My Own Devices

Your shelf of dusty food appliances tells tales of guilt and unmade pasta

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John Lehndorff | Boulder Weekly

Do you have certain “appliances” that are hidden away in your house that you would rather not talk about?

If you answered “yes,” you are not alone.

We all have our own steamers, fryers, rotisserie ovens and George Foreman grills in the closet.

Little known fact: The primary dish prepared in Cuisinart and other home food processors is guilt. The multi-function, multi-part gadgets sit smugly on counters or dusty back shelves as a gnawing reminder of recipes you never made and meals you wanted to serve… but never had time.

You break out the processor maybe once a year, but week to week it isn’t part of your cooking. This is another sad example of the presence of Christmases past, the presents you must hang on to in case the gifter drops by and asks: “How’s that ice tea maker?” As a result, unwanted kitchen gizmos can follow you through life like distant relatives you don’t really know.

I’m not morbid, although I have written a lot of obituaries in my time. I don’t see dead people, but I do see row upon row of aged bread machines, percolators and electric can openers on sale at the Salvation Army, ARC and other Boulder County thrift stores. How many of them were well-meaning gifts?

Many readers who cook all the time for family and friends may love using a vacuum sealer, sous vide equipment or other appliances for playing in the kitchen. I understand, but I’m more utilitarian. The ones I can’t live without include a stovetop popcorn popper, blender, coffee grinder and microwave. I used to swear by my old rice steamer but now I just dump my basmati in boiling water and strain it when it is done. I have a crockpot that comes in handy for an occasional potluck.

While the possibility of pressing various foods into a waffle maker does intrigue me, I’m not sure I need something like a pressure cooker that is smarter than me.

If you are pondering gifting a friend with a zucchini spiralizer, check with them first. The only gizmo they may really need and would use often is a sharp paring knife. It’s easy to wrap and it fits in that solstice stocking.

There are other devices, like a musubi mold, that I’m hanging onto for the time being. You never know when you’ll want to make Hawaiian seaweed-wrapped SPAM sushi.

Local Food News

When Denver Broncos star Von Miller recently gave every player in the AFC West a bottle of custom 2014 The Setting Cabernet Sauvignon (more than 200 bottles), the wines were blended by Boulder-born Fairview High graduate Jesse Katz. … Ty Hammes and Erika Anderson have opened Mojo Taqueria at 216 Main St. in Lyons. One of the region’s most talented chefs, James Van Dyk, runs the kitchen, dishing authentic scratch-made tacos, ceviche, enchiladas, carne asada and more. Van Dyk owned Lyons’ acclaimed Gateway Cafe. … The Gold Hill Inn’s final night of dining until spring is Dec. 18. … Bryan Drayton of Oak at fourteenth and Acorn will open a new rooftop restaurant at 1023 Walnut St. in Boulder in summer 2017.

Finding Global Holiday Goodies

Lot of folks are looking at their DNA these days as well as their genealogy to understand their cultural inheritance. I’m more interested in my pastry family tree and where I can locate certain baked goods that signify “Christmas” to me, including pannetone and stollen, two classic fruited, yeasted sweet breads.

Here are some local sources for some hard-to-find treats:

Panettone and figgy pudding: Moxie Bread Co., Louisville, moxiebreadco.com

• Paczki (Polish doughnuts), Russian tea cookies and babka (coffee cake) with raisins: Royal Bakery, Arvada, royalbakeryco.com

Stollen (with fruit and almond paste): City Bakery, Denver, citybakerydenver.com

• Pfeffernuss (spice) and springele (anise) cookies and stollen: Rheinlander Bakery, Arvada, rheinlanderbakery.com

• Pannetone, ricotta pie and Italian cookies including pignoli: Dolce Sicilia Italian Bakery, Wheat Ridge, dolcesiciliabakery.com

Giving Local Books to Local Cooks

I don’t use recipes very often so I don’t often read cookbooks, but let me suggest three food books that are readable and highly useful in the kitchen.

nibbles_3Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (UNC Press, 2013) by Denver author Adrian Miller: This book won the 2014 James Beard Award in Reference and Scholarship, but it’s a great page turner about why America eats the way it does. I love the chapters on real mac-n-cheese and fruit cobbler. (Paperback available Feb. 2017)

Jax Fish House Book of Fish by Dave Query (Pruett, 2002, available online): If you teach a person to fish they can fish for food, but he or she will need a copy of this book. The basic fish and seafood cooking directions are detailed and straightforward, along with well-tested side dish recipes from the original restaurant in Boulder.   

Farm, Fork, Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm (Kyle Books, 2014) by Eric Skokan: A noted Boulder chef and farmer writes about his dual life, and in the process helps us appreciate exactly what the moniker “farm-to-table” really means to the growers, cooks and diners.

Taste of the Week

The Bagel Store has successfully flown under the foodie radar for 40 years at 942 S. Monaco Parkway in Denver. Maybe it is because this no-frills, take-out-only kosher bakery just sells baked goods — no coffee, no toaster and no cream cheese. They produce classic bagels — but no silly flavors like blueberry — and the challah makes topnotch French toast. I will detour there simply to get onion-y bialys and a few, filled rugelach and hammentaschen.   

Words to Chew On

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. … If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.” — Rev. Jack King

John Lehndorff is a former pantry boy at the Greenbriar Inn. He hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 FM, streaming at kgnu.org). Food blog: johnlehndorff.wordpress.com. Comments: nibbles@boulderweekly.com.