Sunday, February 26, 2017

How to Cook like a Chef (in a Confined Space)

There has never been a better time than now to develop and cultivate your culinary skills.  An abundance of easy online recipes and a new availability of fresh and formerly hard to find ingredients allow us all to easily get in touch with our inner Julia Childs and Jamie Olivers.  However, our cozy apartment kitchens often make cooking like a chef a serious challenge.  But before you go running to the frozen pizza aisle in defeat, here are some tips to help you cook like a gourmet when space is at a premium.     

Organize your Ingredients
Food packing can take up a lot of space.  By storing your dry ingredients in clear jars you can maximize storage, and clearly identify what you have in stock at the same time.  This works really well for dried beans, nuts, fruits, and seeds, as well as for flours, spices, and noodles.  Shifting your shopping habits can also help you free up some space.  Instead of sticking with the more traditional large weekly shop, try to pop out a few more times per week for slightly smaller but more targeted shopping trips.  This helps you maintain a running awareness of what is in your fridge and pantry, and forces you to buy fresh.  Big shops tend to lead you to over-buy, which results in ingredients getting buried in the backs of crispers and going off before you get a chance to cook with them.  

Re-jig your Real EstateThere are several tricks available to help you take back some much needed counter and prep space.  A wall-mounted, magnetic strip that allows you to store all of your knives is a great—and cool looking—example of this.  Another prep space solution is to invest in a slightly larger cutting board.  This seems counter-intuitive, but a larger cutting board can fit across your sink creating a whole new counter space in the process.  When you can’t build sideways, build up—which is why a small-sized, multi-layered cooling rack is essential.  These little racks allow you to cool and rest prepared food strait from the oven, but they can also double as storage for prepped ingredients, or for plates that are in the process of completion.  Finally, maximize your space by using that nether zone between the kitchen ceiling and the tops of your cupboards.  This is a great little shelf to store cookbooks, baking racks, pots and pans, and those kitchen gadgets you hardly ever use.  

Clean as you GoIt was true in home economics class and it remains true today—if you take the minimal time to clean and clear as you go you’ll find cooking in small spaces to be a much smoother process.  A few little tricks can help you achieve this if it doesn’t come easily.  First, peel your vegetables strait into your compost bin, and keep it open and at the ready to sweep remains into as you go—a freshly emptied compost bin makes this much more pleasant.  Also, if your sink is free, keep a small amount of warm soapy water in the basin.  This will allow you to quickly clean knives or utensils as you use them, and to quickly rinse off plates, pans, or pots to keep your area clean, and to keep you up and running.  A cluttered cooking area can really de-rail your culinary creativity.  If you clean and clear as you go, your mind stays open to the process of creating and allows you to prepare your best dishes in the smallest of spaces. 

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