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Innovative Cooking in a Tiny Kitchen

Denise Sullivan Medved is married and lives in Alexandria. She has a large, modern kitchen with all the latest in kitchen gadgets and appliances.

For Medved, however, it wasn't always that way. For years, she lived in places that had very small kitchens. When she was a young professional living in New York City, her apartments were very small and had one common element — they all had tiny kitchens.

That didn't stop her from cooking and entertaining. When she moved to Alexandria from New York, she lived in Captain’s Row. Although it was in a charming location, her kitchen was even tinier than before.

“Only one person at a time could fit in there,” she said.

Nevertheless, she decided to throw a fajita and margarita party for 25. It was February, when everybody had the blues, and she wanted to liven things up.

One of the guests she invited, Bill Medved, was the man she later married. He cooked most of the fajitas, and the party was a success. Medved remembers thinking at the time, "If I can throw a party like that in this kitchen, I can write a cookbook."

However, life and working full-time in the high-tech field took priority, and the book was put on hold. The real impetus for writing the book came about last August, when Medved decided she couldn't continue to work at her job one more day. She called her husband and said, "I'm quitting my job, and I'm going to write my cookbook."

After exploring other publishing options, Medved decided to self-publish her book. She knew desktop publishing and had a cousin who was a food photographer.

"I envisioned the whole thing in my mind," said Medved. "Since you only get one shot at a first impression, I didn't want it to look like it was self-published."

MEDVED STARTED WRITING AUG. 8, and she delivered the book to the printer on Nov. 8. It's been a whirlwind since then. Before they were delivered, she had already presold several hundred copies and had a book-signing at a private home the day the books were delivered, at which many more were sold. Since then, she's sold over 2,000 copies and was recently picked up by a distributor, who will be distributing the books to major bookstore chains by September. Medved also had a call from a producer who's interested in pitching her story to a food network. Locally, the book can be found at Dean & Deluca's, The Virginia Shop, Pineapple and at Gallery Lafayette, studio of the artist, Todd Healy.

Healy did the drawings for both the front and back covers of Medved's book. "Todd Healy's the nicest man in the world," said Medved.

"It's been so much fun. You want to do something, you research and go out and do it," she said.

Although Medved has gone back to work again, she has big plans for her writing future. She said that this book is only the first of a series of books that they are planning. The next one will be titled "Bachelor's Tiny Kitchen" and then "Tiny Kitchen Entertaining." Following that will be books on cooking Asian, Italian and French in a tiny kitchen. She's in the process of having a Web site built, which will be appropriately titled www.thetinykitchen.com.

Medved's favorite recipe is tortellini and pesto dipping sauce. "I make that all the time," she said. It’s included in the appetizer section. Following are some other recipes from the cookbook:

TOMATO STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SALAD

4 large tomatoes

2 cups cooked chicken cut in cubes

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped parsley, dill, cilantro or tarragon

2 teaspoons capers

2 cups mixed greens

Cut down each tomato in eighths not quite to the bottom. Combine chicken, celery, mayonnaise and herbs. Place 1/2 cup of the chicken salad in each opened tomato. Top with 1/2 teaspoon capers. Place on plate lined with greens. Garnish with hard-boiled or deviled eggs and sliced hearts of palm.

GAZPACHO

1 cup tomatoes, chopped, peeled and seeded

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped, seeded cucumber

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped shallot

1 can (46 ounces) vegetable or tomato juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Worcestershire sauce (to taste)

Tabasco (to taste)

Sour cream

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve cold in soup bowls, mugs or margarita glasses. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley, fresh dill or a thin cucumber slice.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

4 ounces sweet chocolate

2 tablespoons strong black coffee or Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup heavy cream

Combine chocolate with coffee or Grand Marnier in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted. Cool 10-15 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Whip the heavy cream. Fold the melted chocolate into the whipped cream. Refrigerate for two hours. Serve in champagne classes, demitasse cups or other small individual serving cups (it's very rich so a little goes a long way). Serve with overnight meringues (see below) on the side. Top with fresh raspberries.

INDIVIDUAL MERINGUE NESTS

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, adding the sugar slowly. Beat until shiny peaks form when the beater is lifted. Fold walnuts into beaten egg whites. Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper. Drop the egg whites by the teaspoonful onto the wax paper.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place meringues in the oven and immediately turn it off, leaving the meringues in overnight. Do not open the oven until morning, when you remove the meringues from the oven and remove from wax paper. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.