At the ready

I like it when things are at arm’s reach. I don’t like searching for things, especially when I use them often. Conversely, The Wife is one of those people who subscribes to the “a place for everything and everything in its place” theory. However, we’ve been able to compromise on the kitchen as I spend the most time there. I would just assume have all my pots and pans on the counter to grab as needed. That clearly will not work. But, she is pretty open to letting some things hang out to make my life easier. For instance, we have a neat spice cabinet in our kitchen. It’s as tall as the base cabinetry, but only about six inches wide. When you slide it out, it is perfect for spices. But, when it comes to the most frequently used items in my kitchen, I like to just reach over and grab, not dig around a cabinet.

This is what the space next to the stove looks like.

Like little soldiers lined up for the fight.

My mini-chopper and can opener (not pictured) sit between the range and my arsenal. These are the vital tools for my daily cooking routine. From left to right:

First row:

  • Herbes de Provence: As previously mentioned, I make my own now. This is just a versatile herb blend that works with everything. If I need thyme or rosemary straight up, I can always dig through the cabinet. But, for the weeknight meal, the HDP does the trick with little effort.
  • Dinosaur Barbque Cajun Foreplay: This is one-part dry rub, one-part creole seasoning. Need a little extra punch in a dish? Grab the Cajun Foreplay. I used to keep Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning around just for this purpose, but this has the same level of heat, same spices and is easier to track down.
  • Salt: Inside the bamboo salt cave, a Christmas present from a year or so ago. Specifically I keep sea salt in it. I’m a completist by nature. I have every Eric Clapton, Billy Joel and John Hiatt album. I have every season of M*A*S*H on DVD. And, I have every variety of salt carried by Wegmans. Iodized? Check. Kosher? You know it. Sea? Si. Himalyan Pink? Yep. When it comes to daily cooking, I use sea salt. The kosher is great if I’m going to salt water for pasta or to blanch veggies. The iodized is for the shakers we don’t use. The pink stuff…the pink salt is because I’m a sucker for trendy stuff. I like Trader Joe’s sea salt, though Wegmans’ fine is what I’m using right now.
  • Salt and pepper. The Wife and I don’t usually use them. They’re mostly for decoration or company. But, since they don’t have anywhere else to live, they get jammed here.

Second row:

  • Pure olive oil: In the cruet with the speed pourers I stole from a wedding I was at some years ago is regular olive oil. I keep both the regular and extra virgin because you never know which you will need. I know that toothy bitch Rachael Ray calls for her precious evoo on everything, but you don’t want to use extra virgin for frying. The California Olive Ranch has a nice explanation of the differences. I buy Trader Joe’s olive oils in bulk when I go near one of their stores, though Goya’s line of Spanish olive oils are spectacular and very flavorful.
  • Dried parsley: It’s a spice. It’s a garnish. Stop. You’re both right.
  • Crushed red pepper: Apparently, I just was lazy and forgot to put this away.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper: The grinder is a gravity-controlled, battery-powered toy I picked up at an outlet mall. Love it. It never jams or clogs. I don’t have to perform surgery to free stuck peppercorns. The downer is that it requires six AAA batteries, but it’s well worth it.
  • Symeon’s spices: If Symeon’s were in Syracuse…well, lets not dwell on things that will never happen. It seems wasted on a city like Utica, but Symeon’s is one of the best ethnic restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. Located in Yorkville, Symeon’s makes its own spice blend, which it uses on dishes like its thracian chicken (I highly recommend this) and souvlaki. They also mix it with olive oil and red wine vinegar for their salad dressing. It tastes good on everything. I actually put some on vanilla ice cream once…it was really good. It’s just a great all-around spice that complements everything nicely.
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