Living without a dishwasher can be daunting. But there are other things that can make your kitchen a happy place. And the good news is : you don’t have to be rich to be my girl. Here are my 10 golden rules for an inspiring kitchen.
1. Shop small - overcrowded fridge and shelves mean you don’t know what ingredients you actually have in your pantry. Shop in small quantities rather than in bulk. Try only buying perishables for a week or two to use up all this rice and pasta from last year.
2. Prep ahead - you can whip up a great dinner in no time if you’ve done all the prep before (washed the greens, roasted the hazelnuts, made the coriander pesto, washed and cut the potatoes, the list goes on).
3. Use left-overs – I very rarely make one portion of something, making a little more risotto mean I can make arancini stuffed with gorgonzola the next day, making a little more pasta mean that I’ll make a lunch box in no time, roasting more beets mean that I can make a soup out of them.
4. Keep everything – the stalks of a bunch of herbs will help flavor a soup, and so will the crust of your parmesan cheese (disregard before blending your soup); old bread will find a new life in a chocolate pudding or as croûtons in a soup; your chicken carcass will make a fantastic stock; the skin of apples can make delicious snacks if you have the patience to oven roast them at very low temperature; before your juice a lemon or an orange, zest it and keep the zest to add a citrus flavor to your smoothie, salad, pasta dish, chocolate cake
5. Try new things - it’s all about finding new ingredients to play with, or match old ones with new. Recent winter discoveries include : chia seeds on corn cakes with honey, almond butter on toast, kale microgreen in smoothies and salads, heirloom beets chips, peppermint and baby spinach in smoothies, watermelon radishes in salads.
6. Improvise – my father always says ‘never follow a recipe’. After fighting him for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is right on this one. BUT, I would add that improvisation takes skills, and when it’s relatively easy to improvise while cooking, doing so while baking is another matter – it will only work there if you’re an experienced baker and it will work even better if you’re open to failures. Fail again fail better, yes that one. Improvising doesn’t always result in miracles. Having said that, the other night when I decided to mix fresh peanut butter with pomegranate molasses and olive oil, I thought I had invented a killer salad dressing. Except of course I probably wasn’t the first one. Tout est dit, et l’on vient trop tard, as usual. But then my roommate Lucy tried it: “this would work so well on ice cream”. I can’t wait to test it on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And maybe, who knows, that would be a first.
6. Don’t wash up as you go - unless you have an assistant or a dishwasher (the best friend I don’t have yet. Sigh.) I’m a partisan of the ‘leave everything soak in the sink with warm water and soap’ method. While your cake is in the oven, you can wash dishes with the good feeling of being done and the comforting smell of your cake baking. You’ll have all the time in the world to meditate on the beauty on washing up and the color of the dirty water of the day.
7. Invest in a few good things – if I could only pick three, they would be : a good knife that actually cuts (and not just my finger), an immersion blender (to make smoothies, soups, and pesto), and a dutch-oven (mine stayed in France, I’ve been debating whether to buy one in NY for the past 3 years)
8. Keeps glass jars – re-use your empty jam jars to make jam in the summer, you can also use them as glasses or containers for nuts, salt, sugar. Forget open packages of flour and the like: use glass jars!
9. Clean your fridge – a good fridge is a clean fridge but also an empty fridge – regularly cleaning it, and throwing away expired items is key. Products can’t just live in your fridge for years: it’s a short term hotel, not a home. I actually taught a “Fridge maintenance 101″ class last year. I’d love to do it again. Knowing how to organize your fridge is totally life-changing.
10. Use baking soda - forget harsh sprays to clean your oven, sink, stove or countertop, all you need is a little bit of baking soda, just enough to make a paste with some water. Baking soda saved my life one day I had to clean the stove of the house I had just moved in – I knew it was probably white underneath the dark layers of 3 years of crap. It took me a few hours and it was definitely a workout but I did it using baking soda as a scrub. Baking soda will also help deodorize your fridge and freezer. And if you’ve got an indigestion, drinking water with a teaspoon of baking soda will work wonders.
11. Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without a little bonus. It is : LIGHT. I couldn’t emphasize this enough. While some love cooking in a kitchen with a neon light on the ceiling, I don’t – even though I find this very charming and old school and 1980s, I believe in practicals. Just because your kitchen has a light on the ceiling doesn’t mean you can’t turn it off and bring in alternative sources of lighting. Your skin and your food will look better. You’re welcome.