BTR's Kitchen Essentials


By Dane Feldman

Additional Contributors: Veronica Chavez, Ashley Rodriguez, Tanya Silverman, Samantha Spoto

Photo courtesy of mattwalker69.

Anyone who cooks as often as some of us here at BTR will find it pretty simple to conjure up images of their most prized kitchen possession. You know exactly what we mean if you fit into this category, too. For us, the essentials range from a simple knife to a celebrity-signed container.

Veronica’s Pick

Photo by Veronica Chavez.

When I first became vegetarian, my parents were gravely concerned about my protein intake. Although I’ve always been a big fan of fruits and vegetables, my family was skeptical that I would in fact be able to substitute the nutrients I had obtained from meat with stuff that grew out of the ground.

That’s when I decided to buy a Magic Bullet and drink my way to good health.

There’s so much to like about the futuristic-looking little blender. First off, it’s pretty darn small. Unlike traditional blenders that take up a good portion of your counter or cabinet space, the Magic Bullet is a sleek bullet-shaped device that can be tucked away neatly or put on display.

The Magic Bullet’s impressive speed is perfect for the night owl pretending to be a morning bird, which is exactly how I’d describe myself. I’m able to chop up fruit, pour almond milk, add some peanut butter or protein powder, and blend the whole thing together in less than 10 minutes. The best part is that once I’m done blending, I just detach the plastic cup, put a lid on it, and walk out the door.

Although I initially bought the Magic Bullet to get my parents off my back, over the years it has easily become my favorite kitchen apparatus.

Ashley’s Pick

Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre.

What a seemingly simple kitchen tool the frying pan is. It doesn’t do much but sit atop a scorching flame, but it’s a tool I could not live without.

I use a frying pan to make everything from pancakes and French toast to sauteed vegetables and mock chicken tenders. It is used to heat veggie burgers and to crisp the bread and melt the cheese on grilled cheese sandwiches. I make tofu stir-fry in my frying pan and use a deeper one to fry falafel.

Since I rarely use a microwave to heat or re-heat food, the frying pan offers a radiation free way to make a hot meal. Another tool I use often is my beloved miniature George Foreman Grill, on which I make paninis.

Though I love my Foreman Grill, a frying pan can do most of the same work. While I won’t get the tell-tale marks of a grilled panini using a frying pan, the end result is close enough. I can use a frying pan to heat just about anything, making it my most useful kitchen appliance.

Tanya’s Pick

Photo by Tanya Silverman.

To me, preparing food is all about economy and efficiency. I reduce, reuse, recycle, and most importantly, wrap it up.

Within the sunflower-adorned domestic encapsulate known as my kitchen, the drawers are stocked with the sheerest of saran wrap and the shiniest of aluminum foil. Higher up, secured in the racks of the wooden cupboard, sit my beloved plastic Tupperware boxes, ergonomic vessels that my gingery seitan stir frys, fibrous leafy salads, and Tofurkey mock-meat cold cuts have all once called home–before I ate them.

My most prized kitchen item? That prestigious designation would have to go to the Amy Sedaris Red Gingham Storage bowl from her I Like You line. One rainy fall day, I ventured all the way down to Fishs Eddy (a Manhattan home wares institute) to meet her in person. She smiled and Sharpie-signed my purchase, “Keep it fresh.”

I will, Amy. I will.

Samantha’s Pick

Photo courtesy of Alice Carrier.

In the last few years, avocados have become a staple on my grocery list. On average, I consume one to two avocados each day. But sometimes, the hassle of pitting and slicing the fruit can be enough to deter me from eating them as often as I would like.

Sure, you’ve just come off a six hour Food Network binge, during which you witnessed Bobby Flay take a knife to the pit of an avocado with his eyes closed. You think, “I can totally do that.” Until you learn the hard way that you cannot, in fact, do that. Then what?

Then you purchase an avocado slicer and pitter like I did. One end of the device has a nylon loop that removes the pit without injuring the rest of the fruit. The opposite end of the utensil consists of several thin, stainless steel wires that create identical avocado slices, perfect for salads and sandwiches. The slicer and pitter is best used with mature avocados; for an overripe fruit, this utensil will not serve much help.

This is my one and only kitchen essential. It does not sacrifice any of the edible parts of the fruit that often stick to the pit when you attempt to remove it with other utensils, like a knife or spoon. This item is easy and safe to use, mess-free, and helps make any meal that much more enjoyable.

Dane’s Pick

Photo by Dane Feldman.

When I first began cooking, the aspect I was probably most apprehensive about was learning knife skills. I was constantly afraid I’d slice my entire hand off clean at the wrist, however irrational that may be.

Speaking of irrational, as it happens the knife I became most comfortable with was my father’s coveted Wusthof Classic four-and-a-half inch. The blade is far bigger than the other knives in our Wusthof set, but for some reason I found myself far more at ease using this one than using a simple paring knife.

Even as my knife skills have improved and I’ve become completely confident in the kitchen (slicing and prepping is actually my favorite part of the whole process), I generally opt to use this one to do pretty much everything.