can’t cook, if cooking is without you…

[Radish shares her must-have kitchen stuffs]

In every cook’s kitchen there are tools, those special tools that were you to take them away, the cook would feel awkward, almost naked and partly paralyzed. How many times did I dig for my beloved knife cursing under my breath because I can’t find it, and simply cannot go on chopping ingredients for a dish a different one? There are quite a few tools and gadgets that I consider to be a great addition to any kitchen, but when space is limited, which ones do must you have in order to feel productive, efficient, and most importantly, content?

When I’ve cooked in my mother’s kitchen, it has been a constant process of anxiety and irritation. I have my own way of organizing, she has hers. She chops almost everything with something not much larger than a utility knife, eschewing a chef’s knife altogether because she finds it unwieldy. And you know what -it works for her! The way her pots and pans are organized makes sense to her. Not having a stand mixer doesn’t impact her in any way because she rarely needs anything requiring such a process. Me? I’ve lugged my white professional strength Kitchen-Aid mixer, lovingly nicknamed “Animal” from apartment to apartment, displaying it proudly even in a kitchen that had only 400 inches of counter space (I’m not even joking). I did my chopping on a board that would go over a sink and I made a lot of one pot/pan meals. But I also baked a ton and that was the place where the famed pumpkin bread pudding soufflé was born.

In any case, every cook is different and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to organize a kitchen. There’s a way that works for you and that’s certainly how you should go about structuring your work space. Anything goes, really, I think. I wanted to share with you, however, those tools and gadgets that make me deliriously happy in my kitchen and were they to disappear, my life without them would be less enjoyable or efficient when it came to kitchen creativity and production.

Knives – every chef has his favorites and you will hear lots of different strong opinions. Some chefs love their Globals, others will only chop with a ceramic knife. Most chefs/home cooks will agree that you only need a few good knives instead of an entire set. My go-to brand is Wusthof, specifically this knife is the one I cannot live without.
The other knives I find very useful is a paring knife and a serrated-edge one. I have tried Global and I don’t like the weight distribution and feel, and I prefer Wusthof to Henkels by just looking at the blade curvature. You have to try a few to figure it out. In an ideal world, you should be able to “test-drive” your knives, but in reality, if you have friends that cook, chances are they’ll have decent knives. Try theirs and see. This, perhaps is my most important must-have – good knives.

Storage of knives – I am not a fan of the wooden blocks or anything of the sort. I like magnetic strips best. Confession – we currently have a block and not the magnetic strip. I’m hoping that this soon will change.

Microplane zesters
– I have one for cheese and one for chocolate/citrus – I loved mine so much that when I cooked at KS’s before we moved in, I bought him his own (really, selfishly for me) and now we have two. They are wonderful and I prefer Microplane to other brands.

Stand mixer
– my gigantic, white Kitchen-Aid is professional strength, but I got lucky and paid only $99 for it at Amazon’s refurbished deal. Knock on wood, it still works perfectly five years later and because it’s white, goes with any kitchen and always looks clean. Did I mention that it mixes and stirs like an animal, hence the nickname? I love this appliance!

Mortar and Pestle – now, a small confession. We are currently lacking this and I don’t like it. I’ve been meaning to, for so long, to just go out and get a nice, big one, because when you make your own spice mixes, it’s simply irreplaceable. Why we don’t have one yet? Good question.

Wooden or plastic boards?
Honestly, the look of wooden is always better, but I prefer the plastic ones – they’re easier to care for and from what I know are more resistant to growing bacteria. I like these boards a lot. And I like these too – they take up almost no space!

Spatulas – I fell in love with spatulas when we bought our first one shortly after coming to America. To be able to get batter almost entirely out of a bowl was magical to me. No more scraping ad infinitam with a spoon – the spatula, my new BFF, did it in a snap. Williams Sonoma makes my favorite ones.

Cuisinart Food Processor – now, I didn’t have this prior to moving in with KS, but I have to tell you, making pasta on this baby is so easy, I should never have to buy pasta again. Well, I would still have to let is sit, roll, dry and cut it, but you get pasta dough in seconds. Seconds, people. You can make pie dough with it. You can pulverize hazelnuts and pine nuts (and other nuts) with it and make coating for fried chicken or fish or Linzer cookies. You can make a quick pesto (the best one you should make with a mortar-and-pestle, but as you now know, I lack one). It simply rocks my world. I love it!

Glass baking dishes – great for so many things. Easy to clean. Wonderfully durable.

Silpat silicone baking sheets – so great for cookies. Nothing sticks to these babies. Nothing at all.

I’ll stop here for now. I’m sure I can think of other amazing can’t-live-without tools, but I don’t want to make the list too long just yet. If you’ve been looking for gadgets to buy, check these out, see if you find them useful and good. And of course, please share those kitchen tools without which you’d be lost, frustrated and downright unwilling to cook. I’m always looking for new ideas, even if the kitchen space is a limited place!

Sorry, no pictures today, I feel that my pictures of kitchen appliances really wouldn’t do them justice (all that artificial light!). So I have provided links.

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