Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Beauty of a Small Kitchen

Our kitchen is soooooooooo tiny. My friends who have fabulous gourmet kitchens (you know who you are) would be mortified! There is literally just enough room to turn around. The refrigerator is the size of a camping refrigerator with no freezer, just enough room for one ice cube tray. I am used to a rather Spartan kitchen, but at least I have my Le Creuset pans and a normal size fridge. Have I mentioned the half size sinks and built in drain boards? I was horrified the first few days, wondered how on earth I was going to produce good food in such a tiny place! But I have learned some tricks, am shopping on a day to day basis and cooking as well as I did on Potter Street if not better. I feel more efficient in this kitchen and definitely more methodical.

Shopping in the supermarket is a trip. I have always claimed that I could read a menu in any language, but shopping for food is a bit trickier. I know the main names – schwein for pork, rinder for beef and so forth. Some of the other terms are hard so I rely on horse sense and my eye. No major disasters yet but plenty of time spent in front of a counter trying to figure out what the hell was in front of me!

The stores don’t have the wide variety of choices that we have at home, but what they do have is quality. I have discovered mozzarella di buffalo in my local market for about $2.00 for a very generous portion. I slice it thinly, put it atop a bed of scrumptious arugula, drizzle some olive oil on it with a scattering of fresh basil and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and it’s a lovely lunch or appetizer for dinner. I love arugula and have been finding a million ways to use the beautiful bunches I have been buying almost daily. It’s wonderful plain with a good dressing of olive oil, lemon, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper yet you can also make a very tasty pesto from it. It’s simple. Put some garlic, a few anchovies, and some pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor (or in a mortar and pestle for those of you more labor-intensive types) and run it till it is a paste. Then add a bunch of arugula, about a half cup of really good extra virgin olive oil, some parmigiano reggiano, the juice of a lemon or two and some salt and pepper to taste. You can add some capers if you’d like some additional oomph! Puree it all and then toss it uncooked on your favorite pasta, with some additional parmigiano. It’s also quite good on a piece of grilled chicken or fish.

Right now I am braising some chicken thighs, shallots, peppers, and carrots in red wine and chicken stock. I seasoned them with a little bouquet garni I made up of fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, bay leaf and parsley. When they are finished they will be tender and falling off the bone. I am going to serve them atop some freshly mashed potatoes and make a salad with some really amazing lamb’s ear lettuce Chris picked up at the market. We’ll share a nice bottle of wine, and compare notes on our days.

The point is that you can turn out really wonderful food in the smallest of spaces. Cleaning is a snap!


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