Category Archives: kitchen

At last, a functional kitchen!

The kitchen is finally functional.  It’s not completely finished (the refrigerator is still in the living room and the finishing touches need to be added), but it’s usable.  My dad worked really hard on the kitchen and I can finally enjoy it.  It’ll look perfect when the backsplash is up, so I’ll wait until that’s up before posting pics.

I’ve lived in this house for over three months now, and this is the first time I’ve been able to enjoy a cup of tea in my home.  It makes me realize that, for me, a home isn’t a home until you can cook a meal from scratch and settle down with a cup of tea in front of the television. 

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My house has a heart now.  It feels really good.

Planning the inaugural dish

I was wondering — is this what they call the first meal they serve to a new president at the White House — the inaugural dish?

Anyway, I’m still channeling my energy into planning the first meal I’m going to cook in my brand new kitchen. I wanted to make something that would take a long long time so I could really spend some quality time with my new kitchen. At first, I thought about making Julia Child’s Beouf Bourguignon recipe. (Here’s a link to the recipe courtesy of ABC News.) It looked so good in the Julie and Julia movie. I shot down that idea because I’ve made stuff like that before. I want to try something completely different this time around with my new kitchen.

And then it dawned on me. Tucked away in one of thousands of emails I send to myself, I found a recipe from the blog 101cooks.com for thousand layer lasagne. I had this lasagne during my first trip to Italy and I loved it. It calls for homemade lasagne sheets (or you could easily cheat by buying fresh pasta and cranking it through your pasta maker), but doing everything from scratch would give me exactly what I wanted — a laborious meal that would take hours to make and have a glorious payoff.

On my first visit to Italy, I took a pasta making class in Florence. Our instructor Barbara took us to the local open air market to buy ingredients and toured us through a few neighborhood groceries. It amazed me that Italians have such wonderful, fresh and colorful products at their disposal. I also learned that the best flour to use when making pasta is the Italian “00” flour, which means that this is the finest milled flour available.

florence market

florence grocery

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Making fresh pasta from scratch is a labor of love. You start out with a mountain of flour, you make well in the middle and then crack in two eggs. And then you knead it forever. Amazingly, that’s all pasta is — egg and flour. You crank it through a pasta machine several times and then finally, you end up with a long thin sheet of pasta. This recipe calls for super fine rectangles of pasta, so after this experience, I will be very intimate with that pasta machine I haven’t touched since 2005.

Now that I’ve put this in writing, I guess I have to follow through with making this incredible dish. It will be an hours-long process so I’m sure I’ll have a lot to complain talk about. If I hadn’t put it in writing, I might back out of it. There’s no turning back now.

Work in progress on the kitchen

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Looking forward to breaking my cooking fast

Now that the cabinets have arrived and my dad is coming back to install them, I’m already making plans for what I’m going to cook in my new kitchen. 

The last time I went through this kind of desperate and obsessive planning was when I did a 5 day cleansing fast where I lived off of water and 5 fiber filled shakes per day.  By day 3, my every waking thought was consumed with eating and cooking.  On the last day of the fast, I made a wonderful golden chicken stock from scratch which would then become the basis for the matzoh ball chicken soup I would take as my first meal to break the fast.  Taking my time in the kitchen, handling each ingredient and methodically chopping it into its proper size, anticipating how wonderful the soup was going to be, and finally savoring my first meal after the fast — it was all very therapeutic and rewarding.     

When eating your first meal after a fast, your senses are in overdrive.  You take time to inhale the fragrance of your food.  Having  put all your ingredients together by hand, you smell each ingredient from the wonderful marriage of your finished dish.  Before you take your first bite, your eyes start devouring the colors and textures sitting on your plate or in your bowl.  Then, your hands greedily scoop up a portion in your fork or spoon, and you experience heaven once the food brushes your lips like a first kiss.

Having lived exclusively off of takeout for the past 6 weeks, I feel like I’ve been fasting the entire time.  Actually, I have.  I’ve been fasting from home cooked meals and I’ve been deprived of the experience of cooking.  Before this experience, I really took for granted what cooking meant to me.  I often avoided doing it on weeknights because I’m such a poor meal planner and a lot of what I bought from the store went to waste on just one person.  Now, I’m resolved to be a better cook, better grocery shopper and better meal planner.  I want to use cooking to nourish me emotionally as a therapeutic daily ritual as well as physically.

Obstacles!

rock

Progress on my kitchen has yet again come to a screeching halt. It turns out that my dad made the drain for my sink a little too high before enclosing it in drywall, so we’ll have to cut out the drywall, fix the drain and then patch up the drywall before we can even think about getting any kitchen cabinets in there.

When the delivery guy brought my cabinets, he remarked that I had a great little house. I asked him if he ever ordered cabinets from Home Depot and he said “Nah, I’d never pay those prices for cabinets. I live in Mexico. We did my grandma’s kitchen for $450 with custom made cabinets.”

“Don’t worry, this will all be done by Christmas,” he assured me. In light of the fact that Christmas is about three months from now, I wondered if he was being kind and optimistic or a smart-ass. He seemed like a nice guy, so I’ll give him kind and optimistic.

I now have an entire roomful of cabinets in my dining room. Also, to make matters worse, my dad is having oral surgery done this week and I want him to fully recover before coming back to this project. It looks like it will be another couple of weeks of takeout for me.

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Light at the end of the tunnel (for my kitchen)

Home Depot informed me that they’re delivering my cabinets on Monday. 

Finally, my kitchen will be three-quarters done instead of just half-done!  Once the cabinets are installed, we can have the granite people come out and create a template for my countertop.  That will probably take another 2 weeks, but at least it’s progress. 

Castle Anthrax, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Castle Anthrax, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Kitchen envy

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It’s night time.  I pull up in front of my house on the way back from running errands.  My French neighbor has dinner guests.  I can see them through his open window.  Bathed in warm yellow light are tiny snippets of his evening — a tablecloth covered with a red Provencal fabric, a bread basket and a bottle of wine.  Faint sounds of  animated French conversation and jazz music drift out the window.  It’s obviously one of those long drawn out French meals punctuated by good food and great conversation.  Encapsulated in this window is a scene of coziness and warmth, hospitality and friendship — all the wonderful things that food is a conduit for.

I’m so jealous.  In my current kitchenless state, I’m looking at a world divided between those with kitchens and those without kitchens.  When rationality returns to my brain, I realize that a kitchen and a dining room are just tools.  It’s people and company that bring them to life.

Without a kitchen, I feel like an orphan, shuffling myself to other people’s kitchens, i.e. restaurants.  Tonight, the older man at the Vietnamese pho place I frequent recited my usual order right when I sat down.  After I agreed to it, he returned within 5 minutes with my food.  I have to admit, it was comforting to have someone recognize you and know what you like to eat. 

Pho Van
4233 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92105
(619) 281-9420