Archive for the 'Kitchen' Category

A present for me

I’m sat here with a cup of tea and a slither of cake feeling rather pleased with myself. I’ve just given myself a present. And it’s quite the beauty.

I clicked purchase online three days ago and then today it arrived with the friendly UPS man with a goatee. He makes me feel like I deserve a present, which is much nicer that the old one who’s always raising his eyebrows at the number of Amazon presents I receive.

I grabbed at the box and quickly horded it up to the apartment. A present for me? How exciting! I adore buying presents for myself. No junk, no returns and no handwritten thank you notes. It’s much better this way.

I deserved this present.

Justification number one: I just got married. Number two: I’m embarking on a new career. Number three: I deserved one. It’s like a game for me. Three justifications and I’m eligible to click purchase. Three justifications and I win the game.

Don is not going to be happy when he sees what I bought. I wish I could say that it was some sort of male jealousy thing- scared that I will devote more time to my new toy than him- but 1/ he’s used to that and 2/ he will quickly take note of how he may benefit from my new toy.

No, it’s not jealousy that will bother Don- it’s the amount of space it will take up. He won’t like clutter one bit. Clutter schmutter.

I have a brand new Cuisinart Food processor. It sparkles elegantly in the light,  it’s going to make wonderful pastry for me- and it’s tax deductible!

It knows how wonderful it is too. Otherwise it wouldn’t have made itself so darn heavy. It’s weighs far too much to go to the effort of keeping it in a cupboard in between uses. It will have to live on the counter top next to my Kitchen Aid. It was destined to be there, beside me always ready to help me. Two solid kitchen friends.

Now, I’m searching for three more reasons…….

Quick Fix: Brie & prosciutto grilled cheese


I have a new toy which has made me just a little bit overexcited. Actually I have two new toys and the best part about my toys is that you are going to benefit from them. Those are the only gifts I really like after all- the one where giver and receiver equally benefit from said gift. It brings a whole new level of joy to the actual giving of the gift- like giving yourself a present every time you give someone else a present. It’s a policy I firmly stand by and it works in several ways. I give Don a shirt because I want to see him wear something other than a polo with his school logo on it. I give my sister a weekend in New York because it’s really like giving myself a fun weekend in New York. If I go to a dinner and I’m asked to bring along something- I bring something that I know I want to eat. I give my doorman cookies because I want him to hold my keys when I go running. Some may call this bribing, I prefer to call it gifts with benefits.

My little gifts with benefits are a new camera- the Canon Rebel EOS and a photo studio light so I can snap away at all times of the day. Gone are the days where I have to worry about the lights or the sun and Don will be given a deserved rest from sun blocking duty. And for you, my dearest readers- it means a new series called quick fixes. It’s what I’m cooking on the weeknights, which means it’s quick and easy because like most people I can’t face much time in the kitchen after work. Most of the recipes will keep the ingredients flexible and I’ll keep the recipe format simple. This week it’s a brioche grilled brie and prosciutto sandwich- something that I made in ten minutes for Don when he thought he was dying of the flu (it was actually just a minor cold but he’s a sensitive soul, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt).  This is trashy gourmet at it’s finest.

Continue reading ‘Quick Fix: Brie & prosciutto grilled cheese’

Dinner party disasters

“So this is where the magic happens.”
Published in The New Yorker January 26, 2004

With a kitchen finally intact (if not completely without problems) I’ve taken it upon myself to do some serious catching up on two years past of a miserable lack of entertaining. The Ikea table, which I insisted on purchasing a year ago because it seats twelve people has remained mostly un-sat at. The last time I pulled both sides of the table leaves was in April- when I was filling in my tax return. Never have I gone so long without friends, food and wine around the table.

That said, it appears that throwing dinner parties, is much like learning a foreign language- if you fail to study for two years then you find yourself a bit in out of your own depth. The lessons you thought you had retained come back to haunt you- or kick you in the ass; as they say over here. For me, my lesson unlearned is trying out something new on the twelve eagerly anticipating and slightly tipsy guinea pigs sat at your dining table. Trying something new, or worse without a recipe, when you have people for dinner is like ordering off a menu in French, without your translations book. Fifty percent of the time you’ll hit a winner and the other fifty you wont. But either way you’ll spend much of the night knocking back wine with the Jaws theme tune on repeat in your head.  Nervous anticipation at what will emerge from the kitchen is not ideal when you have twelve other diners at the table.

Last weekend, Don was out for the night so I used this as an excuse to have eight girls over for dinner and a  gossip. I thought I was keeping things simple by making a vegetarian lasagna. I roasted squash, steamed and drained spinach, roasted thin slices aubergine and courgette, made a fresh cherry tomato sauce, caramelised onions, slow roasted tomatoes with thyme and had I not run out of time I would have made my own pasta. All the elements were delicious and the lasagna- cooked in an enormous dish came out of the oven deliciously bubbling over the sides with layers of beautiful colours and to me it was utterly disappointing.  It wasn’t hot enough in the middle and the individual goodness of each ingredient was overpowered by its neighbour. Plates were cleaned but my only relief was knowing that my desserts were going to be perfect- banoffee pie (an old school favourite) and chocolate nemesis from the River Cafe Cookbook- you can never go wrong with a flourless chocolate cake.

In lieu of that here are my tips for avoiding dinner party disasters:

1/ Cook what you know. If this isn’t an option then don’t panic, just keep your wine glass topped up.

2/ Use good quality in-season ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Alternatively, outsource- just not to Betty Crocker.

3/ Keep things simple- the best dinner party dishes are the one’s that don’t need lots of dashes to the kitchen- a sweaty brow and stained apron may get you the compliments you’re after but you won’t feel good.  If you like being sweaty in an apron then good for you.

4/ Delegate your guests to bring the starter and/or dessert. It’s one or two less things that you will have to worry about but will ultimately be remembered for; so choose your guests strategically.

5/ Start the evening with sparkling wine or champagne- I think this is a great way to create the atmosphere of decadence even if you’re only serving shepherds pie.

6/ Have nibbles out- that way if you find yourself with an undercooked turkey in the oven you have time to tear your hair out in the kitchen without your guests passing out of hunger. Alternatively, If you really screwed up, avoid the nibbles, let people get drunk and they’ll never know

7/ People like to hover in the kitchen, so rather than shooing them out try putting them to work.

8/ Forward planning- don’t try to serve three courses that need the oven or stove. Have at least one that can be assembled in advance.

9/ Cook in a nice dress and heels with a gin & tonic to hand and at least you’ll feel like Nigella.

Kitchen Renovation

It’s been a long time coming.

From this…

To this…

To 8 weeks like this…..

And finally, finally finally 4 months later…….

Of course, the dishwasher is already broken, the floor damaged from a leak and the counter tops have been slightly damaged….but at least I have a kitchen again. 🙂

I’ve got gas, baby!

Oh, be gone with that screwed up face of disgust! Don gave me the same ominous look when I proclaimed this launching myself into his arms. But I just have to tell the world- I’ve got gas, baby! Glorious, glorious gas! Gas has never made me feel so happy, so energised…so full of life! The click click sound and a beautiful blue and yellow flame- tea from the kettle! Fancy that!

A shiny stainless steel Kitchen Aid range cooker with cast iron grates and flames that will burn your brows off if you get too close! I think I’m in love. I mean I love Don, but I’ve never been without him for more than three weeks. I have survived a whole seven weeks of making tea in the microwave and let me tell you, tea from the kettle now tastes like water straight from a fresh spring! I think I’m in love. I have no counter tops or backsplash or fancy floor trimming but I have the sweetest little range that 1,500 bucks can buy you. I may not be able to afford to go on vacation for the next five years but I have an oven and a range and nothing could make this girl happier! Forget the hot weather, I can’t wait to sweat all day over a hot stove! Saturday morning baking is back!

First I want to try these
Then I want to try this
And this looks really intriguing
Oh and I suppose I’ll be whipping up a batch of these
And whilst I’m at it this looks too delicious to miss out on

Tomorrow, I promise.

They may be separated by an ocean, speak with a different accent, exchange with a different currency and prefer coffee over tea but it seems construction workers from London to New York are really all the same. You’re assured that the job can be done quickly, that they are the best contractors around, that they’re giving you the absolute best price and that they can do anything you want. Then they take 50% of their fee, do 50% of the work, leave all their equipment cluttering 1/3 of your apartment, a bed of dust on the floor so thick that even you swiffer mopper can’t cope and you spend weeks chasing them on the phone to complete the job.

The cabinets are in, the floor has been laid, the walls have had one coat of paint. Everything is in place. Except that the cabinets have no door knobs, the range has no gas, the dishwasher no connection, the sink no faucet, and that final coat of paint is yet to be completed. Did I mention that the counter tops have been measured three times now? Three times by “the best guy around” who I had to wait a week for to come out in the first place. Everything is “tomorrow, I promise” followed by a quiet “or at the latest, Monday next week”.

And so it is that I am still eating off of paper plates, washing up in the bathroom sink and rapidly despairing of microwaved meals. For the first time ever, I’m happy about the fact that I eat two meals a day at work- because that’s one less at home. In the meantime, I’m threatening to sell my contractors toolbox on ebay, tomorrow- I promise or at the latest, Monday next week.

Hello, Microwave!

There’s been an awful lot of button punching going on in my Brooklyn pad since my kitchen was demolished. I’ve been getting reacquainted with my microwave, an old pal from my boarding school days. It was then that I relied on it equally with Mr. Toaster to provide me with the necessary sustenance that school house meals were unable to provide. Saturday night at the pub were not complete without cheese toasties made with the toaster on laying on its side and microwave pasta & sauce. The cheese toasties were legendary but the microwave pastas less so. In the years since, my Quasar has had little more than a look in from me and sees more mugs of lukewarm tea and hard brown sugar than it does food. There’s something about cooking in a microwave that just makes me gag- perhaps its the way the smell of microwaved salmon lingers in the work kitchen after one of the crew cooks his dinner.

So we’ve been making up for lost times and becoming buddies again. Well, sort of. He didn’t like it when I tried to bake a chocolate chip cookie yesterday (hey, things are desperate around here, people and I needed something sweet). There were a few sparks and zapping noises and my apartment was left with the unforgettable smell of burnt chocolate intermingling with paint fumes. He also doesn’t know that once this whole renovation debacle is over and I’m no longer high on the paint fumes he’s going to lose his prime real estate position on the kitchen table. When I have my new kitchen he’ll either be making friends with other recycled appliances or perhaps hanging out with a less neglectful neighbour who fancies its electromagnetic waves cooking their dinner. It’s a sad fate, but Quasar just doesn’t fit into my new kitchen design.

I can’t claim that I’ve been nuking-up culinary wonders though- think more like the occasional sweet potato and frozen leftovers from the freezer. And there’s nothing like microwaving leftovers and sweet potatoes to induce a phase of culinary meloncholy. The electromagnetic waves paired with the thought of washing-up in the bathroom sink and eating off of paper plates seem to have zapped my enthusiasm. I thought that I might make myself feel better by going through my cookbooks and magazine clippings and dog ear all the things that I’m going to try when I have a kitchen again. But alas, it has not helped. Not only has this made me more depressed but I’ve also managed to wrack up quite a hefty Amazon bill on new cookbooks- which I decidedly do not already have enough of. I’m like a child writing their wish list from Santa Claus in July. Christmas will never come soon enough.

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