Flavour Guy: Besides imagination, what do we really need in the kitchen?

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Here’s all the Flavour Guy needs: one cup, one dish.

That’s it. And since we are down to basics, make that dish work equally well as a bowl for soup or cereal and a plate for stuff that isn’t liquid. Or maybe get a bowl and a plate.

Oh yeah, a knife is good. Ok, that’s it. Well, maybe a fork although some folks like chopsticks.

Maybe a spoon.

Oh, a pot for cooking. Just the basics.

Maybe a bigger, sharper knife to chop. And a board for chopping. How about a couple of extra plates, maybe with matching bowls because I share my living space with others? Maybe a few more knives, forks and spoons (or lots of chopsticks) for when friends come over. What else?

Napkins would be nice. Maybe a corkscrew for a bottle of wine. How about wine glasses too?

What else? Well according to what’s in my kitchen drawers we’ve accumulated a fair amount of stuff: cheese slicers, cheese graters, citrus zesters, knife sharpening tools, apple corers, cherry pit disgorgers, lemon juicers, poultry shears, pizza slicers, a pizza stone, potato peelers, a paella pan, wooden and metal kabob skewers, soufflé dishes, Bundt pans, cast iron frying pans, a half dozen stove top coffee makers, a coffee grinder, a milk frother (that was a gift), a food blender, a food mixer, spurtles, spatulas, and wooden spoons, and a made-in-Mexico molinillo for authentically mixing Mexican hot chocolate milk.

The list goes on. Each of these has progressed from something I wanted to something I needed.

An omelet pan and a crepe pan, really? Then there are rows of spices and seasonings. No one gifts us with “things” anymore. We don’t really need anything. So we accumulate packets of flavoured salts and bottles of oils and vinegars.

That jar of jalapeno peach jam has been in the back of the fridge for two years along with a bar of tamarind jelly and assorted containers of homemade relishes and pickles. Who knew kimchi would last this long? Part of me enjoys knowing there is always something on the shelf that I can make for dinner and that I have the right tools and cookware to cook it.

Another part of me wants to simplify my life, but the Flavour Guy knows it will never end there. In theory, I only need the basics: one cup, one dish, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine.

Oh yeah, where’s that corkscrew?

***

Recently I found myself in possession of a small unopened container of 35% cream. This is not one of the basics that I usually have around. It was there because I had anticipated whipping cream for a fruit dessert and then a guest thoughtfully brought a pint of ice cream which of course had to be eaten.

So the cream sat in the fridge with a “what are you going to do with me now” look.

“Pasta,” I replied.

I may order a cream dish such as fettuccine Alfredo or mac’n cheese in a restaurant but these aren’t dishes I usually make myself. However the cream beckoned and it was so good that I have been adding a little dairy to smooth out a sauce at home. The key is to watch the heat.

The less fat in the milk or cream, the lower the temperature on the stove. Here’s a basic approach.

Mince a clove of garlic and cook this with a chopped onion in a little olive oil until they are soft.

If you like heat, add some crushed chilli pepper. Then stir in the veggies: peas, sliced eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, &c.

Cook these until they are done to your liking.

Meanwhile the pasta is bubbling away in a pot of water. Just before it is done — when there is still a speck of white in the middle of the noodle — drain it and add it to the veggies.

Add a quarter cup or more (depending upon the amount of pasta) of cream or milk with a handful of grated hard Italian cheeses such as Parmesan, Asiago or Romano.

Stir this over low heat if you are using cream (remove the pan from the heat completely for milk) until the pasta absorbs the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve with more cheese on the side.

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