Cookbook review: Clever cooking in cramped quarters

"The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces" by Annie Mahle (Storey, $19.95)
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"The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces" by Annie Mahle (Storey, $19.95)

‘The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces’ by Annie Mahle (Storey, $19.95)

I’ve often fantasized about having a kitchen with copious cabinets, a walk-in pantry, and countertops spacious enough to accommodate a multi-cooker, air fryer, Vitamix, and any other tool designed to expand my culinary options, while saving me time and energy.

Then someone like Annie Mahle comes along to bring me back to earth.

Mahle is the chef aboard the J. & E. Riggin, her family’s Maine windjammer, where she spends her summers cooking beautiful meals for guests on multi-day adventures at sea. Her sole workspace is the 2-foot-by-3-foot counter within its galley kitchen. The kitchen in her small house on shore, where she writes and tests recipes during the off-season, is no bigger.

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Rather than lament those limitations, she enthusiastically embraces them — so much so that she’s written a book about them: “The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces” (Storey, $19.95).

In the first three chapters of this attractive, lightweight softcover, she shares organizing and streamlining tricks such as finding storage spots for hanging pots and pans; using same-size storage containers for easy stacking; maximizing appliances with multiple purposes (cast-iron skillets for toaster-less toasting and oven-less roasting; potato mashers for tenderizing meats and smashing soft foods). And she offers tips for shopping to minimize overbuying, controlling crowds when entertaining, dealing with trash to mitigate smells, and using up leftovers.

Low-impact recipes are practical but inspired: a ceviche of sashimi-grade tuna slices with tropical fruits; a one-bowl meal of jasmine rice, ground pork, cucumber and Asian flavors; gemelli pasta with pancetta, tomato, and Parmesan all cooked in the same pan; and a trifle for two served in mugs made with blueberries, whipped cream, and a store-bought lemon-poppy seed muffin.

It’s tasty little exercises such as these, Mahle contends, that can lead us to more efficient cooking and better eating — and may even cure some of us of our big kitchen envy.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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