01/17/2013 Small Kitchens by Sanae


 

 
We say that New York kitchens are small. They require gymnastics of the body, elbows tucked-in, and backside bumping is inevitable when there are two cooks. True, they are often these narrow, somber, rectangular spaces that look more like hallways for minuscule people than actual feeding grounds. In Philadelphia I was spoiled, like a queen in my kitchen overlooking a vast green garden (not mine, but still) I could juggle many pots and roll out the largest and thinnest piecrusts on the massive counter space. My roommates and I would cook three at a time without stepping on one another’s territory. Fried eggs with toast, walnut tomato pesto, apple-cheddar pies. Last year was a little harder, but there was enough room and even a window overlooking New York rooftops. We had a somewhat functioning oven, a sizeable fridge, and four efficient burners. It got cozy and we took turns, like going to the bathroom. Then I moved to Brooklyn, and I found myself breathing again, twirling in the kitchen, walking with actual strides rather than the one-step forward shuffling I did in Chelsea, my hips hitting the counter by accident, my shirt always splashed wet from the sink.
 

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Illustrations by Hugo Yoshikawa

 
She follows me around the kitchen, tracing my steps but offering me enough space to move about. I like that she follows me, it instills my actions with purpose and Margot has the look of someone who is impressed. I rinse the rice, scrubbing with my hands until the water goes from milk-white (Margot’s skin!) to clear. The color of bathwater before my mother bathes. I cut loudly, chop, chop, careful to keep my fingers clawed so I don’t slice any extremities and embarrass myself. Then I whisk the salad dressing, and I beat until I feel the work and heat in my shoulders. The dressing looks like mayonnaise. The cooked fish is dry and hard under my thumb. No, who cares! Mother not here to scold me, parents on their getaway.
 
We are sixteen, but there’s no age for this. All men should tend to kitchen matters!
 

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Album Artwork by Colin Sutherland

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Big Boi (feat. Gucci Maine)Shine Blockas//Amy WinehouseValerie//Frank Ocean-Thinkin About You (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)//Flight Facilities- Dreams (Fleetwood Mac Remix)//Bon Iver-Towers (Jonathan Lee Remix)//RhyeThe Fall//Andrew BirdOrpheo//Local NativesBreakers//Sky FerreiraEverything is Embarrasing//GoldroomFifteen
 
This mixtape is a tribute to a season where the weather is not yet freezing, where the leaves change colors, squashes and pumpkins hit the farmers markets, and there is a plethora of good seasonal beer. I go through phases of obsession with different beverages, in the spring it was wine, in the summer it was cocktails and this fall it has been American microbrewed beer. Below is a list of a couple of beers that I hope you all can get your hands on at one point or another, some are only made this season and others just go well with the chilly weather:

Shipyard Pumpkinhead, Portland, ME
Victory Festbier, Downingtown, PA
Abita Turbodog, New Orleans, LA
Bluepoint White IPA, Bluepoint, NY
Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, Boonville, CA
Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale, Atlanta, GA
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Galesberg, MI
Full Nelson Pale Ale, Afton, VA

 
 



 
Ever since watching Take This Waltz, a beautiful film by Canadian director Sarah Polley, I’ve wanted to make blueberry muffins. The movie opens on a shot of the young Margot cooking in a colorful, sunlit, and boiling kitchen. It’s the middle of the summer, so it seems, in Toronto, and she’s making blueberry muffins. They go into the oven, she leans against the oven door waiting as they cook, but we never see them come out. I wondered, but who eats these muffins?
 
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, just out, is a glorious compilation of Deb Perelman’s delicious concoctions. She’s outdone herself with a series of stunning recipes. Over breakfast I leaf through her book. It’s in my living room, either on the table or on the futon, always an arm’s reach away. She has a recipe of plum poppy seed muffins, which I adapted into blueberry cardamom poppy seed muffins. The trick is to brown the butter beforehand and to barely stir the batter. This past Saturday as I was strolling at the Farmer’s Market at Grand Army Plaza I bought two muffins, apple & walnut and blueberry. They were full to the brim with fruits and nuts, but too sweet and sticky. The Smitten Kitchen recipe achieves a fine balance, essential to the muffin: very light sweetness, softness with a moist center, and a crispy top. I like the pop and crunch of the seeds and the bright blue coloring of the berries. Next time I have a potluck brunch, I know I’ll be bringing these muffins. Though for lazy days I stop by a neighborhood favorite, Blue Sky Bakery (@53 5th Avenue, Brooklyn).
 

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There’s a storm outside. I haven’t left my apartment since Saturday night and between reading workshop submissions and Dracula I’ve taken a little break: drawing and cookies. I have rice keeping warm in the rice-cooker, a ripe mango and avocado, enough spaghetti for a week. Miraculously, there’s butter, sugar, flour and chocolate for baking, no matter the occasion.
 
I’m reminded of the time I was camping with my class. I was living in Australia and it didn’t take much to go out into the bush. We were in our tents but the rain was coming down so hard that the floors flooded. Soon the tents were floating in muddy water and our bags looked like small, very wet boats. I’d packed my clothes in plastic bags upon my father’s recommendation. We all relocated to the communal kitchen in the camping ground (the excitement of sleeping all together, girls and boys side-by-side, even though the floor was hard and our backs hurt!). In the morning we dried our clothes in the sun and cooked lunch. Less exciting for the parents and teachers, perhaps.
 
But let me return to this storm. The first thing I did today, after coffee and breakfast, was to get started on these cookies. They never let me down, so here I’ll share the recipe and hope that you, as well, have the ingredients stocked up in your stormproof home. Most importantly, we hope that you are warm and safe.
 

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I thought it was winter, with the cold mornings and wet streets, except yesterday I shed my tights and walked about in lower Manhattan (in search of chocolates) with bare arms. Hot weather, we could almost say. Which brings me to cold meals, salads of various sorts, cold rice, cold noodles. The dish I discovered recently has eggplant and mango. The colors are vibrant, the flavor is on the sweet side, and the consistency is a combination of eggplant & mango moistness and the crispness of red onions & fresh herbs. I love this recipe because it achieves a delicate balance between fresh and fried, it is fancy enough for guests, comforting on a warm day, and can be prepared in advance.
 
Make sure to abundantly salt the eggplant, so as to counterbalance the sweetness of the sugary rice vinegar dressing.
 

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