One of the best meals I ever served came from my tiny kitchen in an apartment in Greenwich Village. Ed and I were newly married, our one-bedroom apartment was small and the kitchen about the size of your average suburban walk-in closet, only narrower. We invited 6 people, 2 aunts/uncles plus another “older” couple (who in fact were younger then than we are now).
I don’t actually remember everything I cooked, but there were some hors d’oeuvre with drinks, a chicken dish for dinner, a couple of vegetable sides and a homemade apple tart for dessert.
You don’t need a big kitchen to do big things. Everyone loved everything and yes, I realize they weren’t going to tell me otherwise and I am sure my cooking has improved over the years. But in that tiny space I know I cooked company-worthy food for an evening.
Of course it’s more difficult. You have to work ahead and you have to plan better. You can only usually work on one thing at a time. A small kitchen makes you focus, which is a good thing, especially as it prepares you for a big-kitchen future, maybe.
There’s a chef (Steve Johnson, owner of Rendezvous) in Cambridge, Mass who teaches "Houseboat Cooking" for those who need some creative ideas for working in a boat galley kitchen or any small cooking space. There are also a number of cookbooks available on this subject.
If you have a small kitchen but like to cook and entertain, no worries. Make a plan. Buy some stuff, cook some stuff. Prepare some foods in advance. You’ll do fine. Here’s a dessert recipe you can make in a small kitchen — the apple tart I made those many years ago. I usually make this dish in the fall, when apples are a new crop, but summer’s fine too. Or switch to peaches/nectarines.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel, optional
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons vegetable shotening
5 tablespoons cold liquid (water, milk, orange juice, etc.), approximately
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon peel, if used, in a bowl. Add the butter and shortening in chunks work into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (alternately, place ingredients in a food processor and process using pulse). Add 4 tablespoons of the liquid and work the ingredients into a ball of dough, using more liquid only if necessary to form the dough. Wrap the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (it may be refrigerated for 2-3 days). Just before baking, roll the dough into a circle large enough to fit into a 9-inch tart pan, place the dough in the pan and prick the dough with the tines of a fork. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
3-4 tablespoons melted peach or apricot jam
2-3 crisp apples (such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious) OR 5-6 peaches
3-5 tablespoons sugar (more with apples, less with peaches)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the preserves over the bottom of the pastry. Peel and core the apples or peaches, cut into slices and arrange the slices over the dough. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of the fruit. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is golden brown and soft and the pastry is golden brown. Make 8 servings
NOTE: if you don’t have a tart pan you may bake this tart on a cookie sheet, but in that case, create a border by rolling the edges into a thicker edge of dough.