Isabella and her husband Jay more than doubled their living situation and more than tripled their kitchen situation when they migrated to the tippy top of Manhattan.
Here, in Inwood, Isabella is thrilled to have a real kitchen, but not as thrilled with the taste of the previous owners who renovated it. She wishes she could change the cabinet doors, the tiled backsplash, and the counter material. Just a couple of pet peeves! As an interior designer, it is a particular struggle to look at a particularly unwanted feature in one's home and know that it will be there for a while.
To compensate, Isabella has indulged in the ability to spread out and be ultra organized. She's also brought some art into her kitchen, placing it strategically to obscure as much of the backsplash as possible. I say, the more of that the better! Why not look at what you like looking at than that which you cannot alter.
Having a giant kitchen for New York standards, and counter space to house a Cuisinart means that there is the extra pressure to bake, bake, bake. I had the pleasure of witnessing the seamless creation of some cranberry bread. See recipe below and enjoy!
Isabella's Response to The Kitchn Survey
What's your cooking style?
My overall cooking style is experimental, loose and quick. I generally do not follow recipes, but instead use them as an outline for my meals and improvise with substituting ingredients for what I think will yield a better flavor and a healthier dish.
What inspires your kitchen?
Light and space – the natural sunlight and flow of the kitchen to the rest of our home lends itself to a less formal cooking environment. I try to keep the counters clear of clutter, featuring only a few select items (my beloved Gaggia espresso machine and yellow Kitchen Aid live permanently on the counter). When I replenish dishes, glasses and food storage containers I try to stick to a palette of white, deep blue or glass. This creates a nice theme against the natural wood cabinets.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My favorite element is organization and ample counter space – I love that that my kitchen is spacious enough for me to be organized. This is also the greatest tool in embarking on any cooking adventure.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Don't be a prisoner to a recipe! I think my Mom said that to me in not those exact words. But, she is notorious for her culinary experimentation, always inventing something new and delicious, sometimes by trial and error, but the process is very freeing and makes you adept at creating something out of nothing.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Controlling odors and clutter: our kitchen opens via a large archway and island to our living room, and also to our foyer. Scents and smells travel easily and move quickly. Since the kitchen is so open it is important to keep it neat, tidy and clean. I don't want a glimpse of dirty dishes as I'm passing through the living room.
For us the biggest indulgence is having a dishwasher! Of course, it came with the apartment and now it would be tough to go back to washing everything by hand. Our biggest indulgence that we brought with us is the Kitchen Aid. I love it and it inspires me to bake.
Dream tool or splurge:
Energy efficient, stainless steel appliances, a farm sink, stone countertops, and glass tile backsplash. The aesthetic of the space is part of what inspires me – maybe someday we'll be able to upgrade!
What are you cooking this week?
Honestly, nothing! However, on the horizon is red lentil soup with lemon, whole wheat pizza, and yellow and pink old-fashioned cake (from my amazing Amy's Bread book).
What cookbook has inspired you the most?
I recently received Martha's "Dinner At Home" – she breaks all the meals down by seasonal goods. My self-curated folder of recipes that I have clipped over the years is my greatest resource. I find many recipes online at Epicurious.com, Allrecipes.com, Sunset Magazine and Saveur.com, to name a few.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
When we first moved to Inwood we bought almost everything from our Saturday farmer's market. It was summer so we were able to get fresh fish, veggies, spices and fresh baked bread. One night I cooked a patty pan squash with an egg baked inside of it (recipe from Sunset Mag), sourdough zucchini bread pudding, and seared scallops with an improvised succotash. It was so perfect for that summer night!
I get great mileage out of these kitchen tools:
Gaggia espresso machine
Cuisinart rice cooker
Isabella's Whole Wheat Cranberry Walnut Bread
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (*butter substitute: 3 tbsp Greek yogurt or applesauce, plus 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran or wheat bran
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
2 tbsp flaxseed meal (optional)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Turbinado natural sugar (*you can try brown sugar, or regular granular sugar)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh orange zest
1 cup orange juice, room temperature (fresh squeezed is best)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 325 (if your oven runs hot or cold play with preheating at a higher or lower temp, and then set at 325 once the bread is baking). In an electric mixer, cream butter (or yogurt, applesauce plus oil) and sugar on medium speed until combined; add egg and beat well. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and lightly whisk together until just mixed. Gradually add this mixture to the butter/egg/sugar in the mixer on a low/medium speed. The mixture will appear dry and crumbly. On a low speed beat in orange juice and zest.
Turn off mixer and add cranberries and walnuts, folding in until combined. Spray an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan (glass or ceramic is best) with a baking or vegetable spray, or simply butter the pan (this is a good option if you opted out of butter in the recipe). Pour batter into pan and spread or shake the pan making the batter even and smooth. Bake about 55-60 minutes; it's best to place the baking rack just above halfway up in the oven. Test with a toothpick.
Allow the bread to cool in pan for about 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the loaf; flip the pan onto a cutting board or wire rack, and turn the top-side up. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.
A few notes:
• This is an easy recipe to play and experiment with, as long as you keep each type of ingredient in proportion to the whole recipe. I used to eliminate the butter, but have found that it keeps the bread moist and fresh. Sometime I opt for the healthier butter-free option, or just use 1 tbsp instead of 2.
• My flour mixture is one that I've worked out through several trials, but, if I'm out of one of the flours I improvise. I recently added in the 1/4 cup of cornmeal because it gives a subtle flavor and texture. A bit more cornmeal will give a stronger and more crumbly texture to the bread, which can be nice if you're serving this with a savory winter meal. If you use more cornmeal try using an extra egg — this will help to bind everything. If you want a sweeter bread, add another 1/4 cup of sugar.
• Make sure you measure your orange juice at the beginning so that it can get to room temperature. If the juice is too cool it will make the batter harden a bit, making it difficult to mix.
• If you have time and feel like dressing the bread up, have an extra 1/2 cup of cranberries on hand. Once the batter is poured and smoothed into the pan you can gently poke the cranberries into the top of the batter, pushing them about half-way beneath the surface, and create a zig-zag pattern, or simply a row. Once baked the berries will burst and create a nice visual effect.
• Check out the rest of Isabella and Jay's Inwood home on ApartmentTherapy.com.
• Kitchen Tour Archive: Check out past kitchen tours here.
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(Images: Jill Slater)