April 28, 2006

Itty Bitty Success (or Nothing Rhymes with Anchovy)

Two days ago I decided to take the Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook ($12.95, Broadway Books) for a spin. The aptly small book by Justin Spring gives advice on small-kitchen management as well as recipes engineered to squeak every last ounce of potential out of your amazingly small kitchen. It's full of useful lists (pots and pans to have, necessary spices, etc.) and occasionally points out the obvious, but Spring is mostly on-target. Though many of his statements are common sense, they serve as reinforcement.

Minimize your "stuff" (this word is offset in the Sand font, which makes it quite ugly and I wish he didn't use it so often) is the book's mantra. Have four place settings instead of 8, only keep the "stuff" you use regularly, etc.

The best part for me was the recipe section. Most often, books aimed at the young and poor crowd make the assumption that we don't want to eat well ("defrosted fish tacos," not from this book, thank god, is not a recipe, it's a nightmare). With recipes like Dried Porcini Mushroom and Barley Soup, Toaster-Oven Chateaubriand, Stovetop Irish Stew, Quiche, and a number of cold dishes, the book does a good job balancing the constraints of an IBK (itty bitty kitchen) with having a developed culinary sensibility.

The first recipe I tried was for pasta with garlic and anchovies.

Pasta with garlic and anchovies (adapted from The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook)
Serves 2
Active time: 45 minutes

  • 1/2 lb dried pasta
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Half of a 2-ounce can of anchovies in oil (reserve oil; see Cooks' note, below)
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs (toasted)
Cook pasta according to package directions.

After adding pasta to boiling water, heat olive oil in an omelet pan over medium heat, and add slivers of garlic. Add anchovies along with half of the reserved oil when garlic looks golden. Cook until anchovies begin to fall apart. Add 1/4 cup water and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.

Drain pasta, return it to pot and coat with olive oil sauce. Top with red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the pasta just before serving.

Cook's Note: I was grossed out by the anchovies but I used them anyway. Do not worry about de-boning them, as they disintegrate while cooking.


The speed with which I was able to prepare the dish, about 40 minutes, works well for me. I added about 1/2 pound of sauteed chicken to this recipe and was quite pleased. The anchovies gave the dish a delightful savory taste and it turned out to be quite filling. Next time, I will also add about 5 ounces of wilted fresh spinach and some grated cheese.

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Thanks to In Praise of Sardines, Flickr, for the photo.

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