Essential tools of the trade

  • Jill Nussinow releases pressure from the pressure cooker while making her Fast, Fresh and Easy Spring Vegetable Medley at the SRJC Culinary Center in Santa Rosa

Some chefs stock their kitchens with all kinds of expensive high-tech tools, from sous vide machines to Vitamix blenders.

But even the pros like to rely on time-tested, old-school tools to whip up a risotto or sear off a pork tenderloin.

"We're the bare-bones cooks," said Duskie Estes of Zazu restaurant in Santa Rosa. "What excites me is the ingredients and the person behind the ingredients."

We asked a handful of chefs in Wine Country to share some of their favorite kitchen implements and gadgets that have withstood the test of time.

A few of these tools came from Dehillerin, a famous kitchen store that has supplied Paris since 1820. But most can be found at your favorite hardware or cooking store.

Mortar & Pestle: This primitive tool, consisting of a stone or ceramic bowl with a small club, has been used from Mexico to Malaysia to pound herbs and spices into pestos and chili pastes.

Chef/owner Charlie Palmer of the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg uses a mortar & pestle, rather than a spice grinder, to grind peppercorns.

"You use small amounts," he said. "And it gives you better control of the grind."

Colleen McGlynn of DaVero Olive Oil in Healdsburg has a collection of mortar & pestles that she uses for making everything from aioli to salsa verde.

Knives: "Everybody likes old knives that they've had forever," said Franco Dunn of One World Sausages in Healdsburg. "Especially the old, carbon-steel ones that sharpen really easily."

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