It's almost spring in Chicago, and for me personally, that means spring cleaning, organizing closets and sorting through my kitchen. I'm sure you can relate. Right now, I am looking at my spice cabinet wondering how old some of these jars are and when I might use them next or whether it's time to throw them out. It's also a good time to evaluate what kitchen tools you are missing. I've listed a few here that will make your life much easier and your cooking more enjoyable.
First, everyone needs a good frying pan - this could be a non-stick or stainless steel skillet. All Clad is our preferred brand at TCB.
The pans come in different sizes, so if you are not sure what size would work for you, I always recommend going bigger. You never want to overcrowd a pan when cooking which can easily happen if you have too small of a pan. Nobody eats just one egg, right?
Next, I would recommend having some Le Creuset cookware. The enameled cast iron pieces are a great investment and come with a lifetime warranty. From the braiser to the Dutch oven, they come in different sizes and colors, which make them so fun to mix and match.
I love these pieces because they are so versatile. I not only use my Dutch oven for soups and stews (see the recipe below), but I also bake bread in it!
The braiser is great for sautéing, as well as making shirred eggs, or Shakshuka. You can serve it straight out of the pan so that your dish stays hot for a longer period of time.
You'll notice I included a Rosle garlic press in the above photo which I also consider an essential item. If you never want to get your hands sticky chopping garlic, this utensil will take care of it for you. The Rosle brand is a traditional family-owned company from Germany that makes high end kitchen tools. When you use this garlic press, you don't even have to peel the garlic, and afterwards, it is very easy to clean.
A bench scraper is another great tool. Although originally designed to portion dough (which is why it is also often called a dough scraper), we mostly use it to transfer from our cutting boards. You don't want to use your knife for this as scraping the cutting board with your knife will make your blade dull. The bench scraper solves that problem!
I am always looking for tools that are multifunctional, especially since I have a small kitchen. I want to make the most of the space I have. That's why I love the Microplane grater. It does so many functions, from zesting citrus to shaving hard cheeses to grating nutmeg and fresh ginger. Of course, there are some tools that don't have multiple uses but you simply can't live without them because they are so good at that single use. For me, that is our corn zipper!
This one is important: you should own a good salt housed in a salt crock. I prefer using my fingers to season rather than a salt grinder. You do, however, need a good grinder for freshly ground pepper. Big flake sea salt and fresh ground pepper is a life changer on a fresh green salad. Give it a try!
I am sharing my lentil soup recipe with you so you can use your new Dutch oven to make this delicious soup.
French Style Five Bean Soup
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: one hour 30 minutes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 medium size red onion, medium diced
2 medium size carrots, medium diced
4 stalks of celery, medium diced
2 bay leaves
8 oz diced smoked ham
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8 cups of stock chicken stock, veal stock, or beef stock (divided into 7 cups and 1 cup)
3 cups of dried beans, any combination of the following:
- Black eyed peas
- Baby Limas
- Green split peas
- Green and red lentils
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, for garnish
Shaved parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Heat a large Dutch oven to medium heat and add the grapeseed oil. Once the pot is hot, add the diced vegetables and let them cook until glazy and aromatic.
2. Add the smoked diced ham, and let it cook for about 2 minutes.
3. Continue by adding the tomato paste, let it cook for about 2 minutes, add the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, followed by the 7 cups of liquid and the beans. Save about one cup of liquid to the side, as you might need to add this towards the end if the soup is too thick.
4. Bring the soup to a boil and add the bay leaves.
5. Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for about 45 minutes, until the beans are soft. You should be able to break them down with the back of your spoon.
6. If the soup has become too thick, add the one cup of liquid you saved.
7. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the chopped tarragon and shaved Parmesan cheese.
This soup is best enjoyed with a nice slice of rustic bread.
We are having a Store Closure Sale at the Mart now. Cookware is 20% off, holiday merchandise is 75% off and everything else is 40% off. Please note that wine/spirits, knives and Vitamix are not included in the sale. We are closing our Merchandise Mart location on Saturday, April 30, 2022 so be sure to take a class before then and shop this sale for big savings. And mark your calendar for a fun day-long goodbye party on that day!