08.06.2014

Basic Kitchen Tools

Kitchen Basics Basic kitchen tools? Yeah, if I can figure out how to make chicken in a microwave, that’s pretty much the only tool I need. I used to “cook” mash potatoes from a box. The thought of that now makes me cringe.

I really have to thank the Food Network for this one. When we moved to NYC we didn’t have cable, but for some reason we had this channel. I figure it was because their studios are right there, but I never knew the real reason.
I remember watching 30 Minute Meals and thinking, wow, I can do that too. I would watch the show, then buy ingredients I wasn’t familiar with (molasses?) and others I may have been familiar with but, I probably hadn’t tried before (celery, for example). Eventually I developed an obsession for cooking and that’s the only thing I wanted to do. I even thought about going to Culinary School, but ended up going to business school. I still regret not taking formal cooking classes. Over the years, after spending way too much money on kitchen tools, I can say that there are some that are the minimum that anybody should have to make their lives easier in the kitchen. Here are my basic kitchen tools:

  1. A sharp Chef’s knife. This is to me, the single most important piece of equipment. You can do anything with it. Granted, there are other specialty knives, but when you start, you just really need this one. You don’t need to go ultra fancy, but a good piece will last you a long time; I bought mine 11 years ago.
  2. A wooden cutting board. The bigger the better, although they can be a little bit difficult to clean. Wood is better than plastic for the knife. Plastic will dull the blade.
  3. Plastic cutting board. This is mainly for raw meat. It’s easier to sanitize and you can also throw it in the dishwasher.
  4. Measuring spoons and measuring cups (dry and liquid). These are important for baking since you have to be very precise. They are less important for cooking, especially if you are an experienced cook. If you are just starting out, take the time to measure everything until you get the hang of it.
  5. Mixing bowls. Making meatballs? Cookies? You’ll need these bowls. I prefer glass to metal because I can put them in the microwave if I need to.
  6. Baking sheet. It can be used both to bake cookies or your favorite salmon recipe.
  7. Grater. Great for grating and zesting lemons, oranges, limes, nutmeg, etc… There different kinds for cheese too.
  8. Food processor. Use it for pesto, hummus, purees, almond butter. What I like about a food processor over a blender, if you can only have one, is that it can deal with both dry and wet ingredients. A blender needs liquids.
  9. Vegetable Peeler. You can always use a small knife but this tool will make your life easier. It can also be used to make “vegetable ribbons”.
  10. Whisk. Use it to make sauces, scrambled eggs or whipped cream.
  11. Wooden spoon. I love this spoon because for some reason I feel professional, but any spoon, wooden or silicon, will work.
  12. Can opener. Self-explanatory.
  13. Tongs. Perfect for picking up food from a distance without piercing it.

This list is by no means exclusive, or mandatory, to come up with some awesome dishes. But I could go on and on in regards to kitchen essentials; pans anyone? What are your basics in the kitchen?

07.07.2014

Spanish Omelet aka Tortilla de Patata

Tortilla de Patata - Spanish Omelette

Well, since this is my first post, I decided for it to be my daughter’s favorite dish, Spanish Omelet, or Tortilla de Patata or Tortilla Española. I like to think of it as the most important dish in the whole kingdom of Spain, closely followed by the paella, which is probably my favorite dish.
Unfortunately, I’m going to destroy it. Let me tell you why, this is NOT the right way to make a Spanish Omelet. Why? you may ask. See, I spent years and years not making it because I said that it was a little messy; mainly the aftermath after deep frying the potatoes. It isn’t really that bad, but I just didn’t want to deal with it. Either I made it in this easier way or I would just order it at some Spanish tapas place, and let’s face it, we don’t go to those restaurants that often.

Spanish Omelet – the non-traditional way

Ingredients:

2 potatoes (Idaho is what I use but Yukon Gold will work too)

onion to taste (I used a quarter of an onion)

4 or 5 eggs – it depends on the size of the potatoes

1/3 to 1/4 cup of olive oil

pinch of salt

Tortilla de Patata - Spanish Omelette

Instructions (my way):

Heat up some olive oil in low to medium heat. In the meantime, chop the onion and sauté it until translucent, don’t burn it because if you do you’ll have to start again. Here we are trying to infuse the oil with the onion flavor. This is completely worth it, but you can avoid it if you don’t like onions.

While this is happening, peel and cut the potatoes. Any size will do. I remember my grandma unevenly cutting them. I just cut them lengthwise twice, so I get four quarters, and then slice them more or less thinly. Put them in a microwave safe bowl.

Now the shortcut (at this point my sister would give me the evil look) –

Pour the sautéed onion, with the olive oil, over the potatoes and mix well. Make sure there’s just enough oil to cover them. If you didn’t infuse enough oil, no problem, just add a little bit of the regular one. Now you can go ahead and cover the bowl with plastic wrap, make some holes in it and put it in the microwave for 6-7 minutes. Once the time is up, stir the potatoes and put them back in the microwave for another 6 minutes.

{Now, if you want to do it the traditional way, you would have to deep-fry the potatoes and the onions together, until the potatoes start to cook through. At this point, you’ll take them out of the oil because you don’t want them crispy, just cooked through.}

Preheat a 10-inch skillet, in medium to low heat, with enough olive oil to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. I like to use a brush for this. In the meantime, beat the eggs and add the potatoes to them. Start with 4 eggs and work your way up if needed. The consistency should be pretty thick, 2 eggs per potato more or less. Add the potatoes and some salt to taste.

Pour the mixture into the skillet and let it set. When you see that the bottom is done and the top is starting to cook, put on some kitchen mittens (just in case), use a big plate or platter to cover the skillet, grab the whole thing, and over the sink (in order to avoid messes) flip the pan. Now you’ll have the half-cooked omelet on the plate and an empty skillet. Put it back on the stove and slide the omelet back into the skillet to finish cooking. Once the other side is done, put it on a serving plate.

Tortilla de Patata - Spanish Omelette

This dish, in my opinion, is best at room temperature and especially the next day. But, it doesn’t really matter. A Spanish omelet is good at any temperature and for any occasion. Enjoy!