When we moved into our cozy 1887 farmhouse duplex, I bought three black stools for our kitchen island. In retrospect, I should have bought four — we always seem to need one more — but they came in a set of three and I didn’t expect that we’d use them that often.
But use them we have.
The kitchen island is where I start my day, making coffee and glancing over the headlines in the newspaper. It’s also where my kids congregate in the morning.
Well, sort of. Having the kids in different schools means they are on different schedules now.
My son has to leave the house at the earliest time — before 7 a.m. He’s usually finished with breakfast and packing the last bits of his lunch when my daughter emerges.
Sometimes their paths cross. Sometimes, he’s out the door before she comes down for a hurried breakfast and lunch-packing before she has to dash off to chorus practice or student council about 20 minutes after him.
It’s also where we congregate when I get home from work and make dinner. I hear all about cross country practice, drama in the cafeteria and why riding the bus home from high school is challenging (apparently it’s so crowded, late arrivals have to wait for the late bus). We chat about homework and friends and weekend plans. When we have guests over, the kitchen island is where everyone hangs out. Sometimes, it’s even where we eat dinner.
It is, with the risk of being cliche, the heart of our home.
Beyond my offspring and I though, it’s also the place where my cat seeks me out. Once he’s won his bid for dinner — via a serenade of meows that begins the moment I step through the front door — he’s content to perch on a stool and watch as I chop, mix and stir in preparation for dinner for the rest of us. My kids have taken to calling him my kitchen cat for all the attention he pays to my cooking. But I digress.
I’ve always loved kitchen islands, but after seeing how integral ours has become to our home, I appreciate it as well. It’s a gathering place, a meeting point, an entertaining venue. When we entertain, it becomes the buffet for serving appetizers or whole meals.
And as far as entertaining goes, simple, elegant appetizers can make it such a breeze. This Cranberry Honey Baked Brie is a perfect example. Warm, melty brie combines with warm cranberry sauce and sweet honey for a decadent appetizer that feels fancy — but is also incredibly easy to make. It needs just three ingredients that together create a creamy, sweet, tart appetizer perfect for enjoying with fresh apple slices, bread or whatever you want.
I love to set this out on my kitchen island bon a trivet on a platter (with a knife) surrounded not just by the options for enjoying it, but also surrounded by friends and family doing just that. And that — the people around the kitchen island — is what really makes it the heart of my home.
Cranberry Honey Baked Brie
8 oz wheel Brie cheese
½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1-2 tbsp honey
For serving: bread, crostini, crackers, sliced apples or a combination thereof
—Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
—Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the brie on it. Top with cranberry sauce. Bake for 7-10 minutes until the brie is soft.
—Transfer brie to a serving plate. Drizzle with honey.
—Serve with your choice of dippers — like bread, crostini, crackers or sliced apples.
Sarah Walker Caron is the author of four cookbooks including “The Easy Appetizer Cookbook,” released last month by Rockridge Press. It’s available where books are sold. Join her at The Briar Patch bookstore, 27 Central Street in downtown Bangor, for a book launch party and food tasting on Sunday, Nov. 10 from 2-4 p.m.