The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook
228 pages; Softcover, Some Sketches
By Justin Spring
Broadway Books, NY, NY, 2006
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek, June 2006

I remember visiting my mother's cousin in Astoria, Queens, New York, when I was just a teenager. I'll never forget the size of the kitchen, it was no bigger than a sheet of plywood 4x8 feet, this wasn't even in an apartment, it was a house! Can you imagine kitchens being constructed today in city apartments, they may be the same 4x8 footprint or even smaller. What will you do if you rent or purchase such a unit, how will you make the kitchen work, how will you even have guests over for dinner?

Help is finally here! Justin Spring has written the Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook featuring 100 recipes. This is "everything you need to know about setting up and cooking in the most ridiculously small kitchen in the worldyour own." Justin recommends a serious clean-up of your new space and watch for tell-tale signs of pests. Upon completion, make sure your appliances work and that the oven is accurate. Helpful tips are given as to how to go about this. Organization is achieved through creating zones and by banishing your junk drawer, if you’re used to having one. Important tips on lighting, painting and the reflective use of mirrors help you make the most of the small space. The author goes as far as recommending a list of utensils, pots and pans and bakeware, along with suggestions on all other items needed in a kitchen.

Following the initial setup page are 100 recipes that will work in your small kitchen. Recipes for soups such as Dried Porcini Mushroom and Barley Soup, page 90, was quick to make and a good recipe especially when the optional sour cream and chives were added. Roasted Oven Poached Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast on page 121 couldn't be any simpler to make, albeit plain! Marzipan Baked Apples on page 182 received a flavor boost with cardamom pods and the optional vanilla ice cream made them wickedly good. After a few meals under your belt you may be ready for entertaining a few or a lot of guests so there are suggestions on how to go about this too and especially on how not to be overwhelmed with the clean up.

The bottom line is that if you know some one who may be going into a new living environment with a really small kitchen or even a first time, inexperienced apartment dweller, then this book is for them! If not and you have a first time new larger kitchen, it may offer some helpful ideas. I think that this book would be a great gift for any college graduate who may be starting out on a new life!

Dried Porcini Mushroom and Barley Soup

This recipe makes a nice, dark, thick, rich, and (optionally) vegetarian soup-one so thick that it's almost a stew.

Serves 4

2 to 4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
two, 10-ounce boxes white mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 cup pearl barley
sour cream (optional)
minced chives (optional)

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 15 minutes. Reserving the soaking liquid, drain the mushrooms, rinse them of grit under running water, and chop them. Strain the mushroom liquid through a paper coffee filter to remove any additional sand and grit.
Wipe clean and slice the white mushrooms (a sturdy egg slicer, if you have one, does this very quickly). saute them in a 3 1/2-quart saucepan in the butter and olive oil, sprinkling them with salt and pepper to taste; cook them until brown. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, not letting them brown or burn. Add the chicken broth, the porcini mushrooms, and the reserved soaking liquid, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the barley and cook for another 40 minutes, adding more water or broth if the mixture gets too thick.

Serve as is, or with a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives if desired.

Toaster Oven Poached Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast

Skinless, boneless poached chicken breast is a great starting point for fast entree salads, casseroles, and sandwiches. Eat this plain poached chicken while it is still warm with a sauce of your choosing-cranberry sauce, various chutneys, bottled lingonberries, and Quick Cumberland Sauce (page 152) are the favorites in my home-or else chill the chicken
for slicing, cubing, or shredding later.

Serves 4

nonstick cooking spray
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat your Toasted Oven to 400 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Wash the chicken under cold running water and pat it dry with paper towels. Trim away any fat. Place the chicken in the baking dish; it will fIt'snugly. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the surface of the chicken and cover the dish securely with tinfoil, pressing the foil down on the surface of the chicken. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is white and firm to the touch. Remove and serve, or let cool before transferring to a storage container and refrigerating for later use.

Marzipan Baked Apples

Baked apples are delicious whether served hot, warm, or at room temperature-with cream, ice cream, whipped cream, custard ... or just by themselves. Make a few of them at a time to keep on hand for quick, homey snacks. Since they taste great at room temperature, they are perfect for a make-ahead dinner party.

Marzipan is a sweetened almond paste available in the baking section of most supermarkets; the best-known brand in the U.S. is Odense, which comes in a 7-ounce tube.

Serves 2

2 apples golden delicious recommended; it holds its shape best
6 tablespoons marzipan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods, cracked (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat your Toaster Oven to 350 degrees F.

Core each apple, then cut a line or strip through the skin, either with a knife or vegetable peeler, about a third of the way down the apple (this is to keep the apple from bursting while it cooks). Fill the core of each apple with 3 tablespoons marzipan. Put 1 tablespoon butter on top of each apple and place the apples on an ovenproof dish. Arrange the cinnamon sticks and green cardamom pods if using in the dish with the apples. Dissolve the sugar in 1/4 cup warm water and pour it over the apples. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the cooked apples with a spatula, being careful that the marzipan core does not slip out the bottom. Reduce the remaining sauce in a nonstick pan if you like. Pour the sauce, reduced or not, over the apples before serving.