After months of planning, we’ve finally arrived! I was a little nervous when we first arrived as the apartment is about half the size of our place in Iowa and the kitchen was literally renovated from a closet.
We’ve already made a run to the local Goodwill to drop off furniture that just won’t fit, but generally speaking, I love our new place. We’re only a couple of blocks from downtown Montpelier and so we walk everywhere from the local coffee shop to the hardware store (where I’ve already made friends with the employees, who seem to love a girl who caulks her own bathtub). I only had one moment of distress when I realized that 49 out of 50 states were home to the superstore, Target, and Vermont was not one of them. I’ll just have to learn to shop locally, and so far, I haven’t missed it too much.
Something we immediately noticed when we started to unpack was that the vast majority of the boxes contained kitchen paraphernalia, and our bread box-sized kitchen was wholly incapable of housing it all. We have one of those stainless steel industrial shelving systems, but there wasn’t a lot of wall space available to set it up. After some rearranging we’ve sort of made it work, but something tells me we’ll be moving things around quite a bit as we try to get it all settled.
As for the kitchen? I’ve worked in small spaces before, but this one is easily half the size of the smallest kitchen I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve already accepted that I’m just not going to be able to use the counters for storage space (if I want to keep my sanity) and that I’ll have no choice but to clean as I go. I’ve made a few meals already and if I stick to it, it’s actually a bearable space to work it. It’s almost quaint in its closeness. What could I have possibly made so far? Allow me to share a couple of items from my miniature kitchen.
Black Bean and Summer Vegetable Crostini
The day we packed up the moving van, we stopped by the Iowa City farmer’s market to pick up our last CSA share from Echollective. In our box, we had some beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes and red Russian kale, amongst many other gorgeous late-summer veg. One of the first things I was able to unpack (mostly because I saved the original packaging and it was easily identifiable on it’s own), was my Cuisinart food processor. In our explorations of the town, we stopped at my school’s bakery, La Brioche, and picked up a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread. We thought we had been spoiled with the fantastic artisan bread from our co-op back in Iowa City, and it was fantastic, but we were blown away by this sourdough loaf. For a whole grain flour bread, it was surprisingly soft and springy on the inside and the flavor was out of this world. All I could think was I get to make this one day. I found a can of black beans, some olive oil, and after much digging, the braid of garlic, and this simple lunch was born.
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp and extra for the bread
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Approximately 6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch of kale, hard stems removed
Your choice of artisan bread
Pre-heat the broiler for about 5 minutes before using. Slice the bread nice and thick, then drizzle both sides with olive oil. Toast under the broiler for about 2 minutes, then flip and toast until golden, 1-2 minutes more.
After the stems of the kale have been removed, chop the leaves into roughly 1 inch pieces. This doesn’t have to be exact; the pieces just have to be small enough that you can take a bite of the crostini and not pull half the kale away in one bite. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat, and toast the kale until bright green. Add a tablespoon or so of water to wilt the kale, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Crush the garlic cloves with a large chef’s knife to help remove the skin. In the food processor, pulse the garlic for about 30 seconds to mince. Add the black beans and salt, then turn on the food processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. After the oil has been incorporated, remove the lid, scrape down the sides of the bowl of the food processor, replace the lid, and puree for another minute or so, until smooth.
To build the crostini, spread the black bean spread on the toasted bread and top with a few slices of tomatoes.
Top these with the sauteed kale just before serving.
Funny story about our oven…it runs about 50 degrees cold until you set it past 400, at which point it runs about 25 degrees hot. This will take some finagling and much testing before I can use it reliably. Luckily, this next recipe only needs the stovetop.
Perfectly Spiced Apple Cider
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I am obsessed with Autumn. I live for cool, crisp days, when the leaves are changing and I can curl up with a cozy sweater, a good book, and a hot cup of apple cider. I may not have been as impressed with Pennsylvania peaches (Midwest, does it best), but something that Vermont excels at is their pressed apple cider. The price is comparable to organic milk, about $4-$6/gal, and the flavor is so much more complex than any Illinois/Iowa apple cider I’ve previously fallen in love with. My first sip of cold cider unfolded on my tongue like a fine wine. Sweet at the start, with a full body that was tart on the finish. I think I was talking to Anden at the time and actually stopped not just mid-sentence, but mid-word to exclaim Oh my God, this is fantastic! Oh yes, Vermont and I will get along just fine. I tasted it cold to get a feel for the flavor, but my favorite way to enjoy a glass of apple cider is heated with my own combination of mulling spices
Ingredients (per 16oz glass of apple cider)
1 small stick of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp whole allspice
1/2 tsp dried orange peel
If you have a mortar and pestle, use it to crush the allspice. If you are without, as I was at the time, use the broad side of a chef’s knife to crush the allspice before adding it to the pot.
Add the cold cider and heat on med-low. The longer this steeps, the better. You don’t want to bring this to a rolling boil, because it will begin to coagulate a bit. Let this come up really, really, slowly and pull it off the heat as soon as it begins to simmer.
After you pull it off the heat, use a tea strainer to strain out the spices and serve in your favorite mug.