It's hard to resist picking up a book with the words "Crappy" and "Meals" in the title, especially when the cover art includes a photo of an average-looking woman wearing a chef's coat and a coordinating bandana, holding a plate of what looks like lamb and vegetables with an herb garden growing out of it. Oh, and don't forget the clipart of a stove and a checkered floor in the background. Classy.
Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens author Jennifer Schaertl is a Dallas chef who started as a dishwasher and worked her way up to sous chef, eventually landing gigs in 4-star restaurants. Schaertl, like me, has cooked in Crappy Little Kitchens all her life -- from her first efficiency apartment to her current place where she has a wobbly old stove, crooked floors and no dishwasher.
Unlike me, she actually learned to cook well in these miniscule spaces. So it's no surprise that 90% of the book is dedicated to recipes that can be cooked in Crappy Little Kitchens.
No complicated instructions. No ridiculous ingredient lists. Just good simple food, which is the way I like it. It's worth a read-through just to check out the cheeky names of her dishes, including Make-You-Want-to-Marry-Me Mussels Marinara, This Salad Bites and Shutupahyourface Bruschetta.
The best part of the book comes before the recipes are introduced, when Schaertl gives helpful tips on how to de-clutter your Crappy Little Kitchen of "CLK Saboteurs" -- the pointless gadgets that are wasting away in your appliance graveyard, like your melon baller or that salad spinner 1985 would like back now.
She's also hidden factoids throughout Gourmet Meals in CLK on everything from the origins of okra to "resting" meat throughout the book. Even if you never bother making one of her Crappy Little Recipes, thumbing through Schaertl's humorous tips might help make your day a little less crappy and a little more craptastic.
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If you're hungry for more of Schaertl's guidance, check out her website and enjoy this Crappy Little Video: