Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back in the Kitchen

Where did eight months go? It isn't as if I stopped cooking or eating. I guess it is catch-up time.

The rebuild on our house was more or less done in February. We've been back in since early March. There was quite a bit of change, but not of the over-all square-footage. The open floor plan we went with for the front of the house works really well. The color of the cabinets is fairly close to that of the first photograph. (This was shot before we actually moved back in and is a view from the living room into the kitchen area. The powder room is just past a coat closet next to the front door. The hall was formed to make room for an additional couple of cabinets.)My new kitchen has a pantry, a big oven and range, a big refrigerator (after dealing with the horrible rental refrigerator, we're doing the happy dance), and lots of cabinets (though, sadly, there are never enough cabinets.) Did I mention the walk-in pantry where the useless laundry sink used to be? The kitchen sink now looks into the yard, rather than the living room, but it does not have a big, single tub like I finally got when we redid the kitchen three years ago.
Somehow, the contractor didn't hear that I wanted it returned, no matter how many times I told him. The granite counters are lovely, but every one of them is a bit too high for my comfort. I anxiously await the return or my great grandmother's Hoosier kitchen, which will have a workspace for someone of my height.The door leads out to my garden--and the grilling area. My landscape artist just got the raised beds in for my herbs and vegetables and I can't wait to get plants in that will attract humming birds near the kitchen window.

The counter on the right is over a good-sized cabinet with drawers and has a seating area outside the range of the picture. This was taken before we moved things back in. It's a little more crowded on those counters now.

The new kitchen does inspire use, but I've largely been limited by time (mostly spent unpacking) to making dinner for the Sunday Super Supper Squad. I've rediscovered the joys of using a crock pot after purchasing a copy of The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. It's a great way to cook for a crowd, especially if you don't have a lot of time.

On Sunday, I tried the recipe for Seafood Couscous. It was a good choice because my husband, who has limited seafood tastes, was on a plane back from a comic book convention in Calgary, and my pescatarian was in attendance. Len will eat salmon, tuna, and swordfish, but won't eat most whitefish or shellfish (there's an exception for peeled shrimp.)
This wasn't the best styling I've ever done on a plate of food, but I appreciate my friend Liz taking the picture for me before it disappeared. Everyone loved it and it was so easy to make. Onions and garlic are sauteed, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste added, along with broth and clam juice and brought to a boil. Then it's into the crock pot for four hours on low. The fish (scallops, shrimp, and firm white fish) get added 20 minutes before serving. The couscous is made separately. I have a six and a half quart crock pot and doubling the recipe filled it up.

Thanks also go to my son, Michael, who is turning into a great assistant. He does a great job with prep, which has been a godsend since I broke my arm in December (there went four months of my life.) I'm almost done with physical therapy, but he's been most helpful. If French cooking is about perfection and not yield, he's got a future in the kitchen.

Michael has just complete the third of three three-day cooking basics classes taught at Sur la Table at the Los Angeles Farmers Market on Fairfax. (If you have a Sur La Table in your area, check them out. Not all of the stores hold classes.) The group that took the first round had such a good time that they convinced the chef to do it twice more with different recipes. I wish I had the time to go with him and our friend Sandy, who's been doing the driving. Tomorrow they get to go to a wine and cheese tasting, which is so much more fun than anything I'll be doing.

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