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Basics for the kitchen

By Erica Marcus
Newsday
Question: What is the bare minimum of kitchen equipment I need?
Answer: As I write this, I am preparing for Passover dinner which, for the past 15 years, I have cooked at the home of some dear friends. As I compose my shopping list, I am also making a list of every cooking implement and staple food that I will need. My friendsí kitchen is spacious, it is attractive. It is not well equipped.
The list, I realize, is nothing more or less than the essential equipment every kitchen should have. Having the following items on hand will make cooking easier and more fun, and it will enable you to produce better food.
Kosher salt. It has a better flavor than iodized table salt and offers the cook more control: Its big grains are easy to pick up in your fingers and so is easy to deploy; pinch for pinch itís less salty so thereís a smaller chance of oversalting.
A pepper grinder. That works. Filled with pepper. Finishing a dish with freshly ground pepper really makes a difference in how your food tastes.
Extra-virgin olive oil. It can be a workhorse brand such as Colavita or Filippo Berio, but flavorless oils, be they canola or ipureî olive oil, simply cannot carry a salad dressing or enhance anything you might cook in them.
At least one large cutting board that lies flat. A thick plastic board (not made out of glass-hard acrylic) can go in the dishwasher and will last for years.
A vegetable peeler that works. You can pick up a plastic Kuhn Rikon ioriginal Swiss peelerî for about $3.
A large sturdy colander that can stand on its own feet in the sink.
A salad spinner with a non-vented bowl so you can soak things in it.
Spring-loaded tongs. Chefs cannot live without these, using them to saute, to lift spaghetti out of the pot, to flip steaks, even to squeeze lemons. They are basically like heatproof hands.
Basic cooking utensils. A few wooden spoons, a large sturdy spoon, a slotted spoon, a rubber spatula or two and a spatula for turning things.
Pots and pans. You could make do with a large pot in which to boil pasta and a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. A 2-quart saucepan is nice, as is a 12- or 14-inch frying pan and a nonstick skillet or two. For braises, a heavy Dutch oven. Even if you donít bake, have one baking sheet with sides.
Measuring sets: spoons, nesting cups for dry measures, 2-cup and 2-quart see-through cups for liquid measures.
What about sharp knives? Itís true that they are an absolute ó and all too rare ó necessity, but I long ago gave up expecting to find sharp knives in someone elseís kitchen. I bring my own.
Send e-mail to erica.marcus@newsday.com
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

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