Gallery: Behind the Scenes in Niki's Home Kitchen

The whole shebang
The whole shebang

Fact: it is not usually this clean.

Knives!
Knives!

The crown jewel of my (obviously stunning) home kitchen is this W├╝sthof knife kit, which I acquired in culinary school. My somewhat precarious—read: not properly mounted—magnetic strip still holds my set of Victorinox knives; until I invest in a better storage solution, these guys still live in my knife roll.

Yeah, it's kinda dirty in there. That's how we do.

All the staples
All the staples

By which I mean four open boxes of sugar, matzo ball mix (the only truly essential item in my pantry), couscous, some sweetened condensed milk, a super old tin of Crisco (should that be in the fridge?!), some tea, and a whole lot of pasta.

Below, we have the spices, hot sauces, oils, vinegars, and no fewer than six varieties of honey. Which is strange, because I almost never use honey.

Le fridge
Le fridge

Look how white it is in there! That's because I cleaned it immediately before taking this photograph.

On the door, we have a number of jams and spreads likely long past their expiration dates, sriracha (no guff, please; we like it there), soy sauce, coffee, and some maple syrup. But mostly the door is a harbor for all things gin martini. Lots of Spanish olives, dry vermouth, and not one but two bottles of gin. Which doesn't include the other two bottles of gin in the liquor cabinet (we'll get there eventually, don't worry).

Inside le fridge
Inside le fridge

First, a caveat: I live across the street from the supermarket, meaning that (a) I don't need to make big shopping trips and (b) what I'm about to describe is probably less depressing than it sounds. Which brings me to a confession: I cropped out the top and bottom of my fridge, which currently houses some eggs and a box of shriveled grape tomatoes (top), along with a bag of shriveled scallions, a head of fennel, and one beet (crisper drawers).

But let's move along; I'd far rather focus on the less creepy stuff! Like the two jars of pickles I made four months ago and then slowly pushed farther and farther toward the back of the shelf. Because I can. And also because I'm afraid of opening them and smelling the smells of expired homemade pickles.

In plain view, you'll spot the dozen different whole grains I've been experimenting with for an upcoming post. Also, a container of overcooked lentils and a couple of jars of rose petal-infused simple syrup that I used in some floral cocktails last week. (Does anyone else always make way too much simple syrup for all their floral cocktails?!?)

Finally, below, a carton of milk and a carton of nut milk: indicators that my roommate is in the throes of a milk affiliation crisis. And, because we organize our fridge very logically, some raspberries, some nuts, some beer, some gin, and some vegetable stock. Yup. Me is food writer.

Inside the freezer
Inside the freezer

My freezer is very empty, thanks to a showing-my-kitchen-to-the-public-induced-clean-up. But no matter how packed, you'll nearly always find a pint of Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, my roommate's seemingly inexhaustible supply of frozen French fries, and my lingering incredulity over said fries.

A few of my favorite things
A few of my favorite things

Let's play deserted island! Only in this version, the island has a stove and lots of food to cook with. Here's what I'd bring:

  • Two cast iron pans, one 10" and one 4" (the latter, because it's adorable and therefore the most likely candidate for a personified inanimate companion. Panny, is that you?)
  • An olive wood mortar and pestle. Because it makes big things small, and I like small things. Also, it's pretty.
  • Sturdy tongs, excellent for handling meat and/or scratching hard-to-reach areas. Hey—it's a deserted island, okay?
  • A petite enamel baking dish, perfect for one.
  • My trusty vintage Copco Dutch oven, passed down to me from my grandmother and appropriately stained with decades-worth of meaty braises.
  • An OXO mandoline, for slicing things super-thin. I like super-thin almost as much as I like small.
  • The best and only jar opener you'll ever need. Since, you know, deserted islands are usually well-stocked with firmly sealed jars.
  • A totally badass Vollrath 52010 10" high-heat spatula—this guy can handle up to 500°F heat. 'Nuf said.

The appliance graveyard
The appliance graveyard

Where equipment goes to die. Also known as the "realizing you're a hoarder cabinet," since at least half the things in here are broken. Highlights include a slow cooker with no lid, a functional but oversized toaster oven, a Cuisinart chopping tool that I've literally never used (but occasionally take out, puzzle over, and return to the cabinet), a mini food processor that I actually use all the time, an electric beater that's missing a beater, and my totally kick-ass brand new Anova sous-vide circulator. With which I have now made more 40-minute eggs than any one human should healthily consume in a lifetime.

The everything drawer
The everything drawer

Erm, remember that thing I said about hoarding earlier? Yeah...there's more. A whole drawer of more. Some of which I love and treasure (hand blender, microplane, mandoline, garlic press), and some of which are, shall we say, less useful (crappy knife sharpener, various peelers, a mezzaluna and a special pair of scissors engineered specifically for chopping salads, and so on).

Flavor ninjas
Flavor ninjas

Three things I like to put on other things. From left to right, we have: spicy-sweet, spicy-smoky, and tangy-sweet.

Some books
Some books

Accumulating a lot of cookbooks kind of goes with the job, but no matter how vast my collection grows, these are the ones I tend to crack most often (excepting my copy of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, which lives on my desk at the office), whether for reference or nostalgia. Namely, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The New Making of a Cook, Modernist Cuisine at Home, Larousse Gastronomique, and The Professional Chef.

The liquor
The liquor "cabinet"

There's not much rhyme or reason to our liquor collection—my roommate and I tend to drink beer, gin, whiskey, red wine, and Bloody Marys most often (yes, I realize that's a lot of things to drink "most often"), but over the years we've accrued a diverse array of liqueurs, syrups, and random bottles of booze. We also appear to have lost the caps to all our bottles of bitters. Celery bitters, by the way? Five stars.

The booze
The booze

I pulled out all the bottles that were hiding on that shelf. We've got a single-malt Scotch, two more bottles of gin, some Grand Marnier, St. Germain, a touch of mezcal, an ancient bottle of Amaretto, and rum. Long Island iced tea, anyone?