The Junkman Cometh

Posted on June 11, 2013

Thank you for indulging my two-week hiatus. The time away from the blog has not been wasted, not a minute. I needed it to prepare and clear out my kitchen for its impending renovation. And then, once I emptied cupboards and drawers, I turned my sights on the rest of the house. Hey, I was on a roll. It’s spring after all, a good time to take stock and pare down everything. Plus, half of my household members are away having adventures, so I took advantage of their absence to clean and weed and rearrange living spaces like a madwoman. There’s no one here to tell me to stop, reconsider, perhaps tuck away that Celtics basketball ticket stub or hold onto that set of chairs we found on a Boston sidewalk and “reupholstered” – assuming one can call buying a length of discount brocade and a glue gun at Joann Fabrics reupholstering.

Mostly alone here in the house, I am able to be ruthless. This is the editing I love so much, reducing my belongings using the same tough and unsentimental stance I take with pages of prose. Instead of good bye lovely but useless sentence, though, it is good bye ticket stub, good bye chairs. And good bye so much more. Tonight, the junk man is coming to take a look at the piles of stuff I have created and give me a price for hauling everything away. I have to fess up, a lot of what’s in the piles can be attributed to me. It seems that, in times past, I have interpreted interior decorating to mean adding throw pillows to every available surface in every room. Good bye throw pillows of every size, shape, and color.

In addition to the major clean up, in the past two weeks I have been able to finalize the new kitchen’s layout and choose all the important materials: cabinets, counters, flooring, shelving, backsplash tile, even paint. The speed with which I accomplished this – two weeks! – amazes me, given that I actually started trying to find a kitchen designer who could help us best configure the tricky space back in February. Since then, I have spoken to four designers. Mind you, by hiring a designer all we hoped for was a fresh pair of eyes and a workable solution to a 110-year-old kitchen with a weird 1980s addition and an original support beam framed in a 12-inch by 8-inch box and stuck in the middle of the floor’s footprint. We were never looking for anything like a period (Victorian) restoration, or anything custom built and upscale and upmarket. We didn’t even want moderately fancy. What we got from the first three proposals was all of the above.

Now, I have this notion of myself as being a very reasonable person. Nice, pleasant, and easy to work with. A good and clear communicator. But this journey to kitchen design has revealed, well, maybe not, especially with regards to those last couple of traits. I think I wasn’t able to convey very clearly my desire for simplicity and cost control to the first three designers, because each one offered either a concept that was much too detailed for my taste, or materials that were far too expensive for my pocketbook. We’ll live with the existing peninsula design and the not-quite-stripper pole, I decided; we won’t try to reconfigure the floorplan too much. So, two weeks ago, it was back to square one, looking for the right someone to help. All I needed to find was a person with access to cabinetry, computerized design tools, some helpful ideas, and good listening skills to help coax my own ideas out of me in a productive fashion.

I found him: Don at Home Depot. After three meetings, I had a kitchen design I loved, one that met my need for modern and uncluttered horizontal lines and also fit nicely within the budget, plus I actually enjoyed the process. It was absolutely stress-free (okay, I fretted about the placement of the new range for about a half-day longer than I needed to) with none of the back-and-forth (and the lost weeks in between the back-and-forth) of the three previous attempts to get this floorplan drawn. The resulting kitchen will be easy to work in, and even easier to relax in. Exactly what I wanted all along. Thanks, Don!

The actual labor starts in about four weeks, once the cabinets arrive.

Before then, the junk man may cometh and he may also taketh away. But the old kitchen remains operational, at least for now, so I have a few weeks left to cook and bake, a reprieve of sorts, time to enjoy the bounty from Middle Earth Farm CSA.

Cooking with Chives

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The chives in this week’s share were beautiful, some still topped with their lavender hued flowers. Why relegate them to life as garnish or simple seasoning? These chives deserved better, and so I made the chive greens the star of two separate meals and added the blooms to my salads. One night, dinner was chive omelets, just eggs, salt, pepper and a good handful of chopped chives with no cheese to overpower the delicate onion flavor. This week, I kept my cooking as uncluttered as my house.

I make my omelets quickly, as one is supposed to, but don’t have great omelet rolling technique. I get too impatient to eat by the end of the process. If you’d like to see an omelet made by the best, take a look at Julia Child making omelets for her TV show in the early 1960s. She does one after the other and makes it look so easy. Honestly, though, messy or beautiful, a chive omelet is going to taste just great.

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But here’s the chive recipe I have been dying to share with you: chickpea pancakes with chives. I have wanted to make chickpea pancakes since I talked with one of my tour guides in Florence about her experiments with chickpea flour. In Italy you will find different versions of simple quick breads make from chickpea flour, from Sicilian panelle (a kind of firm chickpea polenta that gets sliced and fried) to Genovese farinata (a thinner chickpea flour crèpe). Both dishes begin simply, using only chickpea flour and water with just a touch of seasoning. Nadia made her chickpea pancakes more like traditional leavened griddlecakes, using a hint of baking powder along with the salt and pepper, and she produced these in silver dollar size. I followed her basic recipe, but added about a half-cup of chopped chives and then divided the batter in half to make two larger rounds to serve as the base for a simple topping of arugula and a scattering of prosciutto. Top the pancakes with anything you like. The large pancakes make a nice substitute for pizza dough for lighter, more summery fare. Plain and cut into wedges, this recipe would be a fabulous snack with cocktails or a glass of white wine.

Chickpea Pancakes with Chives

  • 1 cup chickpea flour (Bob’s Red Mill sells this and it is generally available in some grocery stores)*
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives**
  • 1 cup water, perhaps a little more
  • olive oil for frying

Stir together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.

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Add the water and stir until the batter is smooth. It should be the consistency of a typical pancake batter. If it seems too thick add more water just a few drops at a time to reach the desired consistency. Fold in the chopped chives.

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Let the batter rest, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat a large skillet and add enough olive oil to the bottom of the pan to coat. When the oil is hot, spoon in about half the pancake batter. Cook on the first side until the edges look dry and turn golden and the top is dotted with holes, about 2-3 minutes.

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Turn the cake and cook on the second side for the same amount of time, or until cooked through but not dried out. Remove the chickpea pancake from the pan to a cooling rack.

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Cook the second cake in the same fashion. Top both as desired, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.

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*Note: Using half white flour and half chickpea flour is fine and will produce a lighter pancake.

**Note: Non-onion lovers may add any amount of chopped fresh herb. Cilantro or parsley make a fine substitute.

©2013  Jane A. Ward