Last summer, I socked away a gallon-sized zip top bag full of handpicked blackberries in my freezer's ice bin (that side of the kitchen isn't plumbed, so we can't hook up the ice maker). Those berries have been there since August, a visual reminder that it was once summer and that warm weather really does exist.
Just about every summer, I manage to squirrel away at least one bag of fruit for winter use, be it peaches, blueberries or blackberries. However, every year, I waste an awful lot of mental energy trying to find the exact right time to actually use my frozen bounty. I finally broke down this weekend, using my berries to make a big, bubbly cobbler with a biscuit-y topping.
I'm curious, does anyone else struggle with using the foodstuffs they've frozen or preserved?
Filed under: Real Kitchens
Last Friday, I used my lunch hour to get my haircut. I've been going to the same woman for cuts for the last year and a half, a personal best for me, as I tend to get antsy with stylists and move around. Sylvie is French and despite many years in the US, still speaks with a charmingly thick accent and often stops cutting to further articulate her stories with hand gestures.
We found ourselves on the topic of Thanksgiving and she started to tell me about the dishes she was planning on making. Bragging a little, she said that her sister-in-law always asks for her recipes. When she's ready to transcribe, pen in hand, Sylvie will start rattling off her dishes in French, never revealing her cooking secrets in a way that anyone, the sister-in-law included, can understand.
I've never understood the people who hold their recipes close to their chest, refusing to reveal their secrets with friends and family alike. I'm of the belief that food is something to be shared and that includes the tools used to prepare tasty creations. Are your recipes open source or state secrets?
Filed under: Real Kitchens
Making do in tiny kitchens is all the rage these days (I'm glad to hear that what I've been doing for years has suddenly become the trendy thing. I knew if I waited long enough, I'd become hip!). Deb of Smitten Kitchen recently posted about how she makes due in her petite cooking space and just today, New York Times recipe tester Jill Santopietro launched a video blog that features the ways in which she makes do with just two square feet of counter space.
In the first episode of Tiny Kitchen with Jill Santopietro, Jill makes a calvados cocktail. The episode, which clocks in at a very web-friendly four and a half minutes, features a great tip on how to make simple syrup without dirtying a saucepan as well as a good substitute for a citrus reamer (when you're working with 11 square feet, you've got to eliminate utensils where you can).
So far, I'm totally charmed by this unassuming little video podcast. I'm looking to seeing more from the Tiny Kitchen.
It's Meyer lemon season and I am delighting in their tangy flavor (the appearance of these lemons makes the onset of winter a little more palatable). My grandmother had a Meyer lemon tree in the backyard of her house in Woodland Hills, CA and the first whiff of their signature scent (a little more floral and sweet than a conventional lemon) always takes me back to her kitchen.
Friday night, I was home alone and in need of some dinner. I considered heading down the street for some takeout Thai but having eaten out a whole lot last week, I determined to do something at home with ingredients already in the fridge. Surveying my options, I came upon a bag of Meyer lemons, a third of a package of linguine, some ancient creme fraiche, some already-grated Parmesan cheese (I realize it's a foodie sin to buy it pre-grated, but sometimes it's just so much easier) and a bag of must-be-used arugula.
Those ingredients started a bell in the back of my mind jingling and I dredged up a memory of a recipe that used those components in Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte. Finding the book in a stack in the bedroom, I cooked up what became a delicious and easy solo dinner. The recipe is after the jump.
Whether you call it filling, dressing, or stuffing (and whether you know that, to some, there is a distinction between each); whether you make it from sourdough, cornbread, or white bread (or spelt if you're sensitive to wheat or are Ancient Roman); whether you embellish it with chestnuts, oysters, cranberries or chorizo; no Thanksgiving table is complete without stuffing.
It plumps up in the roasting turkey's cavity and then cozies up to the finished product on your plate -- and both benefit, as your taste buds do (though your waistline doesn't), from a generous dousing of gravy. Like meatloaf, there are as many recipes for it as there are cooks to prepare it, and, also like meatloaf, nearly every cook thinks theirs is definitive. To its fans, the reason we call it stuffing is not the technical definition -- a working understanding of which could be "any food that fills, at least theoretically, a cavity in another food" -- but the obvious fact that you "stuff" it into "your face."
Sometime early last month, I went out to Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA with a friend to pick apples. I came home with an overflowing half bushel box, awash in good intentions. However, life got in the way and I let the apples sit for longer than I would have liked. They got a bit mealy as the sugars turned to starch and so the only treatment for them was to turn them into applesauce and apple butter (two things I love, so I wasn't particularly sad).
Years ago, when I first started making applesauce, I would labor over the apples, peeling, coring and chopping them into fine pieces. These days, my technique is a little more slapdash. I do still core the apples and I chop the quarters into smaller bits. But I skip the peeling part altogether, which saves an amazing amount of time and hand cramping.
Instead, I cook the apples down (with lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and lemon zest) with the peels still attached. When I'm able to mash an apple piece with the back of a wooden spoon, I take the whole mess off the stove and run the apples through a Foley Food Mill. It purees the apples into a nice, even sauce that still has some good mouth feel and gets rid of the peels at the same time. It's really easy to boot. If you make a lot of applesauce (or stewed tomatoes or peaches) this tool will become an invaluable addition to your kitchen gadgetry.
When I'm in the kitchen, my cutting board is one of my best friends. I use a large, sharp knife and quickly (but carefully) chop my way through my onions, celery, potatoes or peppers. However, I have a good friend who prefers to ignore the cutting board for everything of the large job, instead using her fingers and a small paring knife to make fruit slices, potato wedges and carrot rings.
I tend to think of that 'in hand' slicing as a kitchen technique that comes from an earlier era. I can imagine my Auntie Tunkel standing in her tiny rowhouse kitchen, slicing root vegetables directly into a roasting pan, using a callused thumb to catch the blade on the other side of the turnip or rutabaga. My own mother is somewhere in between, having used the same old cutting board for so many years that she's worn it thin in the middle, nothing like my own hurried smash and chop.
Are you a cutting board devotee or an in hand slicer?
Filed under: Real Kitchens
Last week, I got to cook with my sister. She's a musician who lives in Austin, TX when she's not on the road, so while we check in with each other often, we don't manage to work it out so that we're in the same city frequently.
We didn't grow up cooking together, our parents (mostly our mother, to be honest) did the bulk of the food prep for the years we lived in the same house. I left for college in 1997 and when I moved back for six months after graduation in 2001, she was long since gone. However, having learned to cook from the same people, I've found that we have an innate compatibility in the kitchen that makes cooking together a joy.
Last Monday night, we didn't make anything particularly fancy, just some onion-spiked turkey burgers and a vast pan of sauteed veggies. I mixed the ground turkey and formed it into patties, as she washed and chopped the broccoli and cauliflower. She opened the fridge as if she were in her own home and rooted around for toasted sesame oil, Braggs and little sweet red chili sauce. It delighted me that she was so comfortable and that we could move around my two-person, galley kitchen with such ease.
After dinner was over, we headed back into the kitchen to clean up and I found myself wishing that these moments of cooking, eating and cleaning together came more frequently than two or three times a year. Sadly, during this phase of our lives, it is just not to be.
Do you have a person in your live with whom cooking is a joy? Do you cook with them regularly, or is it a rare occasion that you find yourselves in the kitchen together?
Filed under: Real Kitchens
After a day of travel, Scott and I got home to our apartment last night just before 1 am. The changing time zones and the hours spent locked in a fast-moving metal tube had us totally thrown off and we were both ravenous when we walked in the door. Getting to bed was high on my mind, but I knew that we both needed to eat something or sleep would be impossible.
Opening the fridge, I saw that I had done a good job of emptying it out prior to the trip. Thankfully though, I had had the good sense to leave behind half a done eggs and the tail end of a loaf of bread. Pulling out a cereal bowl and a small frying pan, I quickly beat the eggs and poured them out into the pan. I shoved the bread bag in Scott's direction and said, "Toast, please." I stood at the stove, barely conscious, stirring the eggs with a silicone spatula. As I moved the eggs around the pan, I realized that it had been a week since I cooked a thing, a rare occasion in my life.
Soon enough, the toast popped and the eggs were done. We sat at the table for a few moments, eating eggs in companionable silence. It was a meal that took no more than 15 minutes from conception to completion and yet it was still warm, filling and lovely welcome home.
Filed under: Real Kitchens
Three or four years ago, I happened across a similar yogurt maker at a thrift store. I bought it, despite the fact that I had no active interest in making my own yogurt and my kitchen was already woefully overstocked. I tucked it up on top of my kitchen cabinets and didn't touch it again until last week.