We report the first survey of chemical abundances in M and K dwarf stars using atomic absorption lines in high-resolution spectra. We have measured Fe and Ti abundances in 35 M and K dwarf stars using equivalent widths measured from λ/Δλ≈ 33 000 spectra. Our analysis takes advantage of recent improvements in model atmospheres of low-temperature dwarf stars. The stars have temperatures between 3300 and 4700 K, with most cooler than 4100 K. They cover an iron abundance range of −2.44 < [Fe/H] < +0.16. Our measurements show [Ti/Fe] decreasing with increasing [Fe/H], a trend similar to that measured for warmer stars, where abundance analysis techniques have been tested more thoroughly. This study is a step towards the observational calibration of procedures to estimate the metallicity of low-mass dwarf stars using photometric and low-resolution spectral indices.