From pie weights to Pyrex, each of us considers a different set of elements to be crucial to our cooking, and we often have strong opinions as to why. In this column, I will ask chefs, foodies, and restaurateurs from across the borough for the top ten necessities—both edible and utensil—that they keep stocked in their home kitchens.
Earlier this year, friends Amy Marks and Laura Migliozzi quit their corporate jobs to open Radish, a seasonally-focused, locally-sourced prepared foods store on Bedford Avenue. They were filling what they saw as a need in the community, for freshly prepared foods that honored both the calendar and the farmers market. Along with their own menu of salads, sandwiches, soups, and hot meats and vegetables for both carryout and catering, Radish also sells a curated collection of artisanal food items made by other Brooklynites, including My Friend’s Mustard, pickled garlic scapes from Brooklyn Brine, and even Brooklyn Honey, made from local bees (really local—their hives are in Greenpoint). They also stock picnic necessities and indulgences like blankets, biodegradable cutlery, and tiffin sets. In the past few months, Radish has developed a reputation for its artisanal sodas, made from homemade soda syrups in flavors like ginger and plum (often produced with market produce). The rest of the menu is equally impressive, with unique offerings like apricot, blackberry, and red onion salad; zucchini papardelle with chanterelles and olive pesto; roasted Maine lobster with fermented black beans; and lemon curd trifle with lavender poached blueberries. Co-owner Amy Marks was happy to share her top ten list, which reflects both the eclecticism of her store’s menu and the essential simplicity of its ethos: carefully-sourced foods, cooked well.
Maldon Sea Salt: I have many salts in my kitchen, but Maldon Sea Salt is divine. It is a light, flaky salt with no extra additives and therefore none of the bitter aftertaste that other salts have. It's delicate, easy on the tongue and has a great little crunch to it. It's just lovely to use, and we use it in our kitchen at Radish as well.
Onion Goggles: OK, I admit it: For as much as I cook, it's just sort of hilarious when I bust out my onion goggles with guests over. No matter how hard I've tried, how many “tricks” I've experimented with and the hundreds of onions I've chopped, I just can't shake the burning waterfall that takes over when these lovely gems are present. I've even been known to bring out my ski goggles when I can't find these!
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Sur La Table Kitchen Dishcloths: There are two types of cooks –those who use paper towels, and those who use cloth. I have never understood the former. My good friend could go through a roll of paper towels while preparing a dinner party, but wet paper towels around my kitchen drive me nuts. I need to have my clean kitchen towels ready to go, so I can clean as I'm making my way through a meal preparation. Cooking without dish cloths is like wearing boots without socks! Garlic: My favorite (albeit a tad cheesy) restaurant in San Francisco is called The Stinking Rose in North Beach. I've been going there for years, and it's an absolute garlic lover’s dream come true. Their tag line is “we season our garlic with food.” 'Nuff said.
Kitchen Aid Mixer: This was the first appliance I ever owned. I asked my mom to get it for me as a high school graduation present and she held it in her garage for me throughout my four years of college until I had an apartment to take it home to. Any home cook who doesn't have this needs to get one. I don't care—make the room for it! It makes compound butter as easy as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (actually, easier). My most recent attachment was the pasta maker, and I'm looking forward to getting the sausage stuffing attachment. You can impress anyone with what this machine allows you to do. Chicken Bouillon: Because it takes up a lot less room than chicken stock (and face it, sometimes you just don't have time to make it from scratch). These little cubes are the Band-Aids of my food pantry. You never know when you're going to wake up and feel under the weather, but with stock at my fingertips and next to the pasta, I always have an easy noodle soup handy! On days when I just need to find a place for the end-of-week stems and half pints of produce I never used that week, I can whip up a soup in no time.
Nesting Bowls: Nesting bowls save space and time. I pull out the entire stack of bowls before I start cooking and never need to go looking through my pantry in the middle of my routine. They just sit there on the corner of my counter, ready for use. I have these in plastic, glass, and ceramic (which are great for entertaining).
A European, High Fat Butter: Incredibly rich, high fat butter is more awesome on your taste buds than it is for your waistline… but in moderation, everything is OK. Fresh radishes from the farmer's market with a high fat butter and flaked sea salt are just an amazing treat at any time of the day. It's also perfect for whipping up compound butters (I love making it with Earl Gray tea for a lovely spread). It's so incredibly rich and creamy.
A Set of Very Simple, White Dishware: I'm really big on seasonality and the colors of food. I want my guests (myself included) to really enjoy all the sensations their meal has to offer, including its visual appeal. Food just looks better on white plates, period. They set the perfect backdrop for your masterpiece. I just don't think plates should have any embellishments on them at all. We're supposed to be looking at the food, right?
A Bottle of Dry White Wine: Lastly, my kitchen always has to have a bottle of white wine handy. The purpose of having a good, dry, white wine around is really twofold: It greatly enhances the flavor of the ingredients, and it encourages you to slow down and let it simmer while you enjoy your time in the kitchen. My kitchen is my sanctuary, and cooking is my favorite thing to do in the world. I never, ever use “cooking wines”, only wines that I enjoy drinking on their own. I put a little in the sauté pan and pour myself a little glass, and just relish the cooking experience. Bliss! If you’d like to suggest someone to be interviewed in this column, please send an email.
Radish is located at 158 Bedford Avenue (between North 8th and North 9th Streets), Williamsburg. Open Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-7pm.
All images courtesy of Lauren Farmer