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Setting Up Shop
Unless you're planning to make all the food in this book in one day (probably a bad idea), you won't need to get all this stuff at once. Take it slow. Pick up things as you need them and keep a lookout for handy tools at rock-bottom prices. It's all about making selective purchases and being resourceful with the stuff you have.
Think multipurpose. If you don't have a roasting pan, use the broiler pan that came with your oven. Don't have a top for your pot? Use some aluminum foil to keep it covered. You'll save yourself stress and money just by being a little creative like this. It's the way I've always done it, and it has worked just fine up until now.
Also, look out for bargains and giveaways wherever you can. When I moved to my first apartment, I needed to build my kitchen from the ground up. The first thing I did was grab a few basics from my parents' house that they didn't really need anymore-or, rather, that I decided they didn't need anymore. I made out like a bandit: a couple of saucepans, some bowls, a few utensils, and a full set of flatware. Don't walk away with their Sunday best-that's definitely not going to win you any points. But I'm sure they have extra stuff they'd be happy to unload on you.
Check out flea markets, church sales, thrift shops, and moving sales, and you'll probably come away with at least a treasure or two. One morning I visited a church flea market and walked away with an awesome French-press coffeemaker, an old-school wooden rolling pin, and a full set of salad bowls-all for under $5! Another time I wandered into a garage sale and asked the guy who was moving if he had any kitchen equipment he wanted to get rid of. As it turned out, he wanted to unload his entire kitchen! I left with a couple of large cutting boards, a full set of glass plates and bowls, and a food processor in perfect condition-all for only $20. Bargains like these are all over the place; you just have to hunt them down. And every time I pick up something new for the kitchen, I love to figure out new dishes I can make with it. When I got my food processor, for example, I played around with all sorts of chopped dips, made my own peanut butter, and figured out how to make simple pastry dough. Keep an eye out for new stuff to build up your kitchen, and you'll find some surprises and inspiration along the way.
When you are setting up your kitchen, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it should feel comfortable to you. Everything should be arranged in a way that makes sense. If it's really awkward to reach for pots and utensils, you probably won't look forward to cooking. Making a kitchen feel like home takes some trial and error. When I moved into my first apartment in New York City, I spent an entire day organizing the kitchen, only to completely reshuffle everything a week later because things just didn't feel right. Your kitchen needs to feel good to you, so move things around until it does. Don't crowd your countertops; you'll want as much work space as possible. Have your utensils and cutlery in easy reach. Keep your spices, salt, and oils near the stove. Keep like with like-pots with pots, mixing bowls with mixing bowls, and so on.
Here are the basics:
Skillet A decent-quality, ovenproof, nonstick, all-purpose one, preferably 12 inches in diameter.
Big pot To use the technical term. A 6- or 8-quart pot should do just fine. Go for one with a nice heavy bottom.
Saucepan or two The 2-quart size is perfect.
Stainless steel chef's knife It should be 8 to 10 inches, comfortable, and not necessarily expensive. Keep it sharp.
Cutting board Wood or plastic? It doesn't really matter that much. I like the feel of wood, but plastic can go in the dishwasher.
Mixing bowls A bunch, all shapes and sizes. If they are nice enough, you can use them as serving bowls, too.
Baking dishes A couple that are 13 inches x 9 inches.
Baking sheet The larger the better, as long as it fits in your oven.
Basic bowls, plates, glasses, and cutlery Disposable dinnerware may seem like the cheaper way to go, but in the long run it's not. With a little legwork I guarantee you'll be able to find dirt-cheap dinnerware that will last you for years. I picked up all of mine from the discount store and the church yard sale across the street.
Sealable container For shaking up salad dressings, marinades, or mixing drinks if you don't have a shaker. I just raid the supermarket salad bar for the plastic ones, but if you want to be a little more legit about it, then a Tupperware set can't hurt.
Sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons
Whisk You'll want at least one for whipping eggs, cream, and more.
Large wooden mixing spoons A must for your nonstick pans.
Cake loaf pan A 9 x 5-inch loaf pan is good. The cheap aluminum kind will get you through if you don't want to invest in a metal one.
Spatula A hard plastic one for nonstick pots and pans and a metal one for the rougher jobs.
Wine and bottle opener
Electric mixer You can find one for under $10 at a discount store; I got mine for $8.
Electric blender Some have a lot of bells and whistles, but I generally think they're too smart for their own good. Just get one that has three or four speeds and looks reasonably well built.
Four-sided grater For citrus rinds, ginger, and cheese.
Miscellaneous stuff Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, sealable baggies, paper towels, dish detergent, sponges, trash bags, one or two dish towels, a few pot holders, and a dish rack for air-drying dishes.
Keeping a well-stocked arsenal of these basics will save you loads of time and energy in the long run because you won't have to spend hours wandering through supermarket aisles every time you want to cook something. You'll also have more ingredients to choose from when you're looking to whip something up on short notice.
Here is what my stocked pantry looks like:
Pasta I like to cook with the thick, starchy kinds such as rigatoni, linguine, pappardelle, and lasagna noodles. They have serious substance and carry the sauce better. Rao's homemade pasta is quality stuff that's not too expensive and is widely available.
Rice This is something you can buy in bulk to save some money, especially when it comes to the more exotic and expensive varieties, like basmati.
Flour Stag with the all-purpose, unbleached kind and keep it in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag.
White and brown sugar These sugars play very different roles, so it's important to keep both around. Any brand of granulated white sugar will do. As for brown sugar, I use the dark kind for its richer, more intense flavor. Before you buy a box of brown sugar, make sure that it "gives" when you squeeze it. Brown sugar easily turns hard as a rock if it's not stored in a tightly sealed package.
Old-fashioned oats These can be used for baking and also for a quick, filling breakfast.
Salt Salt is salt is salt, but you'll come across three major types in the supermarket: iodized, sea, and kosher. All are made of the same stuff, it's really only the size of the grain that differs, which does, however, affect the taste to some degree. Iodized salt is also called table salt; it has the finest grain and is the most common household salt. Sea salt, as its name suggests, comes from sea water. It is coarser, and therefore milder than plain old iodized salt. Some say it has a more complex flavor because it comes from the sea, but unless you buy the gourmet stuff, the verdict is still out on that one. Kosher salt pretty much has the largest grain of salt sold on the commercial market, and it is also the least sharp. Of the three, I like the grain of sea salt because it's a nice, happy medium.
Pepper Two words: Grind fresh! Buy a nice wooden peppermill or opt for the disposable pepper grinders that are on the market now.
Canned chopped tomatoes It's always good to have a few cans around, but be careful not to buy the variety that comes with basil already added. I hate the stuff.
Low-sodium and low-fat vegetable and chicken broths Make sure to get the low-sodium variety because the normal kind has way too much salt and makes it impossible for you to control how salty your dish will be.
Oils I recommend having three kinds of oil on hand: olive, vegetable, and sesame.
Olive oil: Extra Virgin. Don't buy anything but. It's the wonder oil-perfect in a million different ways. You'll probably use olive oil every time you go into the kitchen, so it makes sense to buy a good-size bottle that will last you a month or so.
Vegetable oil: Because olive oil has a relatively low burning temperature, it's not great for high-heat cooking such as searing and stir-frying. That's why it's good to have vegetable oil around: It can take the heat. There are many kinds of vegetable oil that will do the trick-canola, safflower, and corn, just to name a few-but I prefer canola and safflower because they are very neutral in taste and, like olive oil, are reported to be good for you.
Sesame oil: This one is less of an all-purpose cooking oil than a flavorful Asian kick you can use to spice up a whole gamut of dishes, from cole slaw to chicken skewers. You want the dark sesame oil. Just a bit of its strong, rich flavor will do wonders for you. Since a little of the stuff goes a long way, you only need a small bottle.
Vinegars Get balsamic and white, and buy others on an as-needed basis.
Dijon mustard Using a high-quality Dijon, such as Grey Poupon, really makes a difference, so spend the extra dollar. Going with coarse grain versus fine grain is really a matter of taste-whether or not you want the rustic texture of the whole mustard seeds.
Soy sauce It's salty, strong, and wonderful stuff, so a little goes a long way.
Worcestershire sauce This is another secret weapon when it comes to marinades and sauces. A little bottle will do you just fine.
Hot sauce (such as Tabasco) A few dashes will give any dish a good dose of tangy heat.
Ketchup Not only do I use it on burgers, but it's a key ingredient in homemade BBQ sauces and a couple of my savory tomato dishes. It also brings leftovers back to life. There's nothing like Heinz original.
Eggs Eggs will last about a month in the refrigerator, so you can't go wrong by picking up a carton.
Butter For my money Land O'Lakes' sweet unsalted butter is the best-tasting mass-market butter out there.
Garlic If you can find it, buy the fresh peeled cloves of garlic that are in most supermarkets these days; look for them in the refrigerated produce section, probably with the fresh herbs. If you go this route, I recommend using Christopher Ranch brand. Just double-check that the cloves are not discolored or slimy.
Onions They'll last for a couple of weeks unrefrigerated, so don't be bashful about buying a few pounds at a time. Sometimes an onion will start sprouting green stalks. No need to panic-just cut them off before you use the onion and make sure the onion is still firm.
Lemons and limes Get ones with nice, bright color.
Mayonnaise Hellmann's mayonnaise is one of my prized secret ingredients, it will keep for a long time in the fridge.
Baking powder and baking soda Both are used to make things rise, but I use baking powder more often because it is essentially flavorless, whereas baking soda is kind of salty and funky tasting. A little baking soda, however, is perfect for some things such as cookies.
Vanilla extract Vanilla is a key player in a lot of the desserts I make, and it keeps for a long time because of its high alcohol content. When you're choosing a brand, make sure you buy one that says "real" or "pure" instead of "artificially flavored."
Cocoa powder Here's a simple rule of thumb: The better the cocoa, the better tasting the dessert. "Dutch-processed" cocoa is the top of the line and worth the extra money if the difference is important to you. If not, go for a mass-market mid-range cocoa like Ghirardelli.
Herbs and Spices
I'm no botanist, but generally speaking an herb is leafy and green, and a spice is dry and hard like seeds, roots, and barks. Herbs and spices can quickly and effortlessly turn a decent dish into one that people will talk about for days.
Buy them fresh! These days you can get fresh herbs pretty cheaply at most grocery stores (usually under $2).
Choose fresh herbs that have a strong fragrance and a healthy, vibrant color, with leaves and stems that have no discoloration. As a general rule, delicate and leafy herbs such as basil and oregano will lose flavor and color quickly, so don't overcook them. Herbs like these work best when added at the last minute to stir-fries and sautees or baked at low temperature. More robust herbs like rosemary and bay leaves can withstand higher heat and longer cooking times, so you can let them roast or simmer for hours. It is still nice to add a little more fresh stuff at the end to pick up the whole dish. There is really no easier way to make your food look and taste gourmet, so I use them as often as possible.
Here are the herbs I use most frequently and a few of my favorite things to pair them with:
Basil Goes well with almost everything-tomatoes, pasta sauces, pestos, salad dressings, citrus, and Italian- and Thai-influenced dishes.
Cilantro A staple herb in Mexican and South Asian cuisine. Use it in salsas, salads, and soups. It's pretty pungent, and either you love it or you hate it. I love it.
Dill Perfect for salmon, potatoes, lamb, dairy, and citrus.
Flat Italian parsley Use it in everything from salads and soups to Mediterranean- and Mexican-influenced cuisine and as a final garnish.
Mint Refreshing and sweet. Lamb, chocolate, dairy, mixed drinks, and citrus all love it.
Rosemary With hints of pine and mint it livens up potatoes, lamb, beef, pork, chicken, tomatoes, breads, garlic, dairy, and citrus.
Sage Rich, round, and smooth. Goes beautifully with salmon, pork, poultry, and dairy.
Tarragon Distinct hints of licorice and lemon. Nicely complements fish, chicken, salad dressings, dairy, and citrus.
Thyme A kind of lemony herb. Goes great in salad dressings as well as with fish, chicken, and citrus.
When you think of spices, that giant intimidating rack in the supermarket aisle probably comes to mind. Most of what you see are strange blends like Garlicky Steak Rub or Lemon Pepper that try to replicate the flavor of fresh ingredients. I just stick to the basics. And contrary to popular belief, dried spices do not stay fresh forever, especially ground spices. Use them up or replace them every two to three months.
In my spice rack at home:
Bay leaves Toss these whole dried leaves straight from the jar into sauces, stews, and soups to give them a slight kick.
Chili powder Spicy, sweet, and smoky. I use it in everything from chili to popcorn.
Cinnamon (ground) For sweet and savory dishes alike, but I use it mostly in baked goods.
Coriander (ground) Warm, nutty, and a bit spicy. Very versatile.
Cumin (ground) Mediterranean all the way.
Curry powder For curries, of course, but I use it in a bunch of other dishes, too.
Nutmeg (ground) Nutmeg is toasty, warm, and fragrant like cinnamon, but darker in flavor. It can give baked goods just the right touch of spice.
Oregano One of the few herbs whose flavor stays good when dried. A subtle, warm herb that's great with tomatoes, pasta sauces, and lots of Italian cuisine.
Red pepper flakes A couple of dashes and you'll have all the heat you need.
Excerpted from Young and Hungry by Dave Lieberman Copyright © 2005 by David Lieberman.
Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 9, 2010
This wonderful cookbook is perfect for couples who are looking for a way to liven up the kitchen and find something different! We love this cookbook and turn to it again and again!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2009
Posted April 30, 2006
I really enjoyed this book. It has a lot of fun and young cooking ideas that are not to stuffy or boring. It's written with young people in mind and I love the little stories he adds to some of the recipes! I woudld recommend this to anyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.