Equipment. Some people never have enough of it. Witness nearly an entire American economy supported by the desire to constantly upgrade, enlarge or expand. For some people, the right equipment assures success at their new found interest, whether it be a Ducati superbike or an Aga stove.
I like to believe I fall a little shy this side of kitchen equipment lust. I finally own a toaster AND a microwave, after years of using my stovetop and broiler for all toasting/re-heating needs. And I still boil water in a kettle on my stove, just like a cave woman. Really...I use a one cup Melitta coffee filter for most coffee needs, (tip to future female DJ's: my lack of coffee maker knowledge keeps me out of the line of fire when I have guests or bands out to the station, a good thing.)
BUT i do own a rice cooker! It has truly revolutionized the way I cook rice. First of all it can't burn! Who among us can raise their hand truthfully and say they have never burned the rice? What? You're lying! This white plastic, god-like gadget can cook brown or white rice, jasmine and all. Most fantastically for the Jetsons among us, it can be pre-programmed to come on when you are away to be rice-a-ready on your return. You will need this feature, because it appears to take nearly twice as long to cook rice as the old, burn the bottom way. But who cares about time? Perfection is the goal here. Add up all the time you save not scrubbing/destroying your favorite KOBENSTYLE DANSK cookware that you bought on Ebay before it went through the roof, and it all makes sense.
My all important lingering question is: Should I buy a KitchenAid mixer? We have all seen them, standing by, proudly ready to serve at a moment's notice. You've probably seen them in friends kitchens artfully crouching beside the toaster oven, because they are really just too huge to store away! Besides weighing in at a hefty 23 pounds. they are taller than an average newborn and just a little more than cumbersome. But to the Kitchenaid initiated that is all just fine print. Once you have shelled out the $200 plus for mother's little helper the display is half the fun, or more, depending on how often the mixer is actually used. There lies my problem. $$$+amount of time used+counter space sucking up+will I get tired of the color I chose?=all talk, no action on the Kitchenaid mixer front for me. But if in fact you are feeling like you have the counter space, David Lebovitz has visited the factory and will thrill you with photo after photo of the historic tussle between the KitchenAid devil and counter space.
In Saveur, #88, November 2005, David Tanis (another David with links to Chez Panisse in California) invites us into his tiny Paris kitchen to cook every day French delicacies with the most minimal of
tools. This article burned an image into my head that blotted out the
sun of stainless steel 3 door fridges, granite countertops and built in
espresso machines. Not that I was ever flying too close to that sun of
bells and whistles, but many cooking books and magazines encourage it. Instead I embraced my wooden cutting board and broke out the beets.
Tools I love, use, and heartily suggest you take into the kitchen fold:
***a Lodge cast iron skillet. Made in America. ( A side project of mine is to single handedly reduce US trade debt to China.) You can even get a customized Boy Scouts engraved version. This skillet is made from some of the purest pig iron (vegan alert: NOT real pigs) so less cold spots, which makes for a more even cooking surface. I use mine for everything from puffed pear pancake to swiss chard.
***Dutch oven. Many companies do a version of this enamel covered, cast iron genie, but of course I had to have a Le Creuset to further my daily dose of francophilia. For the same reason that a cast iron skillet rocks, this wonder holds heat and makes cooking stews and soups a mid-century modern technicolor dream. It also does double duty on top of the stove and in the oven.
Speaking of Swiss Chard: Wash and de-spine a bunch of Swiss Chard, by cutting away the leafy part from the green or red spine. The spines can be saved for stock. Roll up the leaves and chop into medium slices. Heat up some olive oil and a few whole garlic cloves. Toss the leaves with garlic and oil for a few minutes before adding a small 8 ounce box of chicken or vegetable stock. Stew the leaves in this liquid until tender. Kale also works well with this method.