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A kitchen check list for rentals and road trips

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Summertime means road trips. And with Airbnb and Craigslist opening up more informal rental options, the quality of kitchen is far from regulated. Yes, let's face it: Vacation rentals have worse utensils than your first college apartment. Packing these 11 items—all which (more or less) fit in your glove compartment—will ensure culinary happiness while on holiday.

Kosher salt and a pepper grinder. Technically two items. Please don't cook with iodized salt. You'll ruin your chicken thighs or arugula salad by shaking metallic tasting salt all over. A plastic bag, a jam jar or a film canister all make terrific salt cellars for the weekend.

Knives. Rentals are known for cheap, dull knives from grocery stores. Bring your favorite chef's knife and a paring knife. You could butcher a chicken, if necessary, with those two knives.

Vegetable peeler. Do you really want to use that rusted, dull blade on your organic carrots? Pack the peeler.

Micro-zester/grater. All dishes taste better with a heaping pile of Parmigiano-Reggiano! Trust me.

Olive Oil. Who knows how old that oil is?

Spices. You know the ones you always reach for: the Herbes de Provence, the Spanish paprika, or a blend from Savory Spice. Pack a few of your go-to spices to use in eggs, on grilled steak or fresh corn.

Tongs. If you don't have a favorite, get one. Short like I am? Be really dexterous and use your tongs to pull items from the top shelf.

Cutting board. Take a look at that rental board. No one chops well using a postage stamp. Throw in a few flimsy large boards so someone can mince the garlic while you spice rub the steaks.

Zip bags/Tupperware. Throw in a few empties for leftovers, marinating the next night's dinner or packing your picnic items.

Butter. It's a condiment, a sauce, fat for cooking, a spread. It's heaven. Pack a stick.

The bonus round: cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, anchovy paste, olives, limes or lemons, harissa paste, fresh garlic. All of these can make a simple pasta sauce, liven up a chicken dish or take your grilled steak to the next level.

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