Archive for the ‘In the Kitchen’ Category

Want and Need

July 14, 2011

I’m quite proud of my wine bottle rolling pin.  Ingenuity on the the fly and practically free, it works for the brief stints that I need it.  I don’t roll out dough often, or ever, before my most recent endeavors into dough, but I now have a new reason – the Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin.  Outfitted with interchangeable rings that allow for different dough widths, it’s cute, compact, and multi-purpose, just what The Littlest Kitchen needs.

Almost Free

July 5, 2011

On Independence Day, I tried to free myself of clutter and deal with the disorder of my apartment.  Specifically, I had to make space for the air conditioner, which led to reorganizing in general.  Scattered around, I had collected a number of gallery promos from recent and not so recent shows of images that I like.  Not quite ready to file them away, I had the crazy idea of collaging the back kitchen wall.  A productive folly that forced me to do more reorganizing on the pantry shelves and cleaning out the toaster oven, an hour later, I had a different look for the kitchen.  In fact, I need more images to go all the way down to the counter.  All in good time.

The Workhorse

May 26, 2011

My most beloved piece of cookery is also the smallest – my 2-cup LeCreuset crock.  It is perfect for the single serving meal, such as my fast favorite, sauteed greens with eggs, which goes from stove to table for even faster service.  The weighty bottom prevents burning, like when making oatmeal in a morning haze.   Unless I want bottom to burn, like with leftover rice to get that crunchy bottom.  It’s the best thing that I never knew I needed.

Star Studded Cooking

February 17, 2011

A million years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, one of the first cookbooks that I bought was a Celebrity Cookbook.  More for its kitsch value than the recipes themselves, and a fetching price at the used bookstore, I did cook a little from it, most notably William Shatner’s Carrot Vichyssoise, a pureed potato leek and carrot soup.  Filled with 80’s celebrities like OJ Simpson, Monty Hall, and Princess Di, this spiral bound relic is a compilation of recipes that were requested by the writer, who blindly sent thousands of letters to celebrities asking for their favorite recipes and a publicity photo.  The book writes itself, much like an elementary school PTA fund raising cookbook.

In the not so distant past, I bought another celebrity cookbook from the 80s at a garage sale for $1.  Much more editorialized, this cookbook is a collection of Johna Blinn’s syndicated cooking with the stars column.  Surprisingly there is no overlap.  William Shatner gave his Steak Picado recipe, which I have yet to try.  Apparently there are as many celebs that cook, as there are stars in the sky.

My most prized possession is Vincent Price’s cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes.  Known as an epicure, this cookbook brings to the reader the finest food from his travels around the world.  Brief descriptions of the restaurants from where he procured the recipes, helpful equivalent tables, calorie counts, and a napkin folding tutorial, he shares the fine dining experience with the home cook.  A true star with a palate of gold.

Fast forward to the current day, and my grocery store impulse buy, People’s Cooking With the Stars!  I am powerless to resist this confection, like I am with every Thanksgiving’s Sexiest Man Alive.  It’s fun, it’s campy, and I actually would try to make Justin Timberlake’s Granny’s Coconut Cake.  There is also a gallery of celebrity cookbooks past, and I wonder, why don’t I have Dolly Parton’s Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s in my collection?

Choosy Korean Moms Choose

February 3, 2011

On a drive by to Han Au Rheum, the Korean supermarket, a friend’s mission was to get “those good noodles”.  A favorite of her daughter’s, reiterated by her husband as he double parked on 32nd Street, these ramen noodles were especially clean and light, so I picked up a couple for myself.  Its get-worthiness is merited, as it is unique in its lightness – no MSG, not fried.  At 150 calories a serving for half a package, I don’t hate myself for eating the whole thing, unlike the usual ramen calorie bomb.  Not only do Korean mothers know, but so do their pickier cookie eating daughters.

Un-hoarding

January 11, 2011

First order of the New Year – pruning the recipe file.  Before I cook my first meal of 2011, I want to get rid of redundancy.  Like choosing the winning Lotto number from a basket, I actually enjoy  randomly picking out a recipe from this mass of clutter.  Chalk it up to the element of surprise and the dopamine effect.  But I have picked too many things that I have no interest in cooking now.

I plucked out recipes that I already know how to cook, but might not of when I clipped them a century ago, like Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olive and Goat Cheese.  Recipes that were too non-sensically exotic and fussy were banished, like Hen Braised in Tomatillo Puree (an 18 month old hen? really?).  I got rid of cocktails because I don’t drink at home.  Out went randomly scribbled ingredients that I was supposed to know what it made.  And why do I have a recipe for Grilled Taleggio Sandwich with Apricots and Capers when I don’t even like apricots?  Hmm, maybe I’ll keep it and substitute figs…

I kept an inordinate number of vegetable and fish recipes, since if I’m going to cook, I should cook more healthy than not, especially since I’m such a sinner when I go out to eat.  I like a compelling challenge so there are a few marathon doozies.  I tried to be judicious with sweets.  In the end, I purged a little, not a lot, making me want to cook more and hoard less.

 

Anniversary

December 16, 2010

It’s been another year in The Littlest Kitchen!  A year ago, I was hoping to get on to a second phase of renovations, but alas, paying off debt and living it up a little has taken precedence.  The slow road of budgeting has been effective, and I think that I’ll be debt-free by tax time as long as Christmas doesn’t kill me.  No regrets on the great meals and great places that I’ve been to this year.  More fun, more savings, less stuff.

This year, I’ve also rediscovered my hoarder files to find that a) New York and its surroundings are an ever evolving being that doesn’t necessarily exist after it’s been written about 10 years ago; and b) recipes are imperfect and some time suck.  The randomness of following different recipes has been a great way to learn how to cook, defining what I like to eat and how to fix it.

In the upcoming year, I’d like to clean house a bit.  I’ll thin out the files and weed out what I know I don’t want to cook instead of needlessly hanging on to the past.  I’d also like to re-evalualte what I do and don’t need in the kitchen, like do I really need dried avocado leaves from 1998?  All in the interest of being a better and more efficient cook in 2011.

FaKreuset?

August 31, 2010

I have long wanted a Dutch oven to the point of crippling indecision.  Le Creuset or Staub?  Le Creuset is classic, but with Staub, I can potentially make the No-Knead Bread because it has a screwpull that can take a 500 degree oven.  Or what about the elusive Chef’s Mate from Target which was top rated by Cook’s Illustrated?  Sometimes the decision is made for you when opportunity knocks.

The score of the summer is a ten piece set of Le Creuset cookware from the flea market – a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven, a 2 quart Dutch oven, two 6 cup saucepans, and a 4 cup saucepan – all in 70s station wagon brown.  A total impulse buy that I couldn’t even carry home without the aid of a borrowed stroller.  Curious about their history with its retro color and bulbous fondue pot-like handle, I snooped around on the interweb for information, which started to put doubt in my mind about the authenticity of the pieces.  The two larger pieces had “LC”, instead of “Le Creuset” on the bottom, a ridged bottom, and no enamel on the rims.  Only one piece had a diamond stamped on the bottom.  Were these factory seconds?  Fakes?  Did I get what I paid for which was not much?

    

To put my mind at ease, I contacted Le Creuset who got back to me in less than a day.  Indeed they were genuine, the stamps ranged over the years, and the brown has been discontinued for about 12 years.  After using these solid pieces compared to my flimsy Ikeaware, I’m sold, not hoodwinked.  No regrets and no looking back, I still have room – at least in my heart – for the big ass oval Staub.

Do I Really Need…

June 8, 2010

Another measuring spoon?  It’s not like owning another Ferrari, but since I already own so many, is it necessary?  The limited room in The Littlest Kitchen would suggest not, but I have been needing an extra tablespoon measure since I recently broke one.  I like to have at least two – one wet, one dry.  This dual table/tea spoon measure from Muji is irresistibly elegant, a single piece of stainless steel without any nooks and crannies.  I’m happy to add it to my growing collection.

Operation Mouse

March 23, 2010

It saddens and horrifies me to say that The Littlest Kitchen had a mouse.  I had been in denial for a few weeks, getting by on the bare minimum, waiting to have some time to actually deal.  It lurked somewhere in the cabinets, not being able to, or wanting to, get out of the warm dark maze.  I discovered the problem a few weekends ago, after being out of town for the weekend.  The evidence was clear – something had unsuccessfully tried to gnaw its way through a  bag of zip-sealed cat treats.  Stored under the sink, a scattering of confetti-like plastic and a few turds evinced an unwanted guest.  Time for Operation Mouse.

Step 1:  Take No Prisoners

The mouse and I cannot coexist in the same space.  It has to go by any means necessary, including through the pearly gates.  I set out a snap trap, and caught it the following weekend after being out of town again.  I firmly believe that the traditional spring-load traps are the best; if there was a better mousetrap, someone would have invented it by now.  Much like how I believe that if there was a cure for baldness, every man on earth would have a full head of hair.  And glue traps are gross.  I’m not convinced that he’s the only one, nor do I want any new roommates, more precautions ensue.

Step 2:  Block All Entries

My building’s handyman came to remove the expired mouse, and in the following days stuffed steel wool into the connection holes under the sink cabinet.  Another point of vulnerability was the microwave cabinet which has an open back.  The rear edge was not flush to the wall, so he covered the gaps with a thin piece of wood.  The mouse had made itself comfortable in the nested frying pans, also stored in the cabinet.  The paper towels that separated the nonstick pans must have made for a cozy retreat, as it had completely ignored the mother lode of dried beans and grains in plastic bags next to it.

 

Step 3:  Clean, Clean, Clean

It took the stormy weekend to provide an opportunity to deal.  Both cabinets needed to be thoroughly cleaned and reassessed.  The frying pans needed to go back up to the vintage cabinet, even though they were so much easily accessible in the lower microwave cabinet.  I even deep cleaned the microwave and toaster oven, a Sisyphean task of the highest order.

Step 4:  Protect The Goods

Although untouched, all the dry goods had to be moved up to counter level.  Luckily, the mouse hasn’t discovered the drawers or the countertop.  I transferred whatever could be stored in hermetic jars and hard plastic, but there are still much in bags.  Ideally, I would like for it to go back inside, but not until I find a mouse-proof storage solution.  

I suspect that the mouse lived or came through the baseboards, so the idea is to make the upper world as unattractive as possible.  I don’t want to have a face to face confrontation, I want it to go away.  How it got through the sealed concrete from my renovation, I’ll never know.  Wily, boneless creatures.  And did I mention that I have a cat?