Archive for June, 2011

I Have Seen the Future

June 8, 2011

Once upon a time, long long ago, just after Randy and I started dating, I fell in love with a stove.  We went to a party at one of his friends’ house and after walking in, my eyes jumped immediately to one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.  A Viking.  Not a tall Nordic man but a stainless steel stove.  It was a six-burner stunner with a gorgeous hand-painted tile backsplash.  I don’t know that I had ever seen a stainless steel appliance at that point in my life and I had certainly never seen anything so beautiful and so useful.

At the time, I was living in a tiny house with a tiny kitchen and a tiny stove with a tiny oven and I thought to myself, “Someday, I want a Viking.”  I told Randy as much, even though we were newly dating and it was probably the kind of thing you “shouldn’t” say to a guy you had been with for three weeks.  But I knew I was going to marry him. And, because it was early in our relationship, he probably did not yet know that when I want something badly enough, I will talk about it ad nauseum until somehow, some way, some day I get it.

Fast forward to 2006 and our purchase of a new-construction house.  Much of the home was done and many of the choices were made but we did get to do some of the fun stuff, like pick granite, backsplashes, paint colors, lighting, cabinet colors, etc.  Much to my HUGE delight, the appliances were ordered and they included a massive 48-inch Viking range and also a Viking refrigerator.  My range has six burners plus a grill spot and has one small and one very large oven.  I was ecstatic and could not wait to put that baby to the test.

Almost immediately, there were problems.  The small oven bakes 25 degrees cold and the large oven bakes 50 degrees hot, something we could not seems to fix despite numerous attempts to re-calibrate.  There is no timer and no self-cleaning feature.  Over time, the burners have gotten really finicky – sometimes they work and sometimes they just click endlessly.  Sometimes they light but another burner on another part of the stove clicks endlessly.  For something that is supposed to be a performance superstar, it was nothing close.  It is a beauty still, but beauty only takes you so far.

So, when Thermador asked if I would like to take a look at the exciting new Pro Grand Steam Range that they will unveil this August, I could not say yes fast enough.  Sure, a couple of days in Scottsdale with food bloggers from around the country sounded like a lot of fun – and it was – but I was really interested to see what the competition is doing.

It turns out that there is no competition.  What I saw in the spectacular Thermador showroom is not an appliance.  It is a dreamy, beautiful, innovative, no-holds-barred, no detail left out, rock star, race car of a range.  Yes, I am talking about a stove and no, I am not exaggerating.  As this beauty was unveiled to the 18 bloggers in attendance, there were sighs, there were moans, there were sharp intakes of breath, there was applause, there were lots of flashes going off, and there was lots of wondering – how can I get this beauty in my home?

So, what makes it so special?  Let’s start with the superficial.  It’s gorgeous.  Sleek, tricked out, and with the cool retro touch of an analog oven temperature setting, this baby would be at home in the most modern of kitchens.  But, unlike my Viking, this is not just a pretty face.  Every last detail has been thought out.  Big things like the patented star shaped burner (which distributes heat much more efficiently with more intensity and fewer cold spots than a circle) and their innovative steam oven (which uses a combination of steam and convection to bake food gently but efficiently) are there.  Or how about three oven racks that glide out smooth as silk unlike the fits and starts of my Viking.  Those racks have a special slot for your oven-mitt-covered hand so you can pull them out easily.  And both oven doors close with a soft touch so you can kick the door closed without a slam.

This range has six burners plus a grill and griddle (I had to choose either/or with my Viking) which are easily switched out.  That griddle has a titanium coating so it doesn’t rust or scratch and there is a small, easily removed repository where you can scrape pancake bits into after using that griddle, you know, the one that can go in the dishwasher.

The cooktop gives you burners with incredible power and also with a gentleness that can allow you to place a paper plate with chocolate chips on it for the length of an afternoon.  As we were learning about the stove, someone mentioned this fact which, I have to be honest, I did not believe.  But after the unveiling, we were invited into one of the incredible kitchens in the Thermador showroom to cook lunch and I witnessed it first hand.  That paper plate stayed on the stove the entire time we were there and never caught fire.  Amazing.  All in all, the Pro Grand Steam Range offers seven different ways to cook in one unit – steaming, convection baking, burner cooking, simmering, grilling, griddle cooking, and warming.

(Kathy and I manning the tofu station.)

My time at Thermador was incredibly interesting and a lot of fun.  We got to stay at a gorgeous resort and ate so much terrific food.  I met some lovely people with lovely blogs and my only regret is that I did not take enough pictures.  Some of my friends have written up terrific posts about our time together and I invite you to check them out for great photography and some more info about this amazing range.

Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen
Kathy from Happy Healthy Life
Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer
Anne from fANNEtastic food
Tessa from Handle the Heat
Maria and Josh from Two Peas & Their Pod

(Full disclosureThermador flew me to Scottsdale and paid my lodging, meals, and airport transfer.  There was no pressure to write a glowing review, or even to write anything at all, it was my pleasure to do so.)

A Need for Something Green

June 4, 2011

Friends – once again it has been a crazy week.  In a very good way.  We spent last weekend on Lopez Island (more on that with cute boy photos on the way), came home to a birthday party for my brother on Sunday, spent a relaxing Memorial Day doing not much of anything, and then Tuesday I flew to Scottsdale to talk about ovens and cooktops. Thermador, a brand I am now officially simultaneously in love with and coveting, has come out with an incredible new option for your stove/oven and I was lucky enough to get a first peek.  I have lots more to say and will do so in my next post.

I returned from Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon and, gulp, catered a party that night.  Recently I have been getting a lot of questions along the lines of “how do you get it all done?”  I think that is a good subject for – you guessed it – an upcoming post.  Within two paragraphs, I have promised you three new posts all having nothing to do with the food you probably come here for.  So, for now, let’s talk food, shall we?

For Thursday night’s party, I had to do most of the work in advance since I had a very short window between the time I landed and the time the party started.  As I was sitting on the plane going through the food I had planned, I realized that there would be a lot of brown and red.  I made those amazing peppers, Muhummara dip, gougères (which I forgot to bring – damn!), nuts, and a couple of other things.  I needed something green.  I’ve had this pea and ricotta tart in my head ever since seeing it on Stacey’s site a few weeks ago and I figured I could work out something with a similar feel.

Alas, no ricotta in my refrigerator and no time to go to the store meant that I had to work with what I had.  I won’t bore you with what my original vision was vs. how it turned out.  I feel confident that my made-up appetizer turned out much better than the imaginary one I started off with.  In the end, I pulsed peas, a bit of cream cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the food processor, stirred in some chopped tarragon and finely crumbled feta cheese, and spooned it into little pastry cups that, miraculously, were waiting for me in my pantry.  They were only about 1 inch across and were perfect for party food.  I got more questions about those little morsels than anything else I brought.  Sadly, the only other thing I forgot besides the gougères, was my camera.

So, I made them again.  This time I used a square biscuit cutter on puff pastry for a more fork and knife-type appetizer.  You could certainly make them even larger and serve them as more of a main course.  In this second go-around, I was out of feta and used a bit of Gorgonzola instead.  I really liked both cheeses and I know a very finely chopped Pecorino would taste terrific too.  I also swiped the bottom of each pastry square with the dreamiest French tarragon mustard.  That little spicy bite made all the difference.

One Year Ago: Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread, Holly B’s Rhubarb Bette, Radishes with Butter and Chive-Sage Salt
Two Years Ago: Greek Pasta Casserole, Green Bean and Fennel Salad, Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps
Three Years Ago: Gazpacho (still the recipe I use)

Puff Pastry Squares with Pea and Tarragon Purée
Dana Treat Original
Makes 12 appetizer portions

You could, of course, just put this purée on crostini  instead of the puff pastry to make it simpler.  Or serve it with pita chips as a dip.  If you choose the latter, I would thin it with more olive oil when you are making it in the food processor.

12 ounces puff pastry
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water (for egg wash)
Tarragon mustard or other Dijon mustard (optional)
6 ounces frozen peas
2 tbsp. cream cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 stalks tarragon, leaves stripped and chopped
2 ounces feta or blue cheese, crumbled into small bits
Chive blossoms, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Dust a work surface with flour and lay unfold the puff pastry onto the surface.  Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll the puff pastry just enough to flatten the seams.  Using a biscuit cutter, a cookie cutter, or a paring knife, cut out 12 squares and transfer each to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  (You want about 3-inch squares.)  Brush each square with the egg wash.  Using a paring knife, score a border, about ½-inch wide without cutting all the way through the pastry.  Using a fork, dock holes in the bottom of each pastry, inside the border.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the pastry squares are nice and golden brown.  You might need to poke your fork back into the bottoms of the pastry to deflate them a bit as they bake.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil.  Add the peas and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and immediately rinse with very cold water.  Place the peas in a food processor fixed with the steel blade.  Add the cream cheese, olive oil, and pinch each of salt and pepper.  Keep in mind that the cheese you add will be pretty salty so use a light hand with the salt.  Pulse the mixture until it is combined but still chunky.

Place the mixture in a bowl and gently stir in the cheese and tarragon.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Swipe just a bit of mustard across the bottom of each square.  Scoop the purée onto each and garnish with chive blossoms if you like.

Newer Posts »