Cooking With Others: The Small Kitchen, Shared

Posted by on Tuesday Apr 7th, 2009 | Print

EVENT: An Attempt at Collaborative Cooking
VENUE: Alix’s Apartment, Soho
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Casual Weekend Dinner
MENU: Merguez Sausage with French Lentils, Endive Salad

The summer I lived in LA, my friend Alix became my foodie partner in crime, taking full advantage of the fresh produce, fresh fish, and latest macrobiotic fads, and having each other over to our respective apartments (which you could actually walk between, as opposed to drive, which is what people in LA apparently do) to experience them. Like most of my favorite eating partners, Alix and I got along so well at the table because of our love of sharing anything and everything on a menu, and not just to consciously debunk the stigma attached to only children by our example.

Alix is ADD and OCD, which is a rare, and beautiful combination in the kitchen. One minute, he’s obsessively prodding a chicken breast on the stove, the next darting off to attend to a stray drop of lemon juice on the counter that he hadn’t managed to alleviate during the first three wipe-downs, all the while leaving his meat, vegetables, and nuts unattended for minutes on end.

But regardless of how they got to the table, all of Alix’s meals I’ve had the pleasure of consuming have turned out flawlessly. And the fact that he appears so spastic at the time of execution—running back and forth from stove to sink to laptop, with the latest Mark Bittman recipe–leaves no doubt that he possesses one of the most valuable skills in the kitchen: the ability to multi-task.

I, on the other hand, am self-diagnosed as a borderline control freak. It’s become more and more apparent since I graduated college and started tackling real world tasks like, say, a job, all the while adding more balls in the air on the social front to counteract the slow shriveling of my soul. I think this is all somehow reflected in my kitchen. Not so much by the amount I entertain, which has obviously grown considerably, but also in how I’ve learned to socialize while cooking. Any voice of distraction used to leave me frazzled, the fate of my meal likened to that of burnt veg from disasters prior. Now, in my open kitchen, I chop herbs with a friend perched on a stool in front of me, stir risotto with a cell phone pressed to one ear, and divide my attention among food and friends, rather than the measurements of a recipe.

To prove my own evolution in multitasking, I agreed to cook with Alix one night, curbing the control freak in me (well, sort of), returning to the days of following a recipe (again, sort of), and making the most of the time with my foodie partner in crime—stirring, cleaning, snacking, scrolling, and catching up all the while.

From my small kitchen, shared, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**


Merguez Sausage with French Lentils
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from nytimes.com.

Despite the amazing fact that this recipe did not come from Mark Bittman, its success for our small kitchen collaboration can be owed in part to it’s technical simplicity, the use of only one pan, and the common-sense, sequential addition of ingredients at the natural pace of their preparation. While Alix browned the sausage, I chopped onions, carrots, and garlic, and after making enough of a mess to warrant his attention, I swiftly took over on the stove just in time to saute them. By the time the skillet was slowly simmering in the oven, Alix had finished cleaning (lucky me), I had poured us two glasses of wine, and there was no task left to juggle with our conversation.

Ingredients

3/4 lb Merguez sausage, cut in 2 inch pieces (catskill merino – from the Union Square Farmer’s Market)
1 large red onion
1 carrot, cut in ½ inch pieces
8 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 ½ cups French black lentils
3 cups vegetable stock (about ¾ quart)
3/4 cup panko
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ cup pomegranate juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a large, deep oven-proof skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the sausage over medium-heat heat. Set aside. Add the onions and carrots, making sure to scrape up any remaining scraps and fat, and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and paprika and cook for an additional minute or two. Return the sausage to the pan and stir in the lentils and sun-dried tomatoes. Spread the contents so they are evenly distributed, and cover with the stock.

Place pan in the oven and cook uncovered for an hour or more—until the lentils are soft.

In a small bowl, mix the panko together with an additional ½ teaspoon paprika and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the lentils are al dente, remove pan from oven and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top.

Return to the oven and turn the heat up to 450 degrees. Bake for ten minutes, or until the top is light brown and crispy.


Serve straight from the pan, and enjoy with a spicy full-bodied red wine.

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  • Treehouse Chef

    I really look forward to reading your blog. It is so refreshing. First of all let me say that I love Soho as I think it is one of the coolest places on the planet. I also love small kitchens. Mark Bittman is a prime example of what you can do with less and make it better. I love reading Saveur magazine and peeking into people’s kitchens. Most of them are small and the food is fabulous. Thanks for sharing!

  • Barbra

    Here’s to cleaning-as-you-go!

  • Frankie

    What does Spanish smoked paprika taste like? Never used it but it sounds unique. Please somebody tell me, I have to know!

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Spanish smoked paprika (also known as Pimenton)is much more complex and full than the regular paprika in your spice cabinet. If you’ve ever had paella in Spain, pimenton is what gives this dish its authentic flavor profile. It’s hard to describe, but for a rich smoky taste, especially with marinated or smoked meats, I highly recommend you try this spice.