Kitchen Tour: Blake & Rachel's New Testing Ground

Blake is a passionate force in the kitchen whether its been renovated or not. His wife Rachel is partial to a more aesthetically pleasing and functional cooking environment. So, after five years in their spacious Brooklyn apartment, they took the leap.

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The renovation was substantial and meant that Blake and Rachel and their son had to relocate for three months! But in the end, the result justified any short-term suffering incurred.

The kitchen is a long galley affair so there weren't too many options for reforming the layout. Instead, Rachel focused on upgrading materials and quality across the board — cabinets, appliances, and counter top. One major innovation was to close off a kitchen closet and put in a washer/dryer that is now accessible from the opposing hallway.

Blake, web editor of the New Yorker, minds the cooking while Rachel, theater director, looks after all things aesthetic. For this meal, Blake knew he wanted to make Pulao in honor of Jumpa Lahiri's dad. Mr. Lahiri makes an incredible version of the Indian rice dish and was kind enough to reveal his secrets on film. The rest of the meal was spontaneously inspired by the Indian theme and included a tomato-based version of chana saag and stir-fried cubed eggplant.

The kitchen was a whirlwind of activity, as is evident in the slides. Blake gets a lot done in a short time and with very limited counter space. He's a wonder to behold.

Blake's Response to The Kitchn Survey

What's your cooking style? Hearty, curious, international, restless. I like to challenge myself, try out new ingredients, and am brave (or foolish) enough to make a dish the first time for guests. A demanding job and two children have forced me to rein in my ambitions somewhat, especially on weeknights, and improvise more.

What inspires your kitchen? I am not good at answering on an aesthetic level. Rachel was responsible for the renovation, I take care of most of the cooking. On a practical level, sagging cabinets, and the fact that we were moving out anyway to restore the second bedroom.

What is your favorite kitchen tool or element? The Soda Club seltzer maker has had a positive impact on my back, our wallet, and the environment. The pasta-rolling attachment on the KitchenAid mixer. The Braun hand-chopper, although I hate that the plastic canisters keep breaking.

Best cooking advice or tip you ever received: Make popcorn in the microwave using a brown paper bag, folded and crimped at the top.

Biggest challenge in your kitchen: Keeping an eye on my 9-month-old daughter over the high countertop. And keeping an eye on the stove while trying to watch her.

Biggest indulgence: Meat from the farmer’s market.

Dream tool or splurge: A stove with a built-in grill. And I’m curious about those sous-vide machines, which I imagine as being like sort of a highfalutin crock pot, only your chicken won’t dry out.

What are you cooking this week? Scrambled eggs. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, unless I can convince my son to bring something else to school. And a meatloaf, I hope. But cooking during the week is hard.

What cookbook has inspired you the most? Inspired, I don’t know. I go through phases — Patricia Wells’s “Bistro Cooking,” Marcella Hazan’s classic I and II, Darra Goldstein’s “The Georgian Feast” — and now I do a lot of trawling for recipes online. But the book with the most worn-out binding is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.”

What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen? There are many. But with Passover coming up, I’m thinking of a Seder I cooked four years ago (this was before the renovation) that had none of the traditional Ashkenazi fixings. It started with a Georgian fish dish. The main course was msoki, a lamb and spring-vegetable stew that’s a Passover staple for Tunisian Jews. I had to borrow a big pot, and triangulated from a couple recipes, one from Claudia Roden’s “Book of Jewish Food” and another from some French-language Web site. Desserts included an orange almond cake and slices of candied orange.

Rachel's Resources:

• Contractor: Oriental Construction
• Architects: Coburn Architecture
• Cabinets: lightly stained Maple
• Backsplash: 1"x2" brick mosaic light ivory crackle column style from Artistic Tile
• Lighting by Gregory undercounter and recessed lights
• GE Profile Series Microwave and Range
• Jenn Air Refrigerator
• Bosch Dishwasher

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• Kitchen Tour Archive: Check out past kitchen tours here.

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(Images: Jill Slater)

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