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Table for two: Well-equipped kitchen key to happy marriage |

Table for two: Well-equipped kitchen key to happy marriage

So, you’re goin’ to the chapel (or the courthouse, the beach, Las Vegas, a country club, or the ball park, maybe) and you’re gonna get married.

June is the most popular month for weddings. And with those weddings come gift registries: wish lists full of items to help happy couples create a home together.

Of course, the kitchen is the heart of that home. Whether you prepare a meal together or do so for each other, as Ang Lee, director of the classic , once said in an interview with Gourmet magazine: “You cook, your beloved eats. That is very emotional, very intimate.”

If you’re a kitchen klutz, you need a good starter set of cookware to use as you develop your skills. If, however, you’re a culinary connoisseur who has already invested in the basics, this is a good time to upgrade or expand upon your equipment.

Serious Eats, one of the most influential food-related blogs, has developed a “kitchen starter kit” — a list of recommended items for equipping a kitchen from scratch.

Among the must-haves are a chef’s knife, which the site’s team says will be “a lifelong friend in the kitchen, good for nearly every task you’ll face, from boning a chicken to chopping carrots or mincing parsley.” Also on the list are a serrated, or bread, knife; a sturdy plastic cutting board; both a non-stick skillet and a 12-inch cast iron one; a 3-quart saucepan; an enameled Dutch oven; a large baking dish; measuring cups and spoons; rimmed baking sheets and wire cooling racks; a box grater; thermometers (instant-read and oven); metal mixing bowls; wooden utensils; tongs; heat-resistant flexible spatulas; a salad spinner; a fine-mesh strainer; a vegetable peeler; and a whisk.

Nice-to-haves — “items that, while not quite mandatory, will definitely make your cooking life a heck of a lot easier,” says the site — 
include a paring knife, shears, a kitchen scale, pie plates, and loaf pans. And don’t forget high-quality oven mitts to protect your hands.

Several of these recommended pieces are among the most popular registry items at Williams-Sonoma (5001 Monroe St., at the Franklin Park Mall), the famed culinary equipment store. Sets of cook and bakeware, enameled Dutch ovens, kitchen tools and utensils (mandolines, garlic presses), spiralizers, cutlery and knife blocks, counter top stand mixers, blenders, canisters, and even spoon rests are all perched as high on the list as the top tier on a towering wedding cake.

The most registered items on amazon.com tend to be practical: measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and storage containers. One standout is the love of many people’s lives these days: the quick and convenient Instant Pot multicooker, which does the work of several kitchen tools including a slow cooker, pressure cooker, pan, rice cooker, steamer, and warming pot.

The Paula Brown Shop, at 912 Monroe St., sells kitchen and dining items that are both utilitarian and unique.

One immensely popular piece — a Revol porcelain roaster shaped to resemble a chicken — is “adorable and functional, too,” said sales associate Julie Lindsey.

The store also carries the company’s “casseroles in small sizes, for two,” which sell out quickly, said Ms. Lindsey. Almost every couple is registered for Revol, said Paula Brown. And another item that goes on every registry, she said, is Kyocera ceramic cutlery, rather than knives with steel blades.

Mrs. Brown strongly recommends registering at small, independently owned shops for a “personal touch.” Couples “get bogged down and overwhelmed, planning showers, ceremonies, receptions, and honeymoons and handling other wedding-related tasks. She said they need help to find just the right items for their very own cooking, baking, and kitchen styles.

When it comes to falling in love with cooking, and equipping your kitchen just the way you want it, now is the time to say “I do.”

A Real Good Salad

4 small beets (see note)

1 small head red leaf lettuce

2 handfuls arugula

1 small handful mixed herbs (basil, chives, mint, dill, parsley, etc.)

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 small handful cooked green beans or haricots verts

4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled

½ cup toasted walnut halves

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Wash the beets and trim the tops, leaving just a little at the top. Line a baking sheet/​tray with aluminum foil and place the beets in the center. Wrap the foil to make a packet, poke a few holes in the foil, and roast until the beets are tender, about 1½ hours, depending on the size of the beets.

Remove the pan from the oven, open up the foil, and let the beets cool until you can handle them easily. Slip the skins off (if you have rubber gloves, use them or your hands will be stained for a day). Quarter the beets.

Divide the lettuces, herbs, shallot, green beans, beets, and walnuts between two large, deep bowls or salad plates. Split the hard-boiled eggs in halves and add four halves to each salad. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a medium bowl and drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to make a smooth dressing. Season with salt and pepper, then dress the salads and toss.

Note: Convenient pre-cooked and peeled beets are available in the produce section at some grocery stores, if you prefer to use them instead of preparing the beets yourself.

Yield: 2 servings

Source: Adapted from Sarah Copeland, The Newlywed Cookbook

Creamy Pasta with Shrimp and Fresh Tomato Sauce

“The secret to this pasta is using a skillet to cook the sauce — the larger surface area allows the sauce to reduce quickly, for a long-simmered taste in a fraction of the time,” say Lorna Yee and Ali Basye. “Pair this with your favorite white wine and clink your glasses to a couple’s night in.”

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 finely diced shallots

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 14.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

3 tablespoons dry white wine

¼ cup heavy cream

½ pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed (defrosted, if frozen)

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly torn

6 ounces pasta, cooked and drained

Parmesan, for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are golden brown. Add the garlic, oregano, canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Then add the cherry tomatoes, wine, and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce for 5 to 6 minutes, until it reduces and thickens slightly.

Add the shrimp and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until opaque but tender.

Add the basil then add the cooked pasta, mixing thoroughly to coat with the sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve.

Yield: Serves 2

Source: Adapted from Lorna Yee and Ali Basye, The Newlywed Kitchen

Chocolate-Glazed Toffee Candy Bar Cupcakes

“Crispy toffee chocolate bars add texture and flavor to these decadent cupcakes,” says Jill Snider.

Cupcakes:

⅔ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

¼ cup butter, softened

⅓ cup sugar

1 egg

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons toffee bits, plus extra for topping

Glaze:

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Scant 4 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream

Bake the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 6-cup muffin tin with 4 paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, beating until light and creamy. Add flour mixture and toffee bits and stir well.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Make the glaze: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and cream. Microwave on medium for 30 seconds. Stir well, then heat for another 30 seconds, if needed. Stir until smooth.

One by one, take the cupcakes and dip the tops into the glaze; set right-side up on the cooling rack and sprinkle with more toffee bits. Let set before serving.

Yield: 4 cupcakes

Source: Adapted from Jill Snider, 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @BladeFoodPage.


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