Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Ranges

Unless you’re cooking outdoors, it’s pretty difficult to prepare a hot meal or bake without the help of a range. Over time, we have prepared dishes on electric and gas stoves, and I’ve received a number of comments about the appliances we use on Cavalcade of Food. Many of the cooking episodes have been recorded at the cottage, where I am fortunate to have two kitchens: the main inside kitchen and then a “summer” kitchen I built in a shed on the side of the house. This year I decided to swap out the stoves I had in both of these locations with some that I had stored away.

The kitchen shed hosts a 40-inch range, and originally had a 1952/53 Hotpoint single oven range. I removed that stove (and gave it to a friend who was both a fan of vintage appliances and in need of a stove) and replaced it with a 1954 General Electric Liberator, which is a double oven range which was top-of-the-line in its day. You will get a glimpse of this range in an upcoming episode featuring steak au poivre.

Within the cottage, the kitchen can only accommodate a 30-inch range. For the last couple of years, I had a 1958 General Electric range, which was in perfect working order. But I wanted to put another range from my collection into service, so I looked among the other 30-inch models and decided to exchange it for a 1954 Frigidaire Thifty-30 range.

The General Electric range I removed featured three six-inch and one eight-inch Calrod burners, one of them being “high speed.” In fact, the high speed burner could get a pot of water to boil in a little more than three minutes. It featured small pushbutton switches on the top of the range that controlled the burners, a work light, a clock with timer and automatic oven switch. It also had two appliance outlets (one of them that could be set to go on at a specific time) and a broiler.

There are a lot of old GE stoves out there and it’s no wonder – they sold lots of them. GE was, and still is, a large company that had huge market share in major appliances. I always felt their products were fairly well built and engineered, and they had a large network of dealers and service technicians.  I recall the GE was the “official” range of the Pillsbury Bake-Off competition, and in the many years of that contest GE liked to boast that there was never a single range failure.

The Frigidaire range that was just installed in the cottage is – I think – a beautifully designed stove. It is among the Frigidaire appliances that were designed by the renowned Raymond Loewy. Rather than the Calrod elements used in the GE, the engineers at Frigidaire designed the “Radiantube” burners that became a standard on Frigidaire stoves for many years. The controls for the burners are located on the front of the stove, rather than on the back dashboard, providing safe and easy access. I thought this was a good idea because the user would not have to reach across a hot pot to change the settings, but someone told me that it had more to do with costs. It was cheaper to run the wiring to the front of the stove.

At the time this stove was produced, Frigidaire was a division of General Motors, and all Frigidaire products proudly acclaimed to be “Product of General Motors.” Growing up in Detroit, a city consumed by automotive culture, the connection to these large appliances is a fitting one. With gleaming paint, lots of chrome, lights and heavy steel, one can see some parallels with the cars of the same era. GM wasn’t the only auto company in the appliance game. Nash (known later as American Motors) produced Kelvinator appliances. Automotive supplier Borg-Warner made Norge brand appliances, and Ford purchased Philco in 1961.
Frigidaire introduced the 30-inch range in 1950. While it was narrower than most of the stoves of the period (many were 36, 38, 40 or more inches wide), it provided an oven that was much larger than the big ranges. The 40-inch Frigidaires of the period had smaller ovens than the 30-inch model, so this was a big selling point. People were also updating their kitchens or moving out to the suburbs into new homes, and the 30-inch range allowed room for the modern kitchen to have additional counters, cabinets and other conveniences like a built-in dishwasher.
This Frigidaire range has three six-inch burners and one eight-inch burner. It also features a cooking timer, clock with automatic oven switch, appliance outlet, work light and broiler. It has a very deep storage drawer (larger than the GE) under the oven for pots and pans.
While we feature no recipe in this episode, we wanted to spend a little time with our beautiful vintage appliances; for without them we would not be able to prepare the meals we love to share with family and friends.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Detroit Up North - Taking Along Greek Orzo Salad

Some wonderful friends came up with a great idea to invite a bunch of Detroiters to their hometown of Port Austin for a couple of fun-filled days. Dubbed “Detroit Up North,” this wonderful event converged on the quiet village of Port Austin, Michigan this past weekend. I have to thank the fabulous Boyles for getting people mobilized (some people even made the 150 mile ride on their bicycles) and providing a place for all of us to land and celebrate.
The main course was provided – two lambs roasted in a pit for more than a day. These were succulent and tender and served with naan bread and some yummy sauces. Many people brought side dishes to share, and the dining table, which spanned about 60 feet, was lined with countless salads and such. The biggest problem was that the plates were too small to sample everything!
I made a double batch of this Greek orzo salad to take along, and Ralph brought plenty of his always-requested homemade salsa. I really like this salad for events like this as it holds up well and, unlike a mayonnaise-based salad, is fine to sit out on a buffet for a while.  The ingredients provide a variety of textures and flavors, and the dressing is light enough so that it doesn’t overpower everything else. Whether it’s a summer cookout or you just want a light side dish, give this salad a try.

Greek Orzo Salad
1 – 1lb box orzo
1 ½ cup frozen peas
1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted)
4 oz Feta cheese (crumbled)
½ cup chopped celery leaves or fresh parsley
15-16 Kalamata olives
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
3 TBSP olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Dash pepper
Dash sugar

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook orzo as directed on box (or until al dente). Drain orzo and rinse with cold water. Set aside and let cool.
Put peas in microwave safe bowl that is covered with plastic wrap. Cook in microwave for two-three minutes, until just cooked. Remove, uncover and set aside to cool.
In a dry small skillet, toast pine nuts until fragrant and golden brown.  Chop your celery leaves (or parsley) fine. Feta cheese is often sold in 4oz. containers already crumbled, but if you don’t have it that way, crumble cheese into a container and set aside. Roughly chop kalamata olives – make sure the pits are removed.
Get a bowl large enough to hold the orzo and the other ingredients. In the bottom of the bowl, pour the vinegar and oil and add the salt, pepper and sugar. Using a whisk beat the ingredients together until well combined. The dressing should stay together. Place the orzo into the bowl and stir orzo around so that all of it becomes lightly coated with the dressing. Put the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir one more time so they are well distributed. You can serve immediately or chill and hold for a later serving time. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Breakfast! Making Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

It’s hard to argue with a good pancake. Whether you like them rubbed with lots of butter and drenched in syrup, or you spread your favorite jam on top, having a good pancake is a sure-fire way to start the day. But then, how fun is it to have pancakes for dinner? Sometimes pancakes and sausage taste even better at the end of a long day.

There are also a lot of bad pancakes out there. They are dry, dense and hard. Once, I used such a pancake to keep a table from wobbling by placing it under one of the legs. One can also find a lot of pretty good mixes in the market that just require adding milk, eggs, and oil and giving it a stir. The truth is it’s not that hard to make really good pancakes from scratch. Better yet, by making them yourself you can change it up every now and again – make some with whole wheat, blueberries, nuts, etc.

Here is a recipe that works cornmeal into the pancake batter. We love cornbread and corn muffins, and sometimes have them for breakfast. But here we get the sweet corn flavor plus a little of the nice texture of the cornmeal, along with the fluffiness of a good buttermilk pancake.

This recipe makes 18-20 four inch pancakes – good if you are feeding a crowd (or a few good eaters). If not, you can cut the recipe in half. I love to use my electric griddle for pancakes, but a large skillet will work fine, too. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

2 cups buttermilk (at least room temperature – I slightly warm mine)
1 ½ cups cornmeal
3 TBSP melted butter (unsalted)
1 cup flour
2-3 TBSP sugar (to suit)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs (room temperature)

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, cornmeal and melted butter together. Stir well so there are no lumps – mixture should be smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. Set aside.

Gently whisk two eggs together in a small bowl and stir into bowl containing buttermilk/cornmeal. Then add the contents of that bowl into the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until incorporated. Set bowl aside and let mixture rest for 10-15 minutes.

Heat your griddle or skillet to 375-400 degrees. If it has a non-stick surface, these should not stick, otherwise you may want to coat with a non-stick spray. Drop batter onto surface and flip when underside begins to turn golden (there will be some bubbles on the wet top part of the batter). Serve warm with butter, your favorite syrup or jam.