Friday, October 28, 2011

The pantry reorg project 2011

I think this Día de los Muertos my Mother is hanging around. I have not done this much kitchen cleaning in forever. Hoping she can ignore the rest of the house for now and just be pleased with this much.

For about nine days I have been working on reorganizing my pantries and kitchen. Yes, pantries, as in the plural. In fact I have four: one in the kitchen, one in the hall toward the powder room, a new one in the hall closet, and a huge chunk of an upstairs closet where little-used items live. I am a pack rat and I know it. I also like equipment to cook whatever I feel like cooking. Enough with confessions.

Before and after photos were requested. There is no way I would share what any of this looked like before. Here are after photos taken this evening. Most of this was done prior to today as I am resting my infected leg.

This is the counter to the right of the stove with stirring and whisking and ladling and scraping devices. Also the many oils and vinegars, salt and pepper. An old man lives here because his pills for the week are all laid out where he won't forget to take them each morning.

This is the space to the left of the stove with the Kitchen Aid, new white dishes, more salt and pepper devices, butter dish, toaster, knives, and spoon rest.

This is "la cave" or most of it. All the reds and some of the whites, ranging from about $5 to $25 a bottle. I can't usually taste higher than that. Right now these are mostly Italian since that is the kind of cooking I am doing.

This is the kitchen pantry. I have detail photos but will spare you those. Since I am tall the top two shelves are at eye level, which is why lots of jars live on the right where I can see them easily. Pastas, grains, flours mostly inhabit the top left. Then come cooking and serving ware, then miscellaneous (including my workout supplements). Oil for frying and vinegar are hiding behind the pizza stone. The floor in this pantry was swept and mopped tonight and I am glowing with satisfaction.

Plastic containers for leftovers etc. have been matched with lids. About 40% are in another pantry (see below). 20% are in a box as take-home gifts for tomorrow's dinner guests, if they want them. The remaining 40%, largely unmatched, have been tossed in the trash. Finally.

This is the new pantry in the hall closet. It holds heavier equipment: the ice cream freezer, larger serving platters, a triple crock pot, all the cake and pie and tarte tins, overflow linens, food mill, pasta drying rack, and deep fryer.

Here is a view above the fridge that needs a new circulating fan. Nuts and dried fruits on top (and emergency healthcare directives, just in case you are at my house and I have a heart attack). A talavera dish and a print from a wine tasting trip years ago. Those who embiggen the photo may recognize some of the refrigerator magnets.

The "side pantry" on the way to the powder room: upper shelves. Here are wine carafes; dish towels and dish cloths and aprons tossed indecorously atop one another; coffee and tea devices, ramekins, and protein bars.

The lower shelves include the teas, rice steamer, cast iron devices, trivets, and storage containers. Below that is a huge bag of rice.

Saints watching over the kitchen include La Morenita (for everything), of course, San Pascual (for kitchens), Maria Magdalena (for witness and faithfulness), Genesius (for theatre folk), Antonio de Padua (because he was there and loves Jesus), Roque (for plague victims and people like me with infected legs), and Rafael (for healing). My home is dedicated to Guadalupe, Rafael, and Cuthbert. St Rock's feast is my Aunt Jesse's birthday, the Archangel Raphael's feast on older calendars was my Uncle Virgil's birthday, and Mary Magdalen's feast is Jim O'Donnell's birthday. Let us keep Jim in our prayers as he prepares to join the saints.

An overview of the stove side with decorative items above the cabinets.

And this is the table set for tomorrow's dinner. The napkins were starched a couple weeks ago. The tablecloth went from the dryer to the table without an iron. Yes, there is wicked candy corn in the little pumpkins. Grown ups gotta be bad too.

Welcome to my kitchen. No, you may not see any photos of the sink area right now. What, you want everything? Forget it.

I have done lots of rescheduling tomorrow's meal to minimize time on my feet. The soup is easy and so are the vegetables. I bought two loaves of rustic breads at Trader Joe's instead of baking them. I am not trying a new technique for dessert. Pumpkin bread (now cooling) was from a mix and I will make the cinnamon gelato tomorrow. No new techniques there, just different recipe. The chicken dish should not be hard and everything should be cooked and warming before guests arrive. Then I can sit down, with my leg up, and visit and enjoy my friends.

May you all have a safe and blessed Season of the Dead (who live in God).

--the BB

Monday, October 24, 2011

Le weekend

OK, y'all know I've been on a major cooking and entertaining jag all summer and into the autumn. It is a revival of a long-time interest. As a boy I hung out in my mother's kitchen. During my college years I worked summers as a dishwasher and cook's helper. While in college I also occasionally served as a waiter when we had formal dinners. I used to bake a lot in my junior and senior years. Bill and I both love to cook and we enjoyed entertaining.

When I became single again I retreated from the world, big time. I needed to on many levels; it was more than depression. I needed to find myself again and moving to New Mexico was a way to go into the desert and be alone with myself (and my demons and angels). Each year I feel more myself. And I am cooking again, feeding people, trying to give people an experience similar to going to a nice restaurant.

Yes, I have indulged mightily in retail therapy, buying multiple sets of dishes, linens, new flatware, and some cooking equipment. This is also an investment in my future. I certainly hope to throw dinner parties when I retire somewhere down the road.

Saturday I assembled some shelving and put it in the hall closet, which has been grossly underused. Heavier cooking equipment, the silver chest, the cake and pie tins, spare glassware (extra red wines and champagne flutes) have all moved there. They are accessible but out of the way. This has freed space in the pantries (yes, I have two of them) and I am reorganizing those so things are where I can find them. Counters are more organized and usable. I have been cleaning a lot of stuff that had been hidden away.

I also baked some plain rustic bread and a lemon-ricotta cake, the latter for a potluck. I had the idea last week of making ginger-pear gelato, so I improvised and did that. Sunday I was looking at some red lentils that have languished in a corner of the kitchen for way too long. They joined some orzo, beef broth, a shallot, a carrot, some celery, and spices to become a stew for Sunday dinner. The photos and much of this commentary have already appeared on Facebook, but here they are for my blog friends.

Red lentil and orzo stew with a mountain of parmigiano reggiano and some home-made bread.

Lemon-ricotta cake and the ginger-pear gelato that I have named "Gelato Lindy" for my dear online friend now in China.

Once I get the pantry reorg done, I will set the table for next Saturday's meal. If I remember to take photos, you will see that after it happens.

--the BB