Got a Tiny Kitchen? Cook Like a Schooner Chef

Annie Mahle’s new cookbook offers lessons from two decades cooking below deck.

Photograph by Susan Portnoy
By Michaela Cavallaro
From our January 2022 issue

Home cooks don’t need to worry about the kitchen heaving side to side with the seas — while working in front of paying customers, no less — but chef Annie Mahle got used to it aboard the J. & E. Riggin. Mahle and her husband, Captain Jon Finger, operated the two-masted schooner out of Rockland for 23 years, and she prepared three meals a day in the six-by-eight-foot galley throughout the sailing season. She became a flexible, improvisational cook, figuring out how to stash only the most necessary implements and how to make full use of every single ingredient. In The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Big Flavors from a Small Space, she takes her lean-and-mean approach to what she calls “comfort food with a swanky twist.”

Courtesy of Storey Publishing

Fittingly, perhaps, for the largely party-less pandemic era, all 50 recipes in the book — from garlicky shrimp to pumpkin-almond soup to chili-rubbed rib eye — are designed to serve two. Mahle and Finger’s daughters are out of the house now, and the couple sold the Riggin to a former mate in 2020, so she’s been tackling the challenge of scaling back. “There were a lot of times where, if I bought the same amount as usual, I’d end up with leftover ingredients,” she says. Hence, a whole section called “Use It Up,” dedicated to putting surplus to work — clam stock incorporated into a lemon, cream, and dill sauce; pomegranate molasses mixed with Greek yogurt, cilantro, and lime; pumpkin puree folded into pancakes. As for keeping cool if things go awry in the kitchen, Mahle is as stoic as any old salt. “Be cheerful and positive in the most authentic way you can,” she advises.

Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Photograph by Kristin Teig


2 red bell peppers, cut in half and seeds removed

5 ounces linguiça sausage (or similar smoke-cured pork sausage)

4 ounces feta cheese, sliced into four pieces

6 golden (or red) cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

pinch kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the pepper halves in a roasting pan or pie plate, cut side facing up. Fill the pepper halves with sausage. Place a feta slice on top of the sausage, followed by the tomato halves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle sparingly with salt.
  3. Roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown on the edges.