The Made-in-Italy Paderno Cookware I Fought for and Earned

A long, long time ago, when I was quite young, I was in New Orleans with another too-young person. We had no money (or rather, we spent all our money to stay at Hotel Provincial), so we did things that young and poor people do: we walked, talked, people-watched, ate at small, humble and wonderful places, drank a little bit and enjoyed the street music.

As often happens in NOLA, a flyer was pressed on us by a slight young man, and we were intrigued by its promise: come hear a pitch for a time-share condo and get a free helicopter ride to get a bird’s-eye view of NOLA. Whoop-whoop! We called for the reservation, showed up at the appointed time, and settled in to listen to the pitch.

The salesman glided into his spiel for about two minutes and then stopped abruptly, saying, “You aren’t even in the ballpark of affording something like this, are you?” I’m surprised it took him that long, as we were 20 and 21, looking every bit as naive and broke as we were. We happily ‘fessed up to exactly what we were being accused of. He sighed, dismissed us with a “come back and see us when you’re a little more settled” and rose to escort us out the door of the warehouse-like makeshift office, past a sitting area where other folks were patiently waiting their turn to be sold a bill of goods.

But what about the helicopter ride?

“You didn’t qualify, so we can’t offer it to you,” he said.

We exclaimed that the flyer didn’t say anything about having to qualify for the purchase…you just had to listen to the pitch.  I brandished our copy of the flyer as proof.

See! It says it right here!

“Look, you’re just youngsters, and you don’t understand how it works…”  He spoke quietly, as we were in the waiting area and folks were watching us.  I raised my voice a little; let’s call it a controlled pre-shriek.

What if I said ‘false advertising’ really loudly? I wonder if these people here would be interested? We want our helicopter ride!

“OK, look, I can’t give you the helicopter ride. But here, take this. It’s our alternate gift.”

Even at that age, I was in love with cooking and the kitchen, and when I saw the “alternative gift”, I was good to go. It was a duo cookware set, a skillet and a dutch oven.

DSC_0027.JPG
Aren’t these cookware pieces beautiful? 

I never thought to look up the “alternative gift” cookware until today, when I was toasting aromatics for pho broth (see Excited about Star Anise and Pho).

fullsizeoutput_212b.jpeg
This skillet is perfect for toasting aromatics

It’s a good thing I checked today instead of ten years from now, because the trademark is wearing off. I wasn’t that surprised to find out that it’s really good stuff. Interestingly, I couldn’t find my exact pieces anywhere on the internet.

fullsizeoutput_2128
The trademark info from the bottom of the skillet

I’ve seen a lot of things, done a lot of things and cooked a lot of things since that time over 30 years ago when I got the Paderno pots instead of the helicopter ride, and my hard-won cookware has remained with me. It is my go-to choice when non-stick isn’t needed and cast iron is too much. The skillet is marvelous for sautéing, and the pot is perfect for risotto.

I’m not sure if my set is aluminum or stainless steel, but it doesn’t really matter: it’s mine, it works and my affection for it will last a lifetime. It’s funny to think that it is “vintage” now, but so be it. So am I.

fullsizeoutput_2134.jpeg
My Paderno made-in-Italy cookware, circa 1984

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handmade Gifts are the Best!

Things are just things, but things made by hand are transcendent things. I love a handmade item, whether it was an amateur labor of love by someone I know, a commercial product from a skilled artisan, or somewhere in between.

You’ve read about my favorite possessions, my cutting boards from my Dad (click here). They are even more precious now that he’s gone.

IMG_1407
My Dad made this one for Christmas 2015

Understanding how meaningful these are to me, very close friends gave me a special handmade knife soon after Dad died this summer. It “fits” with the handmade items Dad made; the selection below is the last cutting board he made for me (2015), a bread slicer from the late 90s, and wine stoppers he made about 8 years ago.  In front, you’ll see the new knife and its resting block from my friends.  It was a very thoughtful gift.

fullsizeoutput_165f

Dad’s work falls in that in-between category – his handmade items were definitely a labor of love, and his skill level was approaching artisan.

Below is a closeup of the new knife from my friends, in action. It is lovely, with a steel that extends through the handle.

fullsizeoutput_1d77

This is a non-commercial blog, but I do like to recommend things now and again. The gentleman who made this lovely knife can be found on Instagram at knumb_skullz_knife_worxx.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

 

Gift for a Serious Cook: a Good Mandoline

I love my kitchen gadgets and tools! My Mom used to joke that she wanted to have “every kitchen gadget known to man,” and I may have been influenced by that. A little. Actually, a lot. You can see lots of Mom’s gadgets and dishes on display in the her kitchen below with the two of us in the late 80s.  In fact, I just noticed that the wooden corn scraper I wrote about a couple of weeks ago is hanging on the top right edge of the photo.

fullsizeoutput_18dc

One of my favorite gadgets is the mandoline slicer I inherited from Mom.  Even after she was an invalid and much too ill to cook (or even stand), she was adamant that she’d be back in the kitchen one day and was still putting serious cooking tools on her Christmas list.

fullsizeoutput_1d72

Mom cried when she opened this Matfer mandoline that she had been wanting. It was Dad’s big gift to her on what turned out to be her last Christmas with us. She was never able to use this high-end slicer imported from France, but she had Dad put it on display in the kitchen. I have always wondered if it was a symbol of hope to Mom, or something that made her sad, or even perhaps that she knew she wouldn’t be using it and that it would end up in my kitchen as a beloved instrument involved in making marvelous meals. My Dad gave me this mandoline soon after Mom died in September of 2000, and I think of her every time we use it.

The Grill-Meister is actually the food slicer here at Glover Gardens.  The mandoline is so sharp that I’m actually a little afraid of it. Here he is in action, slicing potatoes for me.

fullsizeoutput_1d74
You can slice a lot of vegetables, really fast, with a good mandoline
fullsizeoutput_1d73
Look how perfectly even those potatoes are sliced

The Matfer mandoline is completely adjustable, so you can get any thickness you want. Did I say that I love this tool? It is super-functional and professional-grade, and the nostalgia factor is high, since it belonged to my Mom.

So in these last few days before Christmas – or if you are reading this in the future – here’s a tip from me: a very good mandoline is a very good gift for a serious cook, at Christmas or any time. If do you buy a mandoline, get a solid metal one and make sure it is adjustable – we also have a cheapo little plastic one that isn’t, and it is not worth the $15 it cost. The Grill-Meister says, “if you buy a good mandoline, it will last a lifetime”. And beyond…thanks, Mom!

If you’re interested, here is the Matfer on Amazon. I’m sure there are other really good ones.

71jkkmpiiil-_sl1500_
The current model available on Amazon (photo from Amazon)

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

 

 

A Favorite Vintage Kitchen Gadget: My Grandmother’s Wooden Corn Scraper

I think corn is a magic vegetable.  It is good on its own, unadulterated and on its humble cob: grilled, boiled, or just fresh off the stalk.  It is a marvelous added ingredient that brings both flavor and texture to muffins or savory breads, main courses like meat loaf, or hearty soups, chowders or risotto. It can star in a variety of salads or adorn a gourmet pizza.  Highlighting its flexibility, there are dozens of ways to showcase corn with all types of international flavors, from Italian to Peruvian to Southwestern to Scandinavian to African and more.

Salmon, Corn, Bruschetta and Snow PeasWe eat a lot of corn here at Glover Gardens.  It is my go-to quick vegetable when the main course requires intensive effort. I often cut it off the cob and pair it with peppers and tomatoes and give it a quick, hot sauté. I also like to use my antique corn scraper to get the most of the creamy “corn milk”, which both thickens and provides a richness to a corn-based dish.

Do you have a corn scraper? Here’s what mine looks like.

fullsizeoutput_1d12.jpeg

This scraper was handed down from my grandmother to my Dad, and then to me when he decided to buy a new one.  I treasure it!  It is an antique but still very much in use, the best kind of inheritance. I think of my grandmother (“Mama”) and my Dad every time I use this wonderful tool.

Here’s a photo of a new corn scraper in action, from a company that sells them, Lem Products (see the link below).

913_2
Image from Lem Products, one of the sellers of this wonderful little tool

The picture above is very much a styled image; the real thing in action looks very, very messy.  See all my denuded corn cobs below? And how creamy and juicy the output is? And how the corn is all over the countertop? I was documenting the family creamed corn recipe while I was making it for Thanksgiving, and got corn bits everywhere from my enthusiastic corn-scraping, including on the computer and the camera. I’m still finding little bits on the keyboard (this makes me smile.)

fullsizeoutput_197f

So, if you like corn and don’t have a corn scraper, you need one! This handy little tool retails from various places for about $10 – $15, which makes for a great stocking stuffer for a cook or a foodie.  If you do have one, do you use it often? I’d like to know…

And finally, here’s a family recipe for creamed corn that we make with this marvelous tool: Best Creamed Corn Ever – Handed-Down and Upgraded Scratch Recipe from My Dad and Grandmother. Try it – you’ll love it!  This creamed corn is a rich, creamy dish that makes you nostalgic for the old days when life was simpler, people were kinder and you could borrow an egg from your neighbor, even if you never experienced any “old days” in that way.

fullsizeoutput_1987

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

Date Night: How to Make Fresh Pasta

The Grill-Meister gave me a great gift for my birthday this year: a certificate for a cooking class date night in which we would learn how to make fresh pasta.

Cooking class for a date night? Really??? Heck, yeah!!!

I’ve been looking forward to this event for six weeks, and it finally arrived this past Wednesday when we sauntered in to the Well Done Cooking Class in Houston, ready to be schooled in pasta.

IMG_3650
Before the class, we were ready to roll (literally)

I’ve never been to a cooking class before, although I was an occasional informal sous chef for a very talented and quite eccentric semi-retired chef when I was a teen (but I digress, that’s definitely a long story for another time). And I’ve never made fresh pasta, either, unless you count one time when I watched, fascinated, as another chef friend did some quick things with his hands and then, voila! – pasta.  I didn’t catch anything beyond “make a well with the flour…”

So – this cooking class date night was a welcome new experience that exceeded my expectations and was a terrific birthday gift for a foodie with a gap in her skills. We were too busy cooking to take many photos, but check this out – in three hours, we:

  • made fresh pasta dough and then put it the refrigerator to rest and chill
  • made fresh sweet potato gnocchi with a brown butter and sage sauce (photo below)
  • retrieved our pasta and made three different dishes
    • ravioli with a squash, ricotta, smoked bacon and basil filling
    • tortellini with the same filling (who knew that tortellini was just one more twist of the pasta after making the ravioli shape???)
    • fettuccini carbonara with Italian sausage
  • Ate it!

Wow! I never realized it was this easy – or quick – to make homemade fresh pasta.  As I said earlier, it was definitely a gap in my foodie education.

IMG_3651
Stirring the sweet potato gnocchi in the brown butter and parmesan sauce
fullsizeoutput_18c9
Our fettuccini was amazing

In addition to learning how to make the pasta dough, it was fun using the pasta roller and the gnocchi board (I never heard of a gnocchi board, but it is now on my Christmas list). The best part of all this is that the Grill-Meister is now all fired up about making fresh pasta, and I suspect he will emerge as the Fresh Pasta Lead here at Glover Gardens. He is already the Pizza Dough Lead and, of course, is out in front when it’s time to grill anything. 

img58o
Gnocchi board from Williams-Sonoma (hint for Santa)

You can expect to see some Glover Gardens pasta recipes here soon, once we have it all figured out.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

A Plethora of Father’s Day Gift Ideas

fathers-dayThere is no reason anyone in the universe should be stumped for a Father’s Day gift in these days of the digital universe.  I’m already all set in my gifting for my own Dad, the Grill-Meister (the Dad in my household), and my father-in-law, but I keep bumping into online lists of Dad’s Day gifts every time I crack open the computer:

So I thought I would just jump right onto that bandwagon and publish a short list of my own, with illustrations.

Glover Gardens Suggestions for Father’s Day Gifts

(AKA Gifts for Any Occasion for Anyone Who Loves Outdoor Cooking)

OK, what you’re looking at here is the grill gazebo.  This was the Grill-Meister’s Father’s Day / Anniversary gift last year.  It’s a hard top, and you can find it at Lowe’s.  There’s also a less expensive canvas top version.

6930707000291 Below is how it looks in our backyard at Glover Gardens.

Gloverhenge and Grill Gazebo
The grill gazebo makes the grill station look professional
fullsizeoutput_938
There’s room for the grill and the smoker, too; that’s the greenhouse in the background

So, in addition to the grill gazebo idea for Father’s Day, perhaps it’s time for your Grill-Meister to upgrade his barbecue grill.  The Grill-Meister had an oil-drum style grill for years until it rusted and then got battered by tornado-felled trees (see If a Tree Falls on the House, Does Anyone Hear It?).  That was a sad day.

img_2746
Disaster in the form of tornado-felled trees struck the previous grill

The new grill, delivered with love as an anniversary gift last year, is a Weber Performer Deluxe, also available at Lowe’s.

077924032370

This Weber Performance Deluxe grill is The BOMB, because it has a propane ignition system that allows you to use charcoal as quickly as you can use a gas grill, making it a viable weeknight option.

fullsizeoutput_939
All of this grilling goodness under one rain-proof gazebo!

The smoker is also a downright solid Father’s Day gift.  In addition to being a Dad-pleaser, it is a gift that keeps on giving.  See Tom’s Smoked Salmon for more info about our smoker and a killer recipe for smoked salmon.

MasterBuilt Smoker
This is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness.

Check out those beautiful smoked chickens.

IMG_3788
Smoked chickens on the Weber grill’s ample side counter
fullsizeoutput_93a
See how nicely the grill gazebo fits into the Glover Gardens landscape?

Just a reminder of the disclaimer on my About page:  All recommendations are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements.

Happy Father’s Day!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

The Juicer for Me, for You, for Ritas

My son’s godparents are margarita aficionados, social creatures, and more like family than friends.  When I was a single mom for a while and they didn’t yet have kids, our standing Friday night ritual was pizza and spicy chicken wings washed down with their handmade margaritas at my 1920s cottage in Old Sugar Land.  To get there, the husband would run (literally) the 23+ miles from downtown Houston, and the wife would drive with Dolly the Dog.  They’d bring the margarita makings, and I’d order the pizza and wings from Gepetto’s Pizza:  Suicidal Wings and Margherita Pizza (seems fitting).  We’d laugh and talk and catch each other up on happenings at work and in our extended families, and often share the food and drink with random neighbor friends who somehow began to realize that the party was always at my house on Friday nights.

First Street House
My son and I lived in a Leave It to Beaver kind of neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other

After consumption of the ritas, driving was perhaps not a good idea, so my friends always made use of the guest room and stayed through breakfast.  My son really loved watching Thomas the Tank Engine with his godparents on those after-ritas mornings, or having them bring the ferocious-looking gentle giant Dolly to his Saturday Little League games.  Simple pleasures…but I digress.  This post is about a citrus juicer.  Stick with me…

dolly-dog
Dolly loved a ride in the convertible and always wore her seatbelt

The main margarita-maker is the male of the couple, and he is GOOD.  I’m working on him to become a guest blogger and publish his recipe here or just let me post it (stay tuned).  He got tired of packing the juicer for the Friday treks, so they bought a new one and made their old Krups model a permanent installation at my house.  Years later, it made the move to Glover Gardens just fine.

fullsizeoutput_476.jpeg
The juicer with about 15% of our 2017 citrus crop

I love this vintage juicer.  I’ve been hooked on citrus the past month since my midnight harvest of our tiny orange and lemon crop before a hard freeze, and have been working the juicer overtime to use all 28 fruits in a variety of recipes.  You can juice an orange in less than 30 seconds with just slight pressure on the cone.  And there is No Juice Left Behind.  I used to have a big juice extractor, but this kind of juicer is actually easier to use and much easier to clean.

Sadly, this hardworking little Krups model is “out of print”, so to speak, but you might find one on eBay or at a garage sale.  Snap it up, if you do!  There are other electric juicers that use the spinning cone approach on the market, but I haven’t tried any of them.  Click here for the current ones available on Amazon (not an ad or promotion, just a public service).

It’s not an every-Friday event any more, and we live too far for our margarita-making friends to “run on out here”, but at least a few times each year, they arrive at Glover Gardens armed with margarita supplies and settle in for the night.  We’ve got the right juicer.  🙂

Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook