Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Although I now find him kind of creepy, my mother informs me that I once watched Mr. Rogers, the kind old man that changed his shoes and welcomed us into his home. And while I always found it a bit odd that the king and his magical kingdom were down by the train tracks, I always appreciated that Mr. Rogers brought us into his home and took us on exciting field trips to the crayon factory. As you may have noticed, I've been missing in action for the last few days due to my mother's visit. Despite there being less cooking in my kitchen, there's been action aplenty in my favorite room. So, inspired by Mr. Rogers and what was evidently quite the ghetto neighborhood, today I'm putting on my cardigan and welcoming you into my kitchen.

There's been a lot going on, starting with a few gifts from the east. Along with some new summer dresses, my mother's suitcase came bearing a number of culinary gifts. The first is one of my favorite spices of all time--and the much lauded "world's most expensive spice"--saffron. Although it is quite expensive everywhere, it is definitely more affordable in Spain where some of it is actually harvested. I was running incredibly low on my supply, so this was a very welcome addition to my spice rack. A little goes a long way with this fragrant spice, so inside one large container are 20 tiny capsules containing 25 grams of ground saffron, more than enough for one large dish. This will also cut down on cooking time since I won't have to grind or bloom it before use.

The second new arrival in my kitchen was spicy smoked paprika (pimenton picante). I routinely use what in Spain is called pimenton dulce, or sweet smoked paprika, but rarely use the spicy kind, which adds a good bit of heat and smoke to any dish. I generally use this spicy and smoky type of paprika in smaller quantities and in dishes like lentils and hearty chickpea stews. I wouldn't put it in everything, and would definitely use it sparingly compared to the sweet variety. It's not nearly as hot as say, cayenne pepper, but between the heat and smoke, it could easily mask the flavor of other ingredients. I generally find that good Spanish paprika is both hard to find and very expensive in the US, so I was very excited to receive this even harder to find version.

The most exciting new development to report was almost a week in the making and involves heavy duty machinery. Like a good daughter, I took off a few days from work to spend time with my mother. I figured we'd rest, relax, maybe even do some shopping. But it appears that I was cooking in a subpar kitchen (according to mommy dearest) and that was unacceptable, so instead we spent the last five days running around the city purchasing a set of pots and pans (which I actually really needed) and a lovely wall mounted pot rack. I've always dreamed of having one of these, and my mother insisted that due to the lack of storage in my kitchen, the time had come for me to have one. I warned her of the troubles I'd had with the walls in my Hell's Kitchen apartment, from foam filled walls to cement walls and everything in between, hanging something on my walls is a risk with perpetually unexpected consequences. She insisted that together we could figure our way through anything, and not wanting to burst her bubble, I caved and purchased the very heavy pots and their new wall mounted rack.

After several hanging attempts throughout the week and the weekend, it became clear that my girly arms would no longer cut the installation mustard. So, we made our way to the hardware store and purchased a heavy duty electric drill and the necessary bits. Two days later it became clear that what we were dealing with the likes of a very tough brick wall. I was downtrodden and disappointed, sure that I'd have to find an alternate way to organize the pots and pans (while secretly saying 'I-told-you-so'), but my mother was undeterred. She insisted that despite the Memorial Day holiday, we should visit a Home Depot and purchase a large brick and concrete drill bit and masonry anchors. Crumbling under the pressure after five days of hard labor, I agreed. After making the necessary purchases and demanding a small shoe shopping break, we got back to the house and got to work. I was ultimately able to get the rack up after sweating it out with the ridiculously large drill and drill bit (I haven't bought an AC unit yet). Check out the final product, which I'm actually very happy with:

And to wrap up the post, an update I kept meaning to post but never seemed to remember. I purchased a new teapot (R.I.P. electric kettle) that can be seen below. It's the Live Strong edition of the classic Chantal line of teapots (hence the yellow), and I absolutely love it. I'll be back in a few days with some more posts (hopefully more exciting than my new teapot), including a restaurant review that I've been holding onto for a while. In the meantime, check out my brand new teapot:


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