Kitchen tools that make my world go round

Every chef has their favorite tools. I mean, there’s a reason every chef brings their own knives to a kitchen. High-quality tools make a world of difference, and if you’re thinking about getting serious about cooking, consider making an investment in some great utensils. It took me a long time to figure that out, but I understood just how important good tools were when I got my first ‘real’ knife. It only took one slice of a tomato to see that a good knife is an investment as opposed to something that just helps get dinner on the table. Now I cut everything with it and it’s my most beloved tool. I have this Robert Welch chef knife and I happen to think it’s kind of sexy. It also fits in your hand nicely, is light-weight and has yet to fail me.

Here are some of my other favorite tools that I use on a regular basis:

Microplane zester
This thing is great for anything that needs a quick zesting or for finishing dishes with parmesan, nutmeg or other spices. At about $14.00, it’s worth your time to find one of these!

Garbage bowl. Well, for garbage and scraps.
Helps tremendously to have nearby and also cuts down the number of trips to the garbage can. (This one costs nothing, unless you want some celebrity chef brand of garbage bowl.)

Y peeler
Like a good knife, invest in a quality peeler. I use this Rösle model and I lurrrve it. Oh so much easier to handle! (It’s also not hard on the eyes either, if you’re into good-looking kitchen utensils.)

Cutting board (Kinda goes along with having good knives.)
Make sure you have some mineral oil to keep it in good shape. Look for bamboo or teak cutting boards. They may be a little more high-maintenance, but they’re worth the investment in time. I recently purchased this one, and I love it! NEVER use a glass cutting board with a good knife. Just don’t do it – it will destroy your blade. Bamboo and/or teak/sustainable material boards are your best bet.

And last, but not least on my list – the most exclusive thing I have in my arsenal is my loving wife, Terry. (Awwww….yeah, I went there.) Seriously. She’s a wonderful sous chef, entertainer, critic, and most importantly, supporter. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life or the kitchen, and that is the truth!

I could keep going, but these are just a few of the things I use in my kitchen to make the yummy dishes that keep us well-fed. There are many more things that are on my wish list, but I’ll save that for another time!

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Cavatapi with squash, chiles and hazelnuts

It feels like forever since I cooked a meal! We were in Las Vegas for a quick vacation earlier this week and I was looking forward to some sun, roulette, and of course, food! Everything we ate was to die for. We revisited Rao’s for their delicious shrimp scampi but the star of the trip was dinner at Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s place in Caesar’s Palace. Holy cow was that food good! I had the ancho chile honey glazed salmon and Terry ordered a special vegan chile relleno. Deliciousness all around. You can bet that I will be replicating that salmon dish fairly soon.

Also, since we returned, we received our first delivery from Blue Apron. The package was waiting for us when we got home and I have to say it was like opening gifts on Christmas morning. Every ingredient comes perfectly portioned out, clearly labeled and there are also these adorable ‘goodie bags’ that package up the garnishes and smaller ingredients for each dish. Each recipe also comes with detailed, easy to follow instructions that you can keep in case you want to make the dish again. We’ve had 2 out of the 3 meals so far and both have been really good. I’m not sure how long we’ll keep up with the service, (we got this first delivery as a gift subscription) but for now, it’s fun and exciting to get to play with some new ingredients.

Feeling very inspired by the amazing food we had in Vegas, I was ready to get back into the kitchen. I opted for this pasta dish, which may be a little out of season, but nevertheless, I was dead set that this was going to be our dinner.

The surprise in this dish is the mint. I wasn’t sure how the flavor was going to come through, but after one good bite with all of the elements on it, the mint totally stood out. If you make this, don’t skip the mint! This was so good we practically devoured the entire thing.

My one recommendation would be to shorten the amount of time they say to cook the butternut squash. I would cook it for about 3 minutes instead of 5 because by the time everything was done, the squash was a tad over-cooked.

Delicious!!

cavatapi

Recipe from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. fresh orecchiette or other fresh or dried small pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ small butternut squash, peeled, cut into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup blanched hazelnuts
  • 4 Tbsp. torn fresh mint leaves, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out hazelnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop; set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, just until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Immediately add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to keep garlic from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms.

Add pasta to skillet with squash and sauce and toss to coat. Add lemon juice, ¼ cup Parmesan, 2 Tbsp. mint, and remaining ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved hazelnuts, more Parmesan, and remaining 2 Tbsp. mint.

DO AHEAD: Hazelnuts can be toasted 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.