a sieve? Wikipedia explains that “in cooking, especially with flour, (a sieve is used as) a sifter to aerate the substance, among other things. A strainer is a type of sieve typically used to separate a solid from a liquid. The word “sift” derives from sieve.” To me a sieve is the first expensive cooking utensil I bought when I started my cookie business in New York city over 12 years ago. We sifted together until the early hours of the morning. When I moved back to California, it saw me through my bread baking mania of 1998-99. It has sifted all-purpose, whole wheat and bread flour for over a decade. It evolved with me when I embraced a life full of berries. It was the perfect tool to quickly rinse a raspberry or blackberry with no fear of crushing. It helped me strain baby food once Zoë was born and create the smoothest of sauces. I have quickly blanched pounds of broccoli with my sieve. I just placed the broccoli florets in my sieve; dropped it in the boiling water and minutes later they were easily scooped out with one snatch of the handle. The only limitation to my sieve was draining beans. The mesh was too fine to easily drain the starchy fluid that engulfs canned cannellini beans.
The sieve nested very comfortably in my colanders and was always ready to go in to service. Just one tug of the handle and it was ready to go. No pulling out the drawer or moving things aside or unstacking and restacking. It was easily accessible. Best of all there was no assembly, it just worked.
Tonight I was washing my sieve after using it to rinse cherries. As I dried it, the handle just fell off into my hands. I was in disbelief. It has moved with me across the country and to over nine different addresses. It has always held up, I took for granted that Zoë would be using this sieve one day. I imagined she would use the sieve the same way I use my mother’s tongs and Andy uses his grandmother’s cutting board.
It is replaceable after all and I will have to replace it. I just wanted to share (Andy thought it would help if I wrote about it). Don’t we all have something in our kitchens that we can’t imagine living without? Something that has become more than an object but truly a part of the success you find in many of the recipes you make? I loved that the sieve helped making cooking easier and more enjoyable. It was so shiny and sturdy, I felt like a professional with that sieve in my hand. I felt like the real thing. I suppose I am thankful it helped to give me so much confidence in my cooking. So much so that I blog about it.
In tribute to my sieve, I am sharing the last recipe I prepared in which my sieve was called in to service. I found this recipe yesterday on the Smitten Kitchen blog. It was so easy and I was ready to use my fresh cherries, I just had to bake it. The cake was excellent and tastes best eaten the same day you bake it. All comments in the recipe below are from Smitten Kitchen except that she used raspberries and I used cherries. Oh yeah, and I substituted white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose.
Cherry Buttermilk Cake
From Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009
You can just ignore the word “cherry” up there and swap it up with any fruit or berry you please, like blackberries or blueberries or bits of strawberries or all the above. This is a good, basic go-to buttermilk cake (not unlike a lemon yogurt cake before it) — moist and ever-so-light — a great jumping off point for whatever you can dream up.
Makes one thin 9-inch cake, which might serve eight people, if you can pry it from first two people’s grasp.
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved (about 5 oz)
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. (Let batter rest for 10-15 minutes if using white whole wheat flour.) Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter (see Note) cherries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.
Note: Directions like “scatter” always scare me. Where’s the science? Here’s what my neuroses taught us: the ones that were downward were almost all swallowed by the batter. The “o” ones stayed empty, like cups. Both were delicious.
Make your own buttermilk: No need to buy buttermilk especially for this or any recipe. Add one teaspoon tablespoon [updated, as an astute reader pointed out that the larger amount is more common] of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk and let it sit until it clabbers, about 10 minutes. Voila, buttermilk!