Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Kitchen

My little Spanish kitchen is very different from all the kitchens I'm used to using at home.  Oops... this is home.  I mean back in L.A.

First off, my mother was never much of a cook, so the kitchen tools are seriously lacking.  All of my accumulated bake ware, mixing bowls, ramekins, wooden spoons, measuring devices, etc. have been left behind... some I put in storage, some I gave on indefinite loan to friends, some I just gave away.

How many times have I cursed myself out saying "damnit!  I wish I had my ______"? 

Secondly, some of what I would consider to be "staple pantry" ingredients are hard to find.   Brown/molasses sugar?  took me 3 weeks to find it.  Now I know of 2 locations that sell it.  Vanilla extract?  I'm not picky - I find that imitation vanilla works just as fine as the pure vanilla extracts... but just finding any liquid form vanilla extract is a challenge in itself.  My local walking distance markets don't sell it.  That's why when I found this bottle, I had to buy it, no questions asked.

as if this little bottle will last me into 2012?  yes, i got in the habit of dating my spices
After I bought it, I asked myself - would a label like this be considered acceptable in the USA nowadays?  I'll file this under "lost in translation".

Baking now requires extra planning.  Do I have the right sized pan?  If not, what kind of substitute can I use to make it work.  Ingredients - what do I have, what do I need, what have I not found yet, what can I use as a substitute for what I can't find.

If I'm ever gonna want to enjoy food here, I'm just gonna have to learn how to cook with what's available.  Who knows, I might like the new version better?

This is what I made today:  Smitten Kitchen's Jacked-up Banana Bread.  I sorta did a hybrid of her recipe with a technique I'd read about in Cook's Illustrated - regarding using overripe bananas that have been stored in the freezer, then cooking down the watery liquid into some thick, flavorful reduction... Amazing!

well, it tasted much better than it looks... damned lighting.

not much better in the photo department... just look at smitten kitchen's pictures - she's a pro. i'm using an iphone

 Speaking of photographing in the kitchen.  Some of my friends might be wondering why I'm not photographing my food as much anymore.  Well, for one thing, the lighting's all wrong.  The backdrop is rather hideous as well.  My Ridgeley apartment had decent light.  The Windsor house had amazing lighting, and a great backdrop - everything looked better there.  Same with the Dahl house.  Of course I took tons of food pictures there.

But here?
60's era harvest gold with an 'updated' granite countertop.
I love old kitchens.  I also enjoy some modern kitchens.  Sometimes updated kitchens can be tastefully done.  But a "modern" black speckled granite countertop in a 60's harvest yellow kitchen?????  If you are only changing one aspect of a kitchen, don't fight against what you're given - work with it - install some countertop that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb... Mind the context, please!  Oy.  And with the unflattering fluorescent lighting, and no natural light... well, I hope I've made my case. 

Alas, my favorite cheerful red and white cherry patterned oven mitts also don't fit in this kitchen.  My old tendency toward all things green and orange will work, however.  Too bad they're all in California.

Will this rain ever stop?  It is chucking buckets right now!  Maybe this is why I'm writing:  I have a sore case of cabin fever.

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