Somehow we've managed to live in Boston for over seven years without ever making it to Marblehead. Only a short 45-minute meandering drive from the city, this quaint seaside town is stunning — even in winter — and Katin & Brandon's lovely home made for a wonderful welcome. Of course we just happened to arrive while Katin was reducing vinegar so our first impression of their cozy, sun-drenched cape-style house was one filled with apologies for the unflattering aroma...
But the brief smell was a small price to pay for the deliciousness that is sweet balsamic reduction which was drizzled over top of our grilled pineapple during lunch — but more on that at the bottom of the post.
Katin & Brandon's Marblehead home had serendipitously been renovated according to their exact tastes before they moved in so, although they didn't do the work themselves, the style of the kitchen fits them to a tee. The airy, open-plan communicates effortlessly with the living and dining rooms — all of which share a glorious wall of windows overlooking their deck. Instead of upper cabinets, a single open shelf wraps two walls of the kitchen on top of crisp, white subway tiles and the dark countertops and floors ground the space in warmth. To say we're jealous would be a slight understatement.
Our favorite element in this kitchen? The hidden microwave inside the cabinet on top of the refrigerator! And that big, luscious bowl of lemons which were not staged for our photo shoot — Katin's father lives in Arizona and owns a thriving lemon tree which he picks and ships off to Marblehead. How lucky...
What's your cooking style?
Casual, flavorful, and elegant. Mostly fresh vegetables, lots of one-pot meals with little prep ahead. Everything has garlic in it and, of course, in the summer we grill every night!
What inspires your kitchen?
Clean lines and simplicity. Fresh fruits — I love the smell of lemons from my father's trees.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Fresh herbs — I am loving flat parsley lately. Oh, and I LOVE Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper and whole San Marzano tomatoes. Also, we use the same cast-iron skillet to cook almost every meal.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
When entertaining, get out of the kitchen and enjoy your guests — this takes planning ahead. Also, only cook with wine you would drink.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Not tripping over the cat.
We buy wine by the case from our local shop (Shubie's, it's great). Always having a great bottle of wine on-hand makes cooking and eating far more fun!
Dream tool or splurge:
A really good mandolin
What are you cooking this week?
- Spinach and lemon pesto with whole wheat penne, feta and pinenuts
- Eggplant and tofu parmesan with brown rice
- Tomato, cucumber and feta salad with roasted salmon and balsamic reduction
- Spicy shrimp over sweet potatoes and quinoa
- (And, pizza night on Friday, of course)
What cookbook has inspired you the most?
The New Cook, by Donna Hay — but that was years ago... Now I am inspired by food blogs like Vegan Yum Yum, Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Brunch for 8 friends last fall: Poached eggs over polenta cakes with marinated tomatoes and tomatillo, topped with goat cheese and spinach sauce.
Having completely renovated two kitchens in our past, we definitely felt up for the challenge again as we shopped for a new house last summer. Then, we happened upon this great place which had just recently been renovated to exactly our own taste... We're loving it and thankful to the prior owners who undoubtedly went months without a kitchen so we wouldn't have to!
We've got dark hardwood floors, custom-built flat white cabinets, honed dark gray countertops, a walnut butcher block island, and a great big Shaws Original Farmhouse sink. We just added FLOR carpet in front of the sink (to catch drips) and found FLOR to be a great resource.
We (Wes & Kayla) actually photographed the entire home over the course of the afternoon and the full tour will be up on Apartment Therapy Boston in about a week — be sure to check it out!
Katin's House Tour Lunch Menu
- Roasted Asparagus Caprese Sandwiches
- Spicy-Sweet Arugula Salad
- Grilled Pineapple with Sweet Balsamic Reduction
Roasted Asparagus Caprese Sandwiches
In a heavy, flat-bottomed cast iron skillet, heat a touch of olive oil with a bit of diced garlic. Add fresh, washed asparagus and roast for 5-10 minutes. They should retain their bright green color, but soften up a but. Add fresh ground salt and pepper. Remove from heat, slice lengthwise and set aside. In the same pan, add one can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, first squeezing out all of the liquid. Roast for 15 minutes, until they become dry but not so long that they break apart. Slice a fresh baguette and assemble sandwiches: spread top & bottom with spinach pesto. Add asparagus and tomatoes. Add slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with fresh ground salt and pepper. Drizzle with sweet balsamic reduction (see below for instruction).
Spicy-Sweet Arugula Salad
Wash and dry arugula. Add any other ingredients that you like — try some combination of sliced shallots, red grapes, blueberries, plums, roasted almonds, even goat cheese. It's really about the dressing. Combine these ingredients and beat with a fork until emulsified: 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, a big squirt of dijon mustard, a heaping spoonful of brown sugar and a healthy pour of Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper. Add dressing to greens right before serving.
Grilled Pineapple with Balsamic Reduction
Add 2 cups of vinegar to a sauce pan & bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add 3 Tbsp of brown sugar and a touch of fresh ground salt. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vinegar hangs on the spoon. Remove from heat & allow to cool to room temperature. Slice fresh pineapple into chunks that are one inch thick. Heat a cast iron skillet and spray with olive oil. Add the pineapple and sprinkle with fresh ground salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, turn occasionally. It should become juicy, soft and brown-ish in color. Allow grill pan to add nice grill lines. Serve with vanilla or burnt caramel gelato. (Notes about balsamic reduction: can keep in refrigerator for a month or so. Try making with ketchup instead of sugar & serve with your favorite meat.)
(Images: Kayla Hicks for Apartment Therapy)