We were looking for a brownstone with space to barbecue, but you can’t buy that in the West Village unless you have $15 million. So that wasn’t an option. When our friend Peter dragged us to Fort Greene we immediately fell in love with it. There’s an enormous range of people, every race, age and occupation—teachers, plumbers, cops, students, stockbrokers, artists, writers. I love the spirit. I love the diversity—it’s such a great, interesting mix.
Your partner, Barry Rice, is an interior designer. You guys built quite a kitchen.
I can’t believe I didn’t clean before you came over. The kitchen is ridiculously over-equipped. Take this Robot Coupe; it’s absurdly overpriced. But last night I had a day-old baguette from Choice, and what’s better than mac ’n’ cheese with breadcrumb topping? This machine weighs, like, 20 pounds; I had to hold it down as it ground the baguette, but the motor wasn’t even straining. I gotta say professional gear is so awesome. Trying doing that with a Black & Decker.
Home on the Range
I love this range; it’s amazingly powerful. Then again, some of the most fun cooking experiences are when you’re on vacation and there’s one crappy knife. Or my friend Peter had a shack in the Catskills and one day Barry prepared an apple pie with apples from Peter’s trees and Peter’s oven broke. And they’re, like, “Whatawedo?” I took that pie, put it in a Dutch oven, fired up the Weber barbecue kettle, and cooked it over indirect heat—perfect. PERFECT. It didn’t even taste smokey. Experiences like that are the most fun. On the other hand, if I need heat—this thing is like driving a BMW instead of
The Viking freezer is pretty seriously awesome. These quart containers are my obsession. I used to save them from my Indian takeout place but they poke a pinprick in the top. Now I buy ’em at Brooklyn Kitchen.
I think the freezer is one of the most important tools in the kitchen. When I’m shooting, we shoot for like 12 hours a day, and I get really sick of takeout. I mean Fort Greene has some great restaurants, but they don’t make chili like mine.
Why I make vinegar is similar to why I make breadcrumbs from an old baguette: I hate wasting food. Once, in Paris, we stayed at someone’s apartment and like many homes in France, they had a crock on the counter where they dump their old wine to make vinegar. As long as you have some mother vinegar—which you can just buy at the Brooklyn Kitchen, or likely they’ll just give it to you—it does it all by itself. Just put some wine in a Mason jar, stretch a paper towel across the top to keep out fruit flies and give it a couple months. Some are better than others, but if I’m starting off with a Robert Mondavi Reserve Cab that I stupidly didn’t finish, I’m gonna have a better vinegar than you can buy in the store.
Pickles for Pennies
I’m really into making refrigerator pickles, inspired by McClure’s, which I put on Best Thing I Ever Ate. I respect what they do, but it’s 12 bucks for a fucking jar of pickles. I thought, “You know what, I’m gonna make my own, but I don’t wanna bother canning.” The recipe’s in my book.
Secret Spice Cabinet
This is one of my favorite things and it was completely serendipitous. When we were designing the kitchen, this was gonna be wasted space and I was, like, “Wait, we’ve got, like, six inches, it could be dry goods.” Badda bing.
A Blade to Strike With
We got this at Brooklyn Kitchen. Lamson Sharp, which turns out to be the oldest knife maker in America. They have this line called Fire, which is really beautiful. It looks like a bowling ball.
It rings with a bell. I think of it as a sound art installation.
One of my favorite features in this kitchen is that the sinks have a foot control. It’s called TapMaster and was invented for dentists’ offices. It’s great when you’re working with raw chicken or whatever. The problem is that when you have company over, nobody can figure out how to work it.
Barry keeps bees on the roof. We get north of a hundred pounds a year from just one hive. It’s absolutely fascinating. The queen flies 80 feet up in the air, has sex with a whole bunch of males, who then of course perish. She never has sex again, but she’ll lay a thousand eggs a day for the rest of her life. The funny thing is that we think of a queen bee as being an exalted ruler—but she’s a cow. And when the hive is done with her they kick her out and make a new one. We have Giuliani to thank for making beekeeping illegal in the first place. Jackass. Anyway now we use honey in all sorts of stuff, like ice cream and baking. Barry’s ice cream machine is really something that we shouldn’t have bought. Ten pounds later! There are multiple beekeepers on our block, besides us.
The locavore movement in Brooklyn is incredible. Have you been to Brooklyn Grange? Spellbinding! It’s exactly what the spirit of the Brooklyn food scene is about—quality, curiosity, do it yourself, everything from Salvatore to McClure’s to the Meat Hook to Provisions to Empire Mayonnaise. It’s high quality and there’s passion there. Brooklyn Kitchen—I love those guys, they’re so cool, they grow hydroponic herbs and sell them by the ounce. [Owners] Taylor and Harry are groovy, dorky, smart—the very best kind of people there are.
We love it here. It’s like this neighborhood is designed for the perfect Saturday. Brooklyn Flea—a little antiquing, a little people watching, great street food—then the Greenmarket. Barry takes a nap, I start cooking, fire up the grill, badda bing. It’s a great place to live.
The book is based on what we do. We crank up the stereo, open some wine and friends come over with armloads of pork and we cook all day long, and then we collapse. That’s why there are dirty dishes in the sink. Last night I used every pot in the room.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Peaches
Adapted from In My Kitchen by Ted Allen
Save this recipe for high summer when tomatoes and peaches are at their absolute ripest. For maximum impact, keep the pasta, tomatoes and peaches, and vinaigrette separate until ready to serve. Do not refrigerate, which would dull the lush flavors.
1 pound pasta, cooked and cooled
5 medium heirloom tomatoes
3 peaches or nectarines
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup ½-inch cubes smoked fresh mozzarella
1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and sliced ¾ inch thick
¼ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
1. Dice the tomatoes and put them and any juices into a very large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, and toss gently. Allow the salt to draw out the juices for 15 minutes.
2. Peel and dice the peaches, add to the tomatoes and toss gently to cover with tomato juice, which will prevent browning.
3. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil.
4. When ready to serve, add the pasta to the tomato mixture along with the vinaigrette, mozzarella, cucumber and basil, and toss gently.
Photo credit: Carolyn Fong