George Carlin said: “Everybody’s gotta have a little place for their stuff. That’s all life is about, trying to find a place for your stuff.” I’ve managed to get rid of a lot of stuff since my kids left home, but the kitchen and its “stuff”, are still important to me. Cooking a meal for myself, or others, defines home for me. What I’ve found though is that the definition of kitchen varies widely.
I grew up in a 35-room mansion in Bel Air, California. The house had been built in 1933 by actor Warner Baxter, who was best known for his role as The Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona, for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1930. This house had seven kitchens: main kitchen, diet kitchen, rec room kitchen, pool house kitchen, tennis court kitchen, gardener’s cottage kitchen and the dungeon (that’s right – dungeon) kitchen. As I have shared here, my Mother didn’t cook. Perhaps she was intimidated by the sheer multitude of kitchens. As for me, I was only eight when we moved in and I had enough trouble finding my bedroom, never mind the right kitchen.
At the other dwelling extreme, a couple years ago, I spent nearly two years living in a 20-foot trailer – my experiment with “tiny living”. I did it mostly to save money, because I was putting all of my resources into starting my ice cream company. The kitchen in the trailer was roughly the size of a telephone booth and included a single sink, propane stove/oven. and miniscule refrigerator/ freezer.
Cooking in the trailer was not without its challenges. I had two 40 pound bottles of propane that powered the stove and the water heater, and there was no way to tell when they were going to run out, until they did. This was inconvenient if I was in the middle of cooking. To refill them, I had to disconnect them, wrestle them into my car, and seat belt them into the back seat like little metal children. Then, I’d drive down to the 76 gas station, have them refilled, bring them back and reconnect them. Since the pilots would be out, I’d have to scrunch down on the tiny kitchen floor and reach inside the oven with a long lighter to get the pilot lit – praying that there wouldn’t be an explosion or that I wouldn’t set myself on fire. But for all the drama of my matchbook kitchen, I found that I was always able to make exactly what I wanted (emphasis on I).
From that experience, I have come to understand that all you really need to cook is heat, water and some way to keep fresh ingredients cold. The glitzy über kitchens we are urged to pine for are designed more for layouts in Architectural Digest than actual cooking. Now that I’m in a normal size home with a normal size kitchen, I have added a toaster, Magic Bullet blender (for smoothies and pesto) and an electric hand mixer (because I hate to hand beat cake batter). These luxuries, along with a chef’s knife, paring knife, micro-plane grater, rubber spatula, tongs and a small whisk, are absolutely all I needed to make practically anything.
These days, I like mostly simple meals such as turkey burgers sprinkled with The Godmother of Malibu’s Mediterranean salt, served with sautéed spinach or kale. Because I make (and sample) ice cream all day at my store, I try to keep my evening meal a little more Spartan.
I really love pasta, though, and one of my favorites is a simple baked lasagna that divides neatly into individual portions that I freeze and reheat as needed. Here’s the recipe:
(Don’t worry about getting the amounts exactly right; lasagna is very forgiving!)
- 1 box (9 ounce) no-boil lasagna noodles
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese mixed with —
- 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
- 2 25 ounce jars marinara sauce (I like the Trader Joe’s Organic)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In bowl, combine beaten eggs, ricotta cheese and 2 cups of the mozzarella/Parmesan mixture.
- In a 13 x 9 x 3 pan, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on bottom of pan.
- Layer in this order: 4 uncooked lasagna noodles (overlapping as necessary), then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, then half of the pesto sauce, then 1 cup mozzarella/Parmesan cheese, and finally 1 cup of marinara sauce.
- Next layer, 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta cmixture, and 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce.
- Next layer, 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, remaining pesto sauce, and 1 cup of marinara sauce.
- For top layer, 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, remaining marinara sauce, and remaining 1 cup of mozzarella/Parmesan.
- Bake covered with foil for 50-60 minutes.
- Uncover and continue cooking until all the cheese is melted on the top (apx 5 minutes).
- When cool, cut into individual portions, wrap each in foil (I like to put the date on the package with a Sharpie) and then place the individual packages in larger freezer bags and freeze.
- To reheat, thaw ahead of time in the refrigerator and then unwrap, place in microwave-safe dish, cover with plastic wrap and nuke according to your microwave’s directions.
- The packages can also be reheated in the oven. Just open the thawed foil package slightly, so it can breathe, and reheat on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Ann Ryan is the creator and owner of Beachy Cream, Ice Cream – a Culinary Treasure of Southern California. She is the food editor of Gravyyears.
Originally posted 2016-05-22 08:22:28.