I used to have a really bad habit of getting take out. Philadelphia has this incredible food scene and I live in a neighborhood with at least fifty restaurants within walking distance and they are all good. Things really peaked during grad school when we would probably order several times a week. I know this is not great for several reasons but at least we’re supporting local businesses and many of the restaurateurs are our neighbors.
However, with the arrival of sars-cov-2 and our row house quarantine, we are cooking every day. Cooking is not my favorite thing to do. The foods I like to eat, pie for example, I’m not supposed to eat. Cooking takes focus and by the end of the day I am tired from focusing all day at work. Still, we really have no choice now, so it’s into the kitchen I go. There are a few things that I’ve found helpful…
There are a number of applications you can use to organize notes but I really like Evernote (evernote.com). There is a basic version that’s free. You simply type your recipes in, find a photo in Google that looks like whatever you’re making, and save in any organizational structure you like. Evernote has a search feature that really comes in handy when you realize you have five cans of black beans and need something to do with them. I use it to plan vacations, row house maintenance scheduling, house repairs, historic costuming, and more. I actually think of it as my second brain; one with a much better memory.
Another good resource is the cooking section of The New York Times. If you add the recipe feature to your subscription, you can save recipes right from the online version of the paper. They also have a email that goes out a few times a week.
There is a German tradition of having a kitchen witch lurking about in the kitchen who ensures that everything you cook comes out fantastic. I do not have a kitchen witch. Instead, I scored this fantastic kitchen tiki from an estate sale which may, or may not, be some sort of vacation souvenir from Polynesia. For some reason it called to me. On the way home in the car we were hoping that it wasn’t like that episode of the Brady Bunch where Peter and Bobby pick up a cursed tiki necklace that brings bad luck. But so far, so good.
Our kitchen is pretty small; maybe 9″ by 5″ total. But it’s a good layout in which two people can work side by side. If I could renovate the kitchen tomorrow, I would only move things over slightly, put the range in the corner, and pop in a dishwasher. Alas, that’s pretty far off.
Despite its diminutive size, our kitchen holds a lot of neat gadgets that I use all the time. Usually, we pick up gadgets at Aldi, IKEA, or our favorite local cookware store Fante’s Kitchen Shop which is located in the Italian Market here in Philly. My current most-used favorite items are:
- A veggie chopper, which also has a mandolin option or spiralizer. I got it because I can’t stand chopping onions and they way they go right into the container and stay safely closed up.
- A garlic chopper, which is ridiculously adorable. Garlic is sticky when you cut it, which is annoying. Now, I just pop it into the little chopper, plunge the top down, and voila. No sticky fingers. It does both diced and sliced. Pretty awesome for a little thing.
- Adorable matryoshka nesting dolls measuring cups and spoons. Six measuring cups fit neatly inside each other and look very cute when not in use. I found the matching measuring spoons later and now have a full set.
I also have the standard fare: good mixing bowls, a growing collection of stainless steel cookware, wooden spoons, whisks, what-have-you. One day, I would like a matching set of really good cookware. Maybe after the teenager, who also cooks and sometimes ruins pots, moves out.
This is going to be a moving target and I’ll probably revisit every now and then and add more.
- German Skillet w/ Mustard Cream Sauce – We’ve adapted the recipe by adding celery and carrots and cooking it in the smoker instead of the oven. It’s a one pan wonder. During German Week at Aldi they have this sweet Bavarian mustard that is awesome and I usually eat the skillet with that instead of the cream sauce.
- Spicy Mandelorian Stew – This one is so, so good. It’s sort of a modified chicken curry stew with couscous.
- Cheesy, Spicy Black Bean Bake – This is one from The New York Times. By itself it needs something. Luckily I had some leftover plantains and it’s fantastic served over some fried plantain discs. Serve with some shredded queso fresca.