People often say to me, “My kitchen is too small to cook in.” I’d like to help all of you tiny kitchen dwellers out there re-frame this thought. Most restaurant kitchens are tiny and they are producing a lot more food than you will ever need to. Space is valuable and good location rent is high. restaurateurs want all possible square footage to go to an extra seat in the dining room not elbow room for the cooks. But there are also advantages to cooking in smaller spaces. with good design then each movement is an efficient one. When you are cooking for 300, extra steps between the stove and the counter add up fast. Having what you need within reach can make all the difference. The same principle applies to home kitchens.
A great example of the joy and innovation that can be found in a tiny kitchen is Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, one of my all time favorite stories.
The “Food Fantasies” episode of PRI’s Selected Shorts is such a treat. It’s a rebroadcast that includes Colwin’s “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” and the story of perhaps the most outrageous recipe ever imagined.
Adapted from classic Chinese scallion pancake recipes, adding extra veggies pack vitamins into these tasty treats.
Serves 6 as a side or appetizer
1 ½ cups of flour, plus more as needed and for rolling
½ cup of warm water
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Kale 6-8 leaves, chopped remove end stems and save for another use, like adding to stir fry (any leafy green can be used try tatsoi for variety)
Vegetable or canola oil for cooking
In a large bowl mix flour and water together to form a smooth dough. Add flour as needed if the dough is sticky. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Let dough rest for 30 minutes in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel.
Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out one half into an inch-thick cylinder. Cut the dough rope into 2-inch sections. Then with a rollingpin roll out into a thin disk.
Lightly brush each circle with sesame oil. Sprinkle on the scallions, kale, and salt. Roll up the circles and then coil like a snail. Then with a rolling pin roll flat again. At this stage you may freeze them for future use, just layer with parchment paper.
Heat 2 tbsps of oil in a skillet. Cook the pancakes over medium high heat, about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Serve warm with soy sauce or chili sauce for dipping.
Braised Chesapeake Clams with Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash)
The Three Sisters were the three main agricultural crops of various Native American groups in North America: squash, corn, and climbing beans. In one technique known as companion planting, the three crops are planted close together. The three crops benefit from each other. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn lacks nutrients found in the beans, which the human body needs to make proteins and niacin, therefore corn and beans together provide a balanced diet.
I love this one pot dish and it showcases little neck clams which are native to the Chesapeake Bay. Clams are also a sustainable seafood choice approved by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch as a Best Choice if farmed.
pairing suggestion:local Belgian-style beer such as Port City Optimal Wit or DC Brau Citizen
16-20 Littleneck Clams
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 ear of corn, shucked and scrubbed and cut off the cob
1 zucchini, small diced
2-4 tbsps olive oil
½ cup of white wine, beer, or dry vermouth
⅓ cup cooked shell beans such as Cranberry or Bird’s Egg beans (If they are fresh they only need to cook for about 20-30 minutes until tender. If dried soak overnight before cooking.) Drain.
1 pat of butter, optional
2 tsps chopped parsley
Soak the clams in cold water with a pinch of cornmeal or pepper for 20 mins so that they spit out the grit, scrub and rinse under cold water.
Heat olive oil in in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic corn, and zucchini. Saute stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender.
Add liquid to deglaze scraping bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the beans and clams. Cook until the clams open and the beans are heated through. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Add more liquid if necessary depending on how much sauce you like. Stir in a pat of butter to finish. Taste and pepper. You most likely don’t need to add salt since the clams add their own salinity of the sea.
Serve warm in bowls, garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty bread for dipping and a bright vinegary salad.
Culinary Adventures: Exploring local tastes to preserve food heritage and regional traditions.