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My Favorite Essentials

Below you will find an ever changing list of some of my favorite kitchen and wood-fired oven essentials. This includes tools, appliances and even ingredients. Most have affiliate links to enable purchasing the item. Although we do get a small commision on purchases, our goal is to offsite site costs. However, we might tell you where to get it at a better price when applicable. 

Kitchen Equipment

Immersion Blender

Immersion Blender

This is a kitchen workhorse. The  Mueller Smart Stick 800W chops, blends, purees, whips, etc.  I am on my fouth immersion blender and this one from Amazon is the best I have owned. It is powerful, effieicent and budget friendly.  Go for the one with the chopping and whipping accessories.  You will not be disappointed.   

Wood-Fired Oven Equipment

Pizza Placement Peer

Pizza Placement Peel

Once open up the dough ball and place all of  the toppings, I pull the pizza onto the placement peel to launch.  I reserve this tool specifically to get the pizza on the oven floor. 

Pizza turning peel

Pizza Turning Peel
Use this peel to turn your pizza in the oven.  You will need to turn the pizza about 3-4 times during the cook to ensure the side facing the fire does not burn. Additionally,  I often use this to place logs on the fire and to move logs and embers

Pizza oven ember rake

Ember Rake
Use this peel to turn your pizza in the oven.  You will need to run the pizza about 3-4 times during the cook to ensure the side facing the fire does not burn. Additionally,  I often use this to place logs on the fire and to move logs and embers

pizza oven ash shovel

Ember Shovel
Aids in cleaning of the oven. I primarily use this when removing cold ash from the oven.  I keep a small metal trash can where I can dump the ash.  If you can do this days from the fire, then you can put it into a trash bag, which makes for easy disposal.

Pizza oven brush

Oven Brush
Aids in cleaning of the oven. After I move the coals to the side of the oven for cooking, I then use the brush to move the majority of the finer ash from my chosen cooking space

Andiron

Andiron
Aids in cleaning of the oven. I primarily use this when removing cold ash from the oven.  I keep a small metal trash can where I can dump the ash.  If you can do this days from the fire, then you can put it into a trash bag, which makes for easy disposal.

butcher block prep board

Pizza Prep Board
Aids in cleaning of the oven. I primarily use this when removing cold ash from the oven.  I keep a small metal trash can where I can dump the ash.  If you can do this days from the fire, then you can put it into a trash bag, which makes for easy disposal.

deli containers

Food Prep Container
When making pizzas, you can go simple or elaborate with toppings.  I like to make and store my toppings in pint and quart deli containers.  They are inexpensive, reusable and line up nicely in my pizza prep area.

Ingredients

parmigiano-reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano

There is nothing like a nicely aged piece of parmigiano. It is savory, nutty, sharp and salty with crystals that form as the cheese ages.  It is also very expensive.  It is nothing like american parmesan. Granted there are some tasty aged parmesans available, but they just don’t come close to the experience.   If there is one item to splurge on, this is the one!  However, for cooking, you can substitute Grana Padano. It is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, but less expensive due to the less strict regulations regarding its production.   For your charcuterie boards, always use Parmigiano-Reggiano.

 

Costco has a decent price on a nicely aged Parmigiano-Reggiano Stravecchio. Trader Joe’s also has good pricing on Parmigiano-Reggiano Stravecchio. It is an excellent cheese.  The Stravecchio designation means it has been aged for at least three years. In contrast, cheese with the stravecchiones designation has been aged for four or more years.   

 

TIP:   When buying a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut off the rind and throw it into a freezer bag in the freezer.  The rind is a great addition to simmering tomato sauces.  If you have a vacuum sealer then cut the wedge into chunks that you estimate will last a week.  Seal the chunks for future weeks and put the remainder into a storage bag for immediate use.

Tomatoes for Sauce

Whole plum style tomatoes make the best sauces.  They have more meat and less seeds and water.  Although they come in many styles such as crushed, diced, pureed, etc.  Whole canned and peeled tomatoes offer better and fresher tasting than any processed tomatoes.  San Marzano tomatoes from Italy are the standard.  They are flavorful and have a balanced acidity. They are usually just canned as whole peeled tomatoes with some tomato puree to cover them.  Some may have salt, citric acid and/or basil.  Check your ingredients….if it has more than these ingredients, then it is a hard pass.  Add your own flavors and ingredients.  

 

Although not as easy to find as San Marzano’s and a little more expensive, I really like Bianco DiNapoli Whole Peeled tomatoes. These California grown plum style tomatoes are rich in flavor and a bit less acidic than San Marzano.  They make a quick and tasty sauce and also work very well in a long-cooked sauce.  They even make awesome tomato soup.  Whole Foods seems to always carry them. They are also available at Cost Plus World Market.

bianco Napoli Whole tomatoes
MSG

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is known as a flavor enhancer.  It does not add its own flavor but brings out the savory, meaty flavors already in foods.  Glutamate is an amino acid that is produced in your body.  It is also found in all protein based foods.  Glutamates are naturally found in certain foods that are already rich in savory flavor (known as umami).  As an example, mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, walnuts and parmigiano-reggiano are all rich in naturally occurring glutamates.  

 

MSG is the sodium component of glutamic acid and is generally made from fermented starches and sugars. It was originally developed from seaweed. It is added to many foods you buy including fast food and grocery items.  However, MSG has received a bad reputation.  To be clear, there is no scientific evidence to link MSG to adverse reactions.  You can read online about a doctor’s  faulty submission to the New England Journal of Medicine where he stated that he has numbness after eating Chinese food.  The New York Times picked up on it and labeled it Chinese Food Syndrome.  That made it real to many.  As stated, this has been debunked numerous times. MSG is really no different than the glutamates found in mushrooms or parmigiano reggiano.  Of course, just like everything, there is a very small number of people that are allergic to MSG.

 

As always, this is an optional ingredient.  However, I do use it to increase the lip smacking flavor in many foods.

Taco Seasoning

I usually make my own seasoning blends, but this is so good I will not bother.  I found this when Costco carried it for about a minute and have been ordering it from Amazon ever since.  I use this to season beef for taco salads, include in other blends like the fajita seasoning and even make seasoned sour cream with it--a great add to mexican dishes or even as a dip.  I especially like the large grind as at you can see many of the individual ingredients.

Taco Seasoning
applewood smoked sea salt

Applewood Smoked Sea Salt

Applewood smoke is such a pleasant smoke flavor. Use this instead of regular sea salt in any recipe where a little smokey flavor would add value.  It is in my barbeque sauces and many of the rubs and herb mixes I make.  How about even in a lemon vinaigrette for roasted vegetables...yum!    San Francisco Salt Co. makes an excellent version.   

Smoked Paprika

Use this in any recipe where you want a little extra smoke flavor.  It is good in sauces, rubs and spice blends.  It also add a punch to items that typically use a traditional paprika.  Smokey deviled eggs or eggs benedict?  Yes please!

smoked paprika
Fennell Pollen

Fennel Pollen

Fennel pollen is a delicate, sweet, and anise-flavored spice that is harvested from the tiny blossoms of the fennel plant. It is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now also grown in California. Fennel pollen has a complex flavor that is both earthy and citrusy, with hints of licorice. It is often used as a garnish or finishing spice, but can also be added to cooked dishes, such as roasted vegetables, fish, or chicken. Fennel pollen is a versatile spice that can add a touch of sophistication to any dish.

Here are some of the key things to know about fennel pollen:

  • It is a delicate spice, so it is best to use it sparingly.

  • It has a sweet, anise flavor that pairs well with seafood, poultry, and vegetables.

  • It can be used as a garnish or finishing spice, or added to cooked dishes.

  • It is a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients.

 

If you are looking for a unique and flavorful spice to add to your cooking, fennel pollen is a great option. It is a versatile spice that can be used in a variety of dishes, and it is sure to add a touch of sophistication to your meals.

Here are some specific examples of how to use fennel pollen:

  • Sprinkle it on roasted vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or Brussels sprouts.

  • Add it to a vinaigrette for a bright and flavorful dressing.

  • Mix it with salt and pepper for a flavorful seasoning for fish or chicken.

  • Garnish a bowl of soup or stew with a sprinkle of fennel pollen.

  • Dust your pizzas with it.

  • Add it to a marinara sauce to make a meatless sauce that has hints of sausage.

 

Fennel Pollen is hand harvested resulting in a high priced product.  Use it sparingly, but add it to your pantry–you will not be disappointed.

Italian Oregano on the Stem

Italian oregano on the stem is a type of oregano that is harvested and dried with the leaves still attached to the stem. This gives the oregano a more intense flavor and aroma, as well as a more rustic appearance. Italian oregano on the stem is typically used in Italian cuisine, but it can also be used in other dishes, such as pizzas, stews, and soups.

Here are some of the key things to know about Italian oregano on the stem:

  • It has a strong, pungent flavor that is perfect for Italian dishes.

  • It can be used fresh or dried.

  • It is a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients.

  • It is typically sold in bundles or bunches.

 

If you are looking for a flavorful and aromatic herb to add to your cooking, Italian oregano on the stem is a great option. It is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes, and it is sure to add a touch of Italy to your meals.

Here are some specific examples of how to use Italian oregano on the stem:

  • Sprinkle it on pizza, pasta, or grilled vegetables.

  • Add it to soups, stews, or chili.

  • Use it to make a vinaigrette or marinade.

  • Garnish a dish with a sprig of oregano.

Italian Oregano on the stem
Citric Acid

Citric Acid - Food Grade

Citric acid is a weak organic acid that is found naturally in citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits. It is also produced commercially by fermentation of sugar or starch.

Citric acid has a wide variety of uses, including:

  • Food additive. Citric acid is used as a flavoring and preservative in many foods, including soft drinks, candy, jams, jellies, and pickles. It helps to keep foods fresh by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold.

  • Household cleaner. Citric acid is a natural and effective cleaner that can be used to remove stains, odors, and hard water buildup. It is also safe to use on surfaces that come into contact with food.

  • Cosmetics. Citric acid is used in some cosmetics, such as face washes and toners, to help remove dead skin cells and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

  • Pharmaceuticals. Citric acid is used in some medicines, such as antacids and laxatives, to help improve their taste and effectiveness.

  • Industrial applications. Citric acid is used in a variety of industrial applications, such as metal cleaning, water treatment, and photography.

I use this to add a bit of pucker to dishes when desired.  It is also what is used in sour candies.  My main uses are in my margarita mix and to run a cleaning cycle in my dishwasher.  

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