Doesn't everyone need to line their counter with Thai butterfly pea flowers, Salvadoran red beans, five kinds of rice and jars of homemade ghee, like me?
Absolutely not, says Melissa Coleman (at the top), author of "The Minimalist Kitchen," a guide to reducing kitchen mayhem to a minimum.
Does she make me feel guilty? No, I think her book is wonderful, ideal for setting up a first kitchen, for redoing the kitchen in a new home, for minimizing when moving to a smaller space and to rescue anyone suffocating from stuff.
Coleman is practical, not preachy, supportive rather than judgmental. And you can trim down in easy increments, according to her plan.
Is her cooking minimalist, like spartan food with only three or four ingredients? Again, absolutely not.
It's good, homey, realistic food, the way she cooks for a husband and small daughter. There's nothing fussy or daunting in the book but lots of appealing recipes, and I will be using them in my not-so-orderly kitchen.
This dates from college days, when she and her husband cut expenses by replacing meat with beans. Coleman cooks with everything now. But many of her recipes will appeal to vegetarians and people on plant-based diets, like baked falafel pitas with tahini sauce, roasted vegetable sandwiches and open-faced sweet potato tortas.
If there's a Tex-Mex accent, it's because that's what she ate growing up in Texas. After lunch she showed how to make the bean and slaw tacos and Tex-Mex style Spanish rice. Here, she's shredding cabbage for the slaw, which turns a pretty purple.
Why should you listen to her advice on organizing? Because she's an expert, a graphic designer who created the award-winning blog The Faux Martha. Photos in the book show what she has done with her own kitchen, which is as warm and inviting as it is simple.
Recipes are tagged according to whether they're weekday-simple or more extensive for weekends. And she's willing to go maximalist at times, like in the dessert chapter. "Even a minimalist needs to let loose sometimes," she says in the introduction.
Splurge desserts include an almond-tart cherry crisp, roasted banana cream pie and chocolate, chocolate cake. Those weren't served at Melissa's, but I can attest that her citrus-poppy seed cookies (above) show she's a talented baker.
You'll have to buy the book to get the cookie recipes, but here is how to make her black bean and slaw tacos. This is a weekday recipe and takes only 20 minutes of hands-on work.
BBQ BLACK BEAN AND QUICK SLAW TACOS
From "The Minimalist Kitchen" by Melissa Coleman
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup shredded green apple, segmented orange, diced pineapple or diced mango
2 thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Scant 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 avocados, sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
Crumbled cotija cheese
To make the quick slaw, in a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, mayonnaise, vinegar and salt until evenly combined. Stir in the cabbage, fruit, green onions and cilantro and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
For the beans, heat the drained beans, BBQ sauce and salt in a saucepan on medium-low for 5 minutes.
Warm the tortillas by placing directly over a gas flame to char the edges. Place on a plate and cover with a towel to steam. (If working on an electric stovetop, heat the tortillas on a warmed pan and cover to steam.)
To assemble the tacos, top each tortilla with beans and a generous portion of the slaw and garnish with a couple of avocado slices, jalapeños and a sprinkle of cotija.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.