… Knife Set.
Do yourself a favor and buy some good quality, sharp knives… something like this though this is good too. They don’t have to be hugely expensive, just good quality stainless steel, accompanied with a sharpener you vow to use regularly (and actually do!).
… Meat Thermometer.
I cannot tell you how much I rely on meat thermometers, mainly for steaks and roasts I don’t want fully cooked through (I generally take a steak off the grill at 125F for medium rare). But they are also useful for whole chickens and turkeys that you want fully cooked but not over cooked, for fear of dryness.
… Olive Oil.
First cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is absolutely the only way to go. You might wonder, Why bother searching for an oil with so many adjectives? Olives can be pressed multiple times to fully extract their oil. The very first press produces the clearest, sweetest tasting grade of oil (extra virgin). After that the oil becomes more dense and dark, with an increasingly overwhelming flavor. Making sure your olive oil bottles say “Cold Pressed” or “Cold Expeller Pressed” ensures that the nutrients (and taste) of your oil wasn’t damaged with heat during the extraction process. All in all, those adjectives simply mean better tasting and better for you. Also double check it is 100% pure olive oil because sometimes pesky vegetable oils can sneak in, but thankfully they have to be clearly labeled.
… Immersion Blender.
Love puréed soups but can’t be bothered with the clean up and hassle of a traditional blender? Get yourself an immersion blender. Immersion blenders are useful for puréed soups but they can also be used to thicken stews and other dishes with saavy, conservative use. Most immersion blenders come with handy attachments for blending, mixing and whipping, so it can serve as a host of electric kitchen gadgets.
… Free Range Chicken and Eggs.
Before I raised my own chickens, the sad photos of featherless, disoriented birds raised on industrial poultry farms broke my heart. But now, as the dedicated owner of a flock of happy chickens, it bothers me more than ever. I had no idea how much personality chickens have. How friendly they are, how much they enjoy foraging, digging, a daily dust bath and what experts they are at fly catching. More to the point, I’ve seen how crazy they get when they’re cooped up in a pen too small for their numbers — how they change from happy, easy-going fly catchers to aggressive, pacing alarmists.
My chickens didn’t have to live that way for more than a few days but others live their entire lives without the taste of a passing bug or the warmth of sunlight or any food other than corn and soy proteins. Chickens are omnivores like us. They eat just about everything and the more varied their diets, the healthier they and their eggs are. Chickens who consume corn and soy their entire lives are just that: corn and soy, and a load of omega 6s. Chickens allows to range free are full of the omega 3s they consume when eating bugs, grasses, kitchen scraps and whatever meats they forage. Plus, their meat is more flavorful and their eggs are milder. If you’re not able to raise chickens on your own, I encourage you to buy free range products to support those farms dedicated to the welfare of their birds and the preservation of traditionally raised meat.
… Pastured Butter.
What is pastured butter? Only one of the most delicious foods you will ever taste! Pastured butter is butter produced from the cream of cows allowed to graze on grass. Cows are designed to eat grass. They even have 4 stomachs to tackle the tough job! But most cattle today are fed corn and grains because it’s expensive to raise grass-fed cattle, especially for small farms competing with their industrialized competitors.
Pastured butter is naturally a deeper yellow because of the vitamins and beta-carotene found in grass, as opposed to grain-fed butter, which is usually synthetically colored to make it more appealing. Pastured butter is rich, smooth, creamy and just plain indulgent. It’s easier to find in England, the land of delicious butter, but in California I have access to Irish Kerrygold Butter in a few grocery shops, and of course, it’s easy to find pastured butter online or at good farmers markets.