most simplest pleasures of the kitchen.  We are doing a spin of a classic dish with beef seared with pepper.

Pecan encrusted Tilapia / Peltex Spatula

Number 8 on the list of essential tools.  The Peltex spatula is a sturdy, yet flexible tool that can make flipping delicate items much easier.  This item went through some heavy debate before making the cut- at a glance it just looks like a slotted spatula, but sealed the deal was a safety issue.  One of the most painful burns I have received is from flipping fish and getting hot oil splattering up from the pan. And not only that, it is disheartening when you spend the money on a beautiful piece of fish and it breaks apart in the pan.  The Peltex has a flat metal edge that does a great job deglazing, and the surface area makes making a birds nest a breeze.

We decided to create a pecan encrusted tilapia to illustrate the functionality of the Peltex.  This is a great way to incorporate fish into your diet.  The crust is what makes the dish special.  A key ingredient that will help this dish is Panko bread crumbs. Mix the crumbs with the chopped pecans, and you will attain the crunch factor.  We also recommend using a cast iron pan. Once again, the thick surface will aid to create a thick, rich, crust.

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette / Metal Bowl

Number 7 on the list of essential tools.  From fresh whipped cream, hollandaise sauce, to homemade vinaigrettes everyone needs a sturdy mixing bowl.  We recommend an aluminum or metal bowl for the transference of heat and cold as mentioned in previous entries (i.e. hollandaise sauce & whipped cream).  The size is something to consider as well.  We own two 2 quart bowls that stack nicely, which when storage is a commodity.  The bowls are a small investment , but in our kitchen they get used very frequently.  We are featuring a lemon and fresh thyme vinaigrette for our recipe this round.  With spring, a light citrus dressing lends itself to a mixed green salad or fresh cut veggies.


Balloon Whisk / Fresh Whipped Cream

Number 6 on the list of essential tools.  For your custom vinaigrettes, hollandaise sauce, and fresh whipped cream everyone needs a balloon whisk.  This tool will aerate (combine air), emulsify (blend unblendable liquids), and simply mix. A balloon whisk is a modest investment that’ll run you $5-12 and will provide functionality for many years to come.  We chose one of the simplest, yet most rewarding recipes-  fresh whipped cream.  3 ingredients, and a couple tips and you will never buy Cool Whip again.


Sheet Pan / Steve’s oatmeal cookies

A sheet pan is essential for cooking pizzas, roasting root vegetables, making creamy apple phyllo roll up, toasting pumpkin seeds, and baking cookies. The one that we have is actually a jelly roll model which is a standard- 18” x 26” with a 1” lip. The lip serves a couple of purposes- it will contain any oils, juices, or cookies when transporting from oven to cooling rack, and it also provides a sturdy “handle” that’s great for gripping when removing from the oven. A good sheet pan will run anywhere from $10-20, and is a small investment considering the copious amounts of wonderful things that you’ll be able to cook and bake on it.

For this kitchen essential we decided to feature my dad’s (Kim) oatmeal cookies. Ben and I have been enjoying these for years now, and not only are they a scrumptious treat- they’ve got a good health element to them as well. So enjoy this recipe and fight cholesterol with these cookies.


The Stock Pot / Chicken Stock

Everyone needs a heavy stock pot for Pasta’s, soups, and yes Stock.  A flavorful stock and add richness, body, and complexity to and dish.  We use stock in almost everything.  The Store purchased stock is often light in body and has a high sodium content.  The salt act’s as a preservative, but when you reduce it your sauce could be so salty. You can debone your chicken, or buy the bones from you local butcher.  This holds true for beef or fish.  The process is easy and will fill your kitchen with a wonderful aroma.  Just a few simple ingredients and you will see a noticeable difference in all you food.

Cutting Board / Match Stick Vegetables

One of the most basic, yet essential tools in the kitchen is the cutting board.  If you are only going to own one cutting board, it should be a hard durable plastic.  This will protect your knives, and any scratches can be cleaned and disinfected to keep bacteria out from raw meats that may come in contact. For a small investment you can have a tool that will provide safety and functionality.  If your cutting board doesn’t have an anti-skid surface, use a damp towel or rubber mat to place under the board to prevent movement.

Cast Iron/ Cinnamon and Cumin Encrusted Pork Lion

Here is Round 2 featuring the cast iron skillet. We truly use the cast iron skillet more often then any other pan our house. It’s a universal pan that can go from as a non-stick for frying eggs to searing meat or fish- it is just a workhorse that gets the job done. The cast iron is known for its heat distribution which allows you to sear meat evenly through out the pan and not just in the hot spots. Because of its heavy dutiness, the pan doesn’t suffer from heat loss when adding any room temp or cold foods, and this allows you get the killer crust on your fish or meats.

Ok, we went with pork tenderloin for our featured dish, and as an added bonus we threw in a wonderful red wine reduction sauce.

Kitchen Knife/ Minestrone soup

This is the first recipe of the Top Ten Basic Kitchen Utensils.  The next 10 entries will feature each utensil in the order that we’ve established as an essential.  Number 1 is the kitchen knife.

We chose to make minestrone soup, because it has lots of small diced vegetables in its recipe which is a great way to highlight the necessity of a good blade.  We have also included a visual reference when you hear different sizes of diced vegetables.  A good rule for soup is to cut the product to pieces that fit on to a spoon.  If you want lots of different flavors use small dice.