My Tiny Kitchen

So I used to think my kitchen (or at least counter space) in West Orange was a bit on the tiny side. Until I had to cook in a hallway. I’m not even kidding, our kitchen in Russia is the hallway from the front door to the living room. See:

It’s an interesting challenge to cook with the most basic tools – and not good ones at that. Additionally, we still aren’t eating meat or dairy. But I managed to make a pretty delicious lentil soup the other night.

Now, shows on Food Network and any basic cooking class will stress the importance of cutting the vegetables for soup (or any dish) the same size. I am not that good at this with my nice Henckels knives, so you can imagine my problem using really cheap knives from Ikea that all have a bit of a serrated edge. Plus I have no vegetable peeler for the carrots and potatoes, so I had to use a knife.

But, I think I did ok. The veggies weren’t all the same size, but they cooked well in the broth. Don’t tell the Top Chef judges, but I think in this recipe I didn’t really have to worry about knife skills and size. The recipe calls for chicken broth, but I used some water with all-purpose seasoning made of vegetables to keep it lenten (vegetable stock isn’t that readily available at any grocery store around here). The flavor was great!

We ate the soup with a mushroom kulebyaka (a thick pastry dough with a mushroom filling) that I bought at a great cafe called Shtole. A friend of mine took me to one by her apartment and then I found one by ours! It is so delicious! The cafe has Russian meat and vegetable pies and other Russian food. It looks a little more like a French cafe and plays jazzy music. I could eat this kulyebyaka every day.


  • 2 russet (baking) potatoes
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound lentilles du Puy* (French green lentils), picked over and rinsed (about 2 cups)
  • 8 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley leaves


Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch dice. In a 5- to 6-quart heavy kettle cook potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, and onion in butter over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soup is thickened. Serve soup garnished with parsley.


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