Pots and Pans...that is what is on my mind...is that weird? I wouldn't call myself a minimalist, but maybe a "essential-ist." What is the smallest number of tools I can use to take a direct route to where I want to go. With that said, here are, for my kitchen, the essential cooking vessels:

1 Stock Pot (8-12qt) - for boiling pasta, making stock, or brining a chicken, this piece gets used a lot. Heavy bottomed stainless steel or heavy gauge aluminum distributes the heat evenly and allows you to do your sautéing and searing right in the pan.

1 Cast Iron Dutch Oven (6-8qt) - Just about every soup, braise, or stew starts in this bad boy. Mine is enamel coated, but that's just a preference. It's the original slow cooker, and if I only had one pot in my kitchen, it would be this.

1 Sauce Pot or Saucier (3-4qt) - For making sauces, steaming veggies, hard-boiling eggs...a nice, smaller vessel for smaller jobs. Again, I like stainless steel or heavy gauge aluminum.

1 Non-stick Skillet (6-8in) - This is my egg pan. And it will occasionally see some white fish...go cheap and replace every couple years...should only set you back $10-$15.

1 Stainless Steel Skillet (10-12in) - A great pan for searing meats and sautéing veggies. Make sure you get one with an oven-safe handle so you can finish things off in the oven/broiler.

1 Cast Iron Skillet (10-12in) - This is like one of my children. It is my favorite kitchen tool and the most versatile. There are few things I couldn't cook in it, and a few things that I would only cook it in.

2 Half Sheet Pans - Aluminum pans with a small lip are great for cookies, but also great multitaskers for all kinds of roasting projects.

1 9x13 Baking Dish - I like glass because it transfers heat slower, meaning you are less likely to burn the outside of your lasagna while you are waiting for inside to cook...or brownies, or casserole, au gratin potatoes...I'm getting hungry...

1 Medium to Large Tall Sided Casserole - Not that you may ever make a soufflé, but if you did, you might want one of these. Its also really useful for other baked dishes, smaller roasting dishes, and can double as a serving dish if its kinda pretty...hey, I care about that stuff, too.

If you had to, that is where you could stop. You could cook just about anything with the list above. Would it be nice to have a large roasting pan or some glass pie pans? Sure, if you still have room, money or interest, go for it. Same with other baking dishes. If you are just crazy about Bundt cake...who am I to stop you!

Oh, one last thing. Lids! make sure you have lids for your large skillets, and all of your pots. Lots of times you can find a multipurpose lid that will work for several dishes.

Next post, I'll tackle sharp things...(not literally, that would hurt).