Walking into a Williams Sonoma is a bit like sending me to Temptation Island: I can look but I can’t touch. Really what that means is that I can buy only for others, not for myself. You see, when your kitchen is space challenged, and your purse strings are tightly tied, you need to carefully choose your batterie de cuisine. You must ask yourself which kitchen appliances are necessities and which are luxuries. There is no room at the inn for the superfluous.
It was with more than a little big kitchen envy that I made my last trip to W-S to buy a wedding gift. If “thou shalt not covet thy friend’s All-Clad” was a commandment, my place in Hell would be secure. I should say that my initial feelings when I walked into the store were of the generous and happy sort. I was excited to sift through my friend’s registry, checking out what she still needed and what was “complete.” She is wonderful and so is her fiancé and she loves to cook. In fact, I’m hoping for a dinner invitation. But even after selecting a 13” skillet I found myself lingering wistfully in front of the All-Clad display. You see my baking pans may be mature, but my circa 1989 seven-piece Revere Ware cookware is decidedly first apartment.
My yearning didn’t stop with grown-up pots and pans. They were just the beginning.
My eyes set on the Breville Dual Disc Juice Extractor. Oh, if only I had this $400 magic liquefier I would become a completely different person! I’d ignore the fact that it’s too tall to fit under my counter, join a CSA and start juicing. I’d be one of those people who wakes up at 5AM, runs four miles and downs a glass of fresh squeezed kale, carrot and ginger to start my day. My skin would glow, I’d lose some of my skinny-fat and I’d never succumb to a pecan danish ring again. After sensing the overeager greeter just feet away I figured I’d better stop staring and moved it along.
An ice cream maker! Here we are in the middle of a heat wave and what would be a better present to me?! With summer’s fruits about to fill the Greenmarkets to bursting I’d become my own creamery. I love peach ice cream and it’s so hard to find but with the Cuisinart Supreme Ice Cream maker I’d find it right in my freezer! So what if I could buy 60 pints of Ben and Jerry’s for the price of the 32 pound machine, this ice cream would have my name on it! And then I got to the espresso machines. I’d never seen such sophistication! With just a press of a button on the Delonghi Gran Dama I’d be sipping a cappuccino, easing into the morning while allowing the caffeinated charge to take over and send me with a boom into the day. Think of how much I’d accomplish! I’d finally clean out my closet, file my pile of paperwork and maybe finish my book proposal. Being so productive seems worth the $2500 and two feet of counter space, no? My reverie was interrupted by Overeager Saleswoman’s “Can I show you something?” I demurred and made a right, right into booze-land.
After coveting the Cuisinart Electric Wine Cellar (room for 12 bottles! I could entertain!) I was feeling a little poor-me until I spotted the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker and had a flashback to a hideous dinner party. (I didn’t just risk offending the hostess because she never bothered to retain my name.) I was not a guest. I was acting as sidekick and dessert maker for a chef-instructor friend at a McMansion in Westchester, one of several evenings in which I played this role for a time and not the only one where the lady of the house said, when asked about the workings of her Wolf range, “Oh, I have no idea! I’ve never turned it on!” and screamed for the housekeeper to come and guide us. At this particular dinner Princess Hostess wanted a Mexican theme and had purchased the margarita maker for the occasion. That appliance she’d learned how to use. The other guests (bankers and the women who love their wallets) got so drunk that by the time I began my demonstration of molten chocolate cakes they had disappeared into the media room and all I could hear was the jeering and cheering at some football game. The whole thing left a terrible taste in my mouth. Why couldn’t she use a blender like most people who want to make a frozen drink? Did she really need to use up counter space (and $350) for something she’d probably only remember to crank up on Cinco de Mayo? It seemed so excessive.
When the store manager handed me my gift, wrapped and ready, it was time to say good-bye to my bloated kitchen fantasies and appreciate the way I’ve figured out how to feed myself successfully without all these gizmos. My Braun coffee maker may be 15 years old but it turns out a tried and true cup of joe morning after morning from its perfect little nook next to the stove. And if I’m craving an espresso jolt, there’s a Starbucks on my corner. I hate kale, carrot and ginger juice and if I were the kind of person destined to rise at 5AM I think my inner clock would have figured out how to wake me by now. A wine cellar? The purchase of this mini fridge wouldn’t increase the square footage of my apartment and transform me into the hostess with the mostest. I’ll continue to keep my bottle in the mega fridge and make my way to the bottom one glass per night at a time. I had resigned myself to buying my Haagen Dazs at the Korean market across the street from the Starbucks when I saw this recipe for no-churn strawberry cheesecake ice cream in Leite’s Culinaria, a great culinary website. Somehow by using condensed milk and cream, and allowing extra time to freeze, you wind up with ice cream. This tangy, sweet, fruity and graham-y dessert really tastes like strawberry cheesecake and made use of two appliances I already own and consider necessities—my Kitchen Aid mixer and my blender. Who needs an ice cream maker?! As for the All-Clad, I’d gladly make room for those bright and shiny saucepans. Anyone looking to buy a 20 year old set of Revere Ware?
Kitchen Dreams Strawberry Cheesecake No-Churn Ice Cream
Adapted From Leite's Culinaria, May 5, 2011 via Spread a Little Joy, Kraft 2010
One 8-ounce package Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, softened
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
3 graham crackers, crushed into small pieces
Beat the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, cream, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and thoroughly blended. It may look curdled at first, just keep mixing till smooth.
Scrape it into a resealable container and freeze until almost solid, about 4 hours.
Puree the berries in a blender until smooth.
Beat the frozen cream cheese mixture with the mixer until creamy. Using a spoon or spatula, add the strawberries to the cream cheese mixture along with the graham crumbs and stir to combine.
If you use the mixer for this you will wind up with a uniform, pink look--I prefer the marbled effect. Return the ice cream to the resealable container and freeze until firm, about 8 hours.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving and let stand at room temperature to soften slightly. Scoop and enjoy.
Yield 1 1/2 quarts.