strawberry chocolate quesadillas

Most things in my life don’t go as planned, so I should have known that an anniversary celebration would be no different. Chris and I had planned to venture up to City Island, bike around for the day, have a lobster roll, and then treat ourselves to a fancy dinner Saturday night at August on Bleecker Street (which I was very excited about). But Hurricane Irene had different plans for us. On Thursday, we decided we would go to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image and maybe a movie, as a backup rain plan instead of City Island, and then to dinner. Big grey rain boots didn’t really go with my outfit, but I’d make it work. Friday afternoon, Bloomberg announced that all subways and buses would be shut down at noon on Saturday. Ok, we thought, we’ll take a cab. And then the restaurant called to say they were closing in preparation for the storm. And then the Museum closed, and the movie theaters, etc, etc, etc. Onto plan D! Grocery store and Netflix.

Strawberry chocolate quesadillas in the pan

Chris and I planned out a few days worth of meals, just as a worst case scenario, including lemon pepper shrimp linguine, bread and cheese, wine, and salad for our anniversary dinner. But what would dessert be? Baking cookies or brownies didn’t seem special enough, so I reached for my Moosewood box of recipe cards that I picked up in Maine. Strawberry chocolate quesadillas? The recipe was in the “Spring” season section, but I didn’t care. Immediate winner. It’s pretty simple really: slice up about a cup and a half of strawberries, mix in a little confectioners sugar and cinnamon. Place a tortilla in a lightly oiled pan, cover one half with the strawberry mixture, the other half with chocolate chips, and when the chocolate chips start to melt, fold it in half. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and whipped cream if you like. We decided it would also be great with bananas… or nutella… or ice cream… or pretty much anything.

We even made another batch for breakfast the next morning. Because dessert for breakfast is totally allowed on special occasions.

Strawberry chocolate quesadillas

beet green & goat cheese crostini

Beet greens

The last CSA farm share pick-up came with some delicious beets, which of course meant that I was left wondering what to do with the beet tops (greens) afterwards. Pretty much all of the recipes I’ve ever seen for beet greens involve sautéing them in some combination of olive oil, garlic, onion, white wine, and lemon juice. But I wanted something a little different. So luckily for me I discovered this recipe for crostini topped with beet greens and goat cheese – and I had leftover goat cheese! Not only did the recipe sound perfect and tasty, but the really awesome photography helped too.

I picked up a long crusty french baguette at the store (and felt very French biking home with it sticking out about three feet off the back of my bike) and cut it on an angle to get longer slices. I toasted the slices in a pan with a little olive oil and set them aside.  The beet greens needed a thorough washing (two actually) before I chopped the red stems into small pieces, and the leaves separately into strips. I sauteed two cloves of minced garlic (maybe a bit too much?) in extra virgin olive oil and then added the beet green stems and let them cook for about five or six minutes. Finally I added the leaves and let them cook for about two more minutes until they were nicely wilted, and tossed everything with balsamic vinegar and sea salt to taste. I mixed the herb-coated goat cheese together with fresh lemon juice and black pepper and spread it over each piece of toasted bread, topping them off with a heap of beet greens. The original recipe suggested putting a thin slice of lemon on each, which I didn’t do because I added quite a hefty squeeze of lemon to the cheese, but it would have added a nice color contrast. It was a (slightly messy but) great flavorful appetizer with grilled tilapia and heirloom tomato salad. This makes for happy taste buds – and lots of Vitamin A and K!

Beet green & goat cheese crostini

cous cous with grilled summer squash, beets, and goat cheese

Yesterday we picked up our second free share of farm vegetables (see last post for the how and why!) which included beets, two kinds of summer squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, boston lettuce, and cantaloupe. I started searching for recipe ideas that would include as many of the vegetables as possible, but believe it or not there’s not a single recipe out there apparently that includes beets, squash, and eggplant. But I found a recipe on epicurious that I was able to improvise on. Here’s my version:

Summer squash & eggplant; Cous cous with veggies, beets, and goat cheese

Boil or steam beets until cooked (20-40 minutes depending on size), peel, and chop into slices or matchsticks. Whisk together 1 tbs sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss with beets in a bowl. Bring 2 cups water (or vegetable stock), a little salt, and 1 tbs olive oil to a boil. Stir in 1 cup couscous, then cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat 1 tbs oil in a skillet and cook a diced red onion for a few minutes. Then add a chopped bell pepper (I used red), and the kernels cut from a fresh ear of corn and cook, stirring about 3 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and stir into vegetables, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice summer squash and eggplant into thin slices, toss with olive oil and grill in batches or oven bake (I used my cast iron stovetop grill skillet), then add to cous cous/veggie bowl. Serve cous cous and veggies on plates topped with a helping of beets and a slice of herb-coated goat cheese.

It was a delicious combo! (And if you want to make it vegan, just leave out the goat cheese – although I think it’s what ties the whole dish together. And if you want to go not vegetarian, you can add prosciutto, as suggested in the original recipe). We also had a salad of boston lettuce and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette with a touch of honey and sesame seeds. We still have the beet greens to use though… any good suggestions?

farm shares and purple produce

Due to some generosity and the good fortune of our friends’ vacation, Chris and I inherited two weeks worth of farm-fresh produce. Our friends are members of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the Dumbo/Vinegar Hill neighborhood. For those of you not familiar, CSA’s are a way for people to buy produce directly from local farms. Before the harvest season, members pre-pay to buy fresh, locally grown organic vegetables which they pick up one evening a week. The farm for this CSA is Sang Lee Farm on Long Island, and this week our share included red romaine, red bulb onions, a bunch of ong choy, purple basil, cherry tomatoes, orange heirloom tomatoes, and watermelon. The night we picked up the share, we made a big pot of mussels with white wine and crusty bread, sauteed the ong choy (which I had never heard of but it tasted kind of like spinach) with garlic and olive oil, made a salad of the red romaine and cherry tomatoes, and had some watermelon for dessert. I was in fresh veggie heaven, and we still had the onions, purple basil, orange tomato, and lots of watermelon left over.

Fairytale eggplant, purple basil, swiss chard, and olive bread


Cinnamon basil

On to the leftovers. Our friends whose CSA share it was had gotten some purple basil the week before (another thing I didn’t know existed until now!) and said it made a good pesto, so on Saturday I started preparing to make a purple pesto sauce for dinner. I found an interesting recipe which is lower in fat than most pesto sauces and uses tomatoes, which is really unusual. However, I quickly realized I didn’t have enough purple basil to make pesto, so I headed to the farmers market to look for more. I couldn’t find any purple basil, but as I wandered around past regular basil, thai basil, and lemon basil, I spotted huge bunches of flowery leaves labeled “cinnamon basil” at one of the stands. As soon as I got it home my whole apartment smelled incredible – like spicy, pungent cinnamony basil goodness. I even kept the flowers in a glass of water after I pulled all the leaves off because they were so pretty. At the market, I also picked up a loaf of black olive semolina bread, these tiny bright purple eggplants called “fairytale eggplant” and a beautiful bundle of swiss chard. With the CSA leftovers plus the farmers market additions, the dinner menu came together: orange heirloom tomatoes with watermelon & feta, black olive semolina bruschetta with purple/cinnamon basil pesto & grilled fairytale eggplant (idea found here), sauteed swiss chard with red onions, white wine, lemon & parmesan, and the rest of the pesto tossed with some whole wheat penne. Truly a feast. And I used more of the leftover pesto mixed with scrambled eggs for brunch this morning. Is there anything basil can’t make better?


Eggplant bruschetta & sauteed swiss chard

kitchenette cooking: making the most of zero space

So here it is folks: the actual Kitchenette where all the meals on Kitchenette Foodie are created (and a glimpse of my whole apartment actually, just so you can understand what small space living really means!). I realized that I started this blog with the intention of offering advice on cooking in tiny areas, and yet I haven’t really mentioned it at all yet. I’ve been distracted by the actual food… so this whole post will be dedicated to just that.

1. If you have no counter space, invest in a rolling kitchen cart. Mine serves as counter space as well as for storage. It has a cabinet with two shelves and a drawer – the ONLY drawer in the kitchen. I ordered mine online for about $90 and assembled it myself (not expertly, I might add – after about a month of fighting with my shoddily assembled drawer every time he tried to find a fork, my boyfriend took it apart and reassembled it).

2. When you have no drawers, nice bowls are your best friend. My silverware lives in my one rolling cart drawer, and all other kitchen utensils are kept in my lovely Crate & Barrel popcorn bowls (table centerpieces from my friend Katie’s wedding in 2005).

3. Constant cleanup. Cooking generates a lot of dishes – even before you sit down to actually eat. In a small space like this, washing, drying, and putting away equipment as you go is essential. Otherwise you’ll end up unable to even see your sink. I use a wire rack (meant for cooling baked goods) over a dish towel when I air dry.

4. Use your vertical space. As you can see, I have pots and pans stacked until they touch the ceiling. Ikea shelves are great for small kitchens, and cheap! (I did hit my head once or twice while standing at the stove, before I got used to them). I’d like to say I installed these myself (I do own a drill and like using it!), but I’m 5’3. Sometimes you just have to let a tall man help. And pay him in beer.

5. An oven isn’t just an oven; it’s a cabinet. You can’t tell, but my oven contains a cookie sheet, a cast iron grill pan, and two pyrex baking dishes. There’s no shame in using your oven for storage – just don’t forget to take everything out before you preheat the oven. Just in case I’m forgetful, I never store anything melt-able, like plastic, in my oven.

6. Your kitchen can trickle into your living room, especially if there are no walls or doors. I have more kitchen items than anything else (I think when I moved, 70% of the boxes were labeled “Kitchen”). I keep cookbooks and salad bowls on top of my dresser drawers, and wine glasses, champagne glasses, cocktail shakers, smaller cookbooks, and a seltzer maker on my bookshelves. If you act like it’s a planned component of your decor, it works.

7. Coffee tables double as chopping blocks. When I’m preparing a multi-course meal or have lots going on in the kitchen, I bring my cutting boards over to the coffee table and chop there. For certain tasks, I even prefer the coffee table. It’s the best place to use a citrus juicer because it’s low down and I can get more leverage. Plus, it’s nice to sit down and relax while chopping or peeling vegetables sometimes. Just don’t get distracted. Last November, the combination of a very sharp Japanese chef’s knife, rock-hard raw butternut squash, and watching old Arrested Development episodes on Netflix almost cost me a fingertip!

8. This isn’t really a tip, but if you have a canine sous-chef like mine, who likes to be underneath you at all times, don’t forget to check their head and back after you’re done cooking. Eloise usually has a sprinkling of whatever I’ve dropped on the floor all over her. And picking garlic out of dog fur is much harder once it dries.