Monday, September 17, 2012

A new toy!

I have a thing for kitchen gadgets – have I ever mentioned this before? Seriously, I am a total sucker for gadgets of all kinds, even those ridiculous ones that really only have the one purpose, because you just never know when that is the one thing that is going to make or break a recipe.

I’ve been wanting a food mill for several years, but hadn’t been able to justify getting one – the Oxo one I picked out was perpetually stuck in my Amazon wish list, along with a French rolling pin, a mortar and pestle, a tart pan with removable bottom, a special heart-shaped dish to make coeur a la crème…never mind the approximately four dozen cookbooks…

So back to the point of this post, and please disregard my OCD when it comes to Amazon kitchen purchases. Anyway, a couple weeks ago I saw a recipe for applesauce that sounded super easy – but there was just one catch. You guessed it – I needed a food mill. Finally, the motivation I’d been looking for! It turned out that Bed Bath and Beyond has the same Oxo mill for the same price as Amazon, plus I was able to use one of their infamous 20 percent off coupons, plus there is a location literally down the street from my apartment, with the mill in stock – so yay for instant gratification! My total, including tax, was just about $43.

Over the weekend I finally had a chance to try it out. I made the applesauce (by the way, that recipe is here: and it was divine. I loooooove homemade applesauce. Something about it is just a million times better than the store bought kind. My grandparents always make a lot of “lumpy applesauce” each fall, especially when I am coming to visit because they know how much I love it. I’ll really miss that this year, being out in California. But alas, I was able to make myself a pretty decent substitute, and the food mill definitely made it super-easy. (Confession: this applesauce is so good, I find myself wandering over to the fridge, pulling out the bowl, and eating a spoonful or two every few minutes.) Mavis makes this note at the bottom of her recipe: “Fresh applesauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.  If you don’t think you’ll go through it that fast, you can always freeze it.” Um, like that’s even a concern. This stuff will be looooong gone five days from now.

As it turned out, another recipe I’d planned to make Saturday also called for a food mill, so double score! I made Ina Garten’s Garlic mashed Potatoes (as seen in Barefoot in Paris) and they were really good – as I’d expect them to be, considering that I love all her recipes. The mill helped make them super creamy but not too thin. That reminds me – I haven’t discussed this yet!

As you all know, I recently moved from New England to San Francisco. There were a lot of factors that contributed to this move, but one was definitely my love for food – SF seemed like an ideal place to nurture that passion. And for the most part, it is. I’ve been able to go to some restaurants/cafes/shops that I’d heard so much about in magazines or on TV. The farmers’ markets are great. Food is just so central to life and culture here, and in that way, I fit right in. However…I was hoping that there’d be some sort of part-time certificate program in culinary or (preferably) pastry arts that I’d be able to do on weekends or something. I want to improve my skills and…I don’t know, legitimize myself. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find what I am looking for. There are some very neat sounding one-time classes around (even at the CIA in Napa, so I’m psyched by that opportunity). I’m bummed, but I haven’t given up. In the meantime, I recently discovered that Ina Garten (one of my very favorite food personalities) really has no formal culinary training. She says she learned to cook mostly from friends and by cooking her way through various cookbooks. In a move completely ripped off inspired by Julie and Julia, I’ve decided to do just that – I am going to cook every recipe in Barefoot in Paris. This is a good choice for such a project because it is a beautiful book, very accessible, but with a moderate amount of recipes (compared to, say, Mastering the Art of French Cooking), plus there is a gorgeous picture accompanying each recipe. Flipping through it the other day, I realized I’d already made two of the recipes (rosemary cashews and croquet monsieur)! After this past weekend, I’ve made two more – lemon chicken and the mashed potatoes. Off to a good start!

For my next post, expect to see musing about fall in northern California.

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