Some girls dream about their first house with a white picket fence, a large yard for the dog and the kids to run around, and a front porch complete with a rocking chair. While this image seems absolutely wonderful, my idea of my first home is very different. For me, images of a fence or a yard or a porch do not cross my mind. Instead, my dream home is based around what my kitchen would like.
When I was a little girl one of my favorite “toys” was my play kitchen. Though it was relatively simple compared to the ones today with battery-powered microwaves, light fixtures, and ovens that chime, I adored everything about it. I could spend hours placing plastic fruit in the blender for “smoothies” or flipping “eggs” in the fry pan to serve my dolls for breakfast. Playing in the kitchen, I felt like a mother, the person the family could rely on to literally put food on the table. Perhaps an early sign of my future love of cooking, those moments with that kitchen are some of my favorite memories of childhood.
Despite that this kitchen was useless for nothing other than endless hours of entertainment, it will forever be known as my first kitchen. Though it was perfectly suitable for my five-year old self, my older foodie self aspires to have something a bit more sophisticated. Looking into the future, I envision myself cooking for my family in a very particular room: a large space with an island and a glass cutting board for chopping and prepping ingredients; a two-door refrigerator with a built-in ice maker; plenty of counter space to make a mess; fine wooden cabinets to store all my pots and pans and unnecessary gadgets; a spinning spice rack for my spices and dried herbs; and an electric oven with a glass ceramic cooktop, all set within a space decorated with Tuscan color palate. Some girls want green grass yards; I want an island.
Although I recognize that this kitchen is years away from reality (thanks, student loans), I had this sense of optimism and brightness when envisioning the kitchen of my summer apartment. With an oven and countertop space to look forward to, I spent those weeks before move-in mentally preparing myself for the evenings when I could come home after work and cook dinner. Unfortunately, the kitchen I arrived to might as well be the kitchen I played with as child.
It is difficult for me to know where to begin when trying to describe my apartment’s kitchen. Notwithstanding that I am living in campus housing, I still expected more from my kitchen. I anticipated the luxury of having a full size refrigerator with attached freezer, but what I arrived to instead was two mini units surrounded by storage drawers. I also expected a working oven. While the oven does work, its position perpendicular to the mini freezer makes it nearly impossible to open its door all the way. Until I can come up with a solution that would allow me to take out a baking sheet without burning myself, my dreams of making cookies and scones are on hold.
Adding to the kitchen nightmare is the absence of two essential appliances: a microwave and toaster. When I initially arrived to the apartment, there was a microwave on the counter; that, however, was very short-lived. After about a week I arrived back to find the appliance gone, having been returned to the Georgetown organization it had originally been stolen from weeks earlier. A toaster has never seen a day in the apartment, and thus I have resulted to using my fractured oven to crisp up my bread and bagels.
Yet, in spite of all these flaws, there is someone/something who is enjoying the kitchen. While I might be the only chef in the kitchen, the mousetraps on my floor are a daily reminder that there is someone eager to finish any leftovers.
Until the time that Hell’s Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsey arrives to help make over my space, I have few options other than utilizing it or starving. Armed with lots of bleach, paper towels, and cleaning wipes, I have successfully managed to feed myself this past month. During this time, creativity and spontaneity have been the key adjectives to describe my cooking experiences. On a recent nigh, for example, when I wished to avoid a carb-laden meal, I wondered how I might use the frozen vegetables in my freezer without the zapping power of a microwave. With a sauté pan and the addition of a few seasonings, I impressed myself with a hearty dish of warm vegetables and pesto sauce. Full and satisfied with the taste, I realized that just maybe I don’t need that island after all…
Pesto Vegetable Stir Fry
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- One box of assorted frozen vegetables (I used a mix of potatoes, pea pods, green beans and peppers)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Handful of sun-dried tomatoes
- Two (large) spoonfuls of prepared pesto sauce
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Once warmed, add the minced garlic and let cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the frozen vegetables and about two tablespoons of water. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Cook vegetables until nearly tender, about eight minutes, and then add a handful of sun-dried tomatoes.
- Let the tomatoes warm through for about one minute before adding the spoonfuls of pesto. Mix all the ingredients together to coat the vegetables in the sauce.
- The best judgment for the vegetables doneness is the potatoes. If they are fork tender, then they are ready to go. You do not want to take the potatoes so far as to the point where they begin to break apart in the pan. Once everything is mixed and the pesto is heated through, remove from heat. You can enjoy this as is or mixed with cooked rice.