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Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Paring knife among ‘Survivor’ equipment

September 17, 2003

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I was thinking about rearranging my kitchen the other day and got to pondering the value I place on certain utensils and equipment. All I wanted to do was to make sure the most important stuff was in the handiest drawers and cupboards. But I also started thinking about the tools that I really need and use.

In this category is the equipment I miss when I have to work in someone else's kitchen, the tools that have come to seem essential in my own. I also wondered how much my list would differ from someone else's. I'm talking about the kitchen tools you would want with you on a desert island. Think in terms of Emeril does "Survivor."

My own list of the three most indispensable kitchen items would have to include my good paring knife, my sturdy garlic press and my Berndes nonstick skillet.

I realized how attached I was to my paring knife a couple of years ago when it disappeared. This was a LamsonSharp knife that held its edge nicely and sharpened up with little fuss. Through the years we had bonded, but suddenly the knife was gone. Vanished. No clues and no suspects. When it turned up missing I promptly replaced it with one just like it and life as I had known it resumed.

A couple of months later I dug way down to turn the compost pile and saw a glint of metal. The original knife's wooden handle was a little worse for the wear and had to be sterilized in the oven, but the blade sharpened right up. So now I have two of those paring knives.

I probably should have more than one garlic press as well. I tend to add fresh garlic to just about everything. About 10 years ago, after going through several garlic presses with removable pieces that got lost or chewed up in the garbage disposal, I found a garlic press that is virtually indestructible and cleans up easily.

I have no idea what brand it is, but I've never seen one like it again. You put the clove in the chamber and a mallet-like thing comes down and pushes the garlic through the little holes. This is kitchen physics at its finest.

One might argue that a garlic press is a nonessential kitchen utensil because a cook can easily smash garlic and mince it using other tools. True, but a good smooshing in a garlic press is the only way I know of to put fresh garlic directly into food without losing flavor on the cutting board.

While my paring knife and garlic press have been with me awhile, my infatuation with the Berndes skillet is only a few years old. I used to be thoroughly unimpressed with nonstick cookware, having had a number of bad experiences with pans that pealed and flaked. The nonstick cookware I had used before also was thin and did not distribute heat well.

I'm not even sure what prompted me to put Berndes cookware on my Christmas list, but I could do the commercial.

My Berndes skillet has this almost velvety finish that is showing absolutely no signs of wear and tear despite regular use. It distributes heat fairly evenly and it cleans up quickly and easily. I don't use anything but plastic utensils with it and I don't put it in the dishwasher, but I really don't need to because it cleans up with a soapy sponge.

I am so fond of this skillet that I find myself cooking things on top of the stove that I might have put in the oven or on the grill otherwise. I even cook vegetables in it.

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