Sasha and Michael love to entertain casually, making big dinners for friends on impromptu weekday evenings. They are relaxed in their space and cooking style. Their kitchen is an easy place to feel at home in, what with stinky local cheeses hanging around in stylish Weck jars and freshly made lemon curd resting on the 50's-aqua-colored countertops.
It's also full of light and cheer. The large windows allow floods of fresh air and light, such a crucial detail in the Pacific Northwest (where natural light is paramount, considering all the greyness of winter). The daisy yellow and creamy white flooring are a charming complement to the light blue tones of the counters and cabinets.
This is the type of kitchen I dreamed of coming home from school to as a kid, the white vintage stool begging to be lounged in, with chocolate chip cookie and tall glass of milk in hand. It has a nostalgic feel and joy, with all the conveniences of modern life — an eerily silent dishwasher, large fridge and gas range stove. Sasha and Michael did a great job of restoring original details and honoring the history of their North Portland home.
10 Questions for Sasha and Michael (and their Kitchen)
Answers from Sasha
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Generally speaking, functionality. I am really lazy about going to the store (although love food shopping). I'm often most inspired by what I have. I'm constantly making 'kitchen surprise' kind of meals — sometimes these meals are surprisingly delicious. I don't really cook spontaneously, I like to search according to two or three ingredients that I have and see what I can make. Since moving to Portland, I cook a lot for myself (Michael works out of town a lot). My cooking is often about making meals that can be tweaked the next day into something slightly different, thus not wasting any food.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
That is a shifting subject, but at the moment, I'm most in love with my new jars made by Weck. I use them for everything, I've eliminated plastic from my kitchen almost entirely. I can run them through the dishwasher and they look beautiful! I love looking into my fridge and being able to see into everything. You can freeze stuff in them (lemon curd, jelly, etc), cook with them (using them in a low–temp oven).
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
One week, Micheal had been traveling for a week or ten days. He was on his way home, and I felt like I hadn't seen him or our friends in a long time. It was a Wednesday night and I just invited a bunch of people for a family dinner. It was really good company and a really good time.
I made leg of lamb (raised locally) and tried two Indian recipes from the New York Times. They were from a famous Indian restaurant in Vancouver (Vij's), where the owner specialized in vegetable dishes. Inspired by these recipes, I made kale marinated in coconut milk, grilled on the BBQ, and date chickpea masala. And rice. Everything just turned out. It was one of those classic moments, where the food and the company is just good. The only draw back was, the house was really dirty, and I had to clean up before everyone got here. Family dinner in the middle of the week though! I also managed to set off all the smoke alarms in the house!
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
I have to say, coming from a kitchen in a walk-up apartment in New York City, where the whole space was less than 400 sq ft, there isn't one shortcoming here! I don't have a giant kitchen, but I still feel I have a tremendous amount of room and I get to cook with gas! I never feel 'if only.'
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Yes, picked a non–white and light yellow floor — otherwise, no!
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
The super-quiet dishwasher.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I would love to have a spot where people can sit and hang out while we cook. There is enough room, i just haven't figured that out yet.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
It's informed by recipes with lots of liberties taken. I wish i had a tiny, fool–proof guide to substitutions; I'll just leave stuff out if I don't think it's too important — sometimes this method works fine, sometimes it doesn't. I'm uptight and relaxed at the same time.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
I told a nice friend of mine who'd gone to culinary school that I thought we did a nice job getting good ingredients, great recipes — but sometimes we'd sit down to eat and the food felt like it just didn't have much flavor; it tasted flat. He said: "Butter, salt and red pepper flakes." And I've found he's pretty much right! I'd add acid to that list, It has been good advice. I think it's technically sound, but also so casual and encouraging — it gave me the confidence I needed to tweak foods so they end up the way that I want them to.
10. What are you cooking this week?
I just made lemon curd from Meyer lemons from my sister in California. The ones from her tree are super juicy.
• Oven: Kenmore
• Fridge: Kenmore
• Dishwasher: Kenmore
• Countertops and flooring: Linoleum City
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.