In the 15 years we have lived in New York, we have inhabited no less than 5 apartments. None perfect, but each with their own special feature and random quirk. Our first apartment in Brooklyn was sunny and spacious and even had a proper dining room, but you had to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. After that, we moved into an apartment with a lovely kitchen and a large walk-in closet in the bedroom (Oh closet! How I miss you so), but the livingroom/dining area – if you could call it that – was about the same size as the closet. Thus, you could could easily cook a glorious meal, but it was hard to invite more than two people for dinner. Our last three apartments have all been in the same building, the first was a one-bedroom, but with a proper entryway; the second had a beautiful window and open kitchen, but was still small for a family of four. We now have ample space, but the trade-off is a small galley kitchen, clearly designed by someone who uses their own oven to store shoes. With the help of IKEA, we did our best to maximize the space we have when we moved in and I consoled myself with knowing that none other than Mark Bittman suffered from the same problem.
Tiny as our cabinets are, we somehow managed to cram so much into them we didn’t know what we had. So over the recent holiday break, I decided to excavate. I found no less than 4 small bottles of peanut oil, conjuring up the several moments in the recent past when – in a mid-cooking freak-out – we couldn’t find it, assumed we were out, and ran to the store to buy more. There were also many a bottle of random and expired condiments (apparently in the early 2000’s we once used a bottle of A-1 steak sauce and then kept it for posterity after it expired in 2008). But the most surprising were the endless bags of legumes that emerged from the cabinet above the stove. Once I got it all out, it was clear that it couldn’t go back.
Lucky for us, the previous tenants had addressed the small-kitchen problem by installing a large built-in next to it in the dining area, where I had a few jars filled with foods we use on a daily basis. Foods we used because we could actually see them.
Of course, the answer was there all along – more jars! I set about trying for find more of what I originally had, when I stumbled across a set of stackable glass canisters produced by Anchor Hocking. To my amazement, they fit our space exactly. It took 48 jars to cover the entire space and I was worried about how I would fill them all. Silly me. Apparently, I had more than 48 different kinds of beans, grains, pasta, nuts living above my stove. But now we can see them all and are actually using them.
Our kitchen has now been fully cataloged and is ready to take on our recent declaration that we are going to make a whole bunch of stuff this year. In the meantime, our new dry-goods library has inspired us to eat more cholent.
So, for all of you out there with tiny kitchens, what clever tricks are you using to make them work?
Adapted from “Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing,” by Jamie Geller (Feldheim, 2007). Via the New York Times, published November 23rd, 2010.
Time: 12 to 15 hours
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 to 1 pound boneless beef short ribs, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
Pepper, to taste
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup dried kidney beans,
1/3 cup dried navy beans
1/3 cup dried cranberry beans
3 cups chicken or beef broth
2 tablespoons honey or molasses
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
Salt to taste.
1. Line the bottom of a slow cooker with the potatoes, the onion and then the short ribs, sprinkling the meat with pepper to taste.
2. Scatter the barley and the beans on top, then pour on the broth and the honey or molasses. Sprinkle with the paprika and salt to taste. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Cook on low for 12 to 15 hours, stirring occasionally (except during Shabbat, for those who observe it), adding more water if necessary. The longer the cholent cooks, the better it will be.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.