Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Annual Vintage Stove Exchange at the Cottage

Some people collect stamps. Others collect teddy bears, shot glasses or posts cards. I collect stoves and refrigerators (among way too many other things).

Like many other people who collect things, the greatest pleasure in collecting isn’t the actual getting, it’s the finding. And along the way of finding these wonderful vintage appliances, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to meet so many interesting and engaging people. Sometimes an old stove comes with a great story about the person who purchased it, or cooked on it for decades. Other times it’s just an outdated fridge taken out of service years ago that’s sitting in a corner of a dirty garage. No matter the situation, at some point in time these enameled and chrome laden boxes helped to provide a person, a family, with the food that sustained them.

Beyond their essential function, these appliances reflect the style and technology of their time. They are beautiful pieces of industrial design, many of them manufactured by divisions of American automobile companies during the boon post-WWII years. One only needs to move a few of these vintage appliances to understand how their construction differs from those being built today! They were built heavy and made to last a long time. Like the cars of the same era, styles changed from year to year. So while they were built to last, many weren’t styled to last. Colors went from white to a rainbow of pastels – petal pink, sea foam green, turquoise, canary yellow to a movement into earth tones and darker colors like harvest gold, avocado green and coppertone. And like the good American consumers we are, many of us kept up with the latest styles and hauled our out of fashion stoves and refrigerators to the basement, garage or cottage.

So, what is the good in having this collection of vintage appliances if I don’t use them? Exactly! Each spring, when we open open the cottage for the summer season, we change out the stove. While it takes a bit of effort, it gives me the chance to put these beautiful old ranges into service and enjoy them. This year, we removed the 1955 Crosley range that had been in the cottage kitchen for the past year and replaced it with a 1953 Kelvinator range. Here’s to another season of great meals on a vintage stove!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dill Pesto Couscous

We have had a number of requests to cook more side dishes in addition to the main courses and desserts. When we were cooking up our Greek Meatloaf I realized that I didn’t have any potatoes, so looking around the pantry I found a bag of couscous.  Decision made! 

When I first had couscous many years ago, I was under the mistaken impression that it was some sort of grain. It is actually a form of pasta made of semolina in granular form. I’m not sure of its origin, but it is very popular in North African cuisine. On its own, couscous is pretty bland tasting so often it is served underneath meat or vegetables. It can also be infused with flavorful ingredients, cooked in stock and many other options to give it a more substantial taste. Because couscous is granular, it cooks quickly and easily.
It happens that we had a lot of fresh dill and parsley on hand, so we wanted to add these flavors to the couscous along with some other things we had on hand. Almonds and raisins also added some crunch, sweetness and texture.

Dill Couscous

First, make a pesto using fresh herbs that you will cook with the couscous:

1 cup of fresh dill (you could also use basil or mint)
½ cup of fresh parsley
2 TBSP almonds or walnuts
1 clove of garlic or a small shallot
1 lemon, zest removed and juiced reserved
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Put everything in a food processor except the lemon and combine. This will be a loose kind of sauce, not thick as some pesto can be. Give it a taste, add more salt and pepper as preferred and, if you want a little more lemon flavor, add some of the reserved lemon juice. Once you’re good with the flavor, set mixture aside.

Now you can make the couscous:

2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups couscous
Dill pesto mixture
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
½ golden raisins
Put chicken stock and dill pesto mixture in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add couscous, stir and cover pot. Let stand for about seven minutes. Remove lid and add almonds and raisins – fluff with fork to make sure everything is mixed together. Serve immediately.