Old world and modern design coexist in Santa Fe kitchen
Old-world recipes, handwritten in German on yellowed paper, coexist peacefully with Texas furnishings and décor in the Santa Fe home of Petra Faisst and Jeff Hinton.
The multicultural theme continues in the couple’s lifestyle as well. She has season tickets to the ballet and he prefers the rodeo. And although the rough-hewn table of reclaimed wood and slate is often set with her grandmother’s Villeroy & Boch china, Faisst and Hinton are in harmony when it comes to culinary ventures and their delight in their recent kitchen remodel.
Both embrace a preference for food cooked the old-fashioned way — that would be from scratch — and using the freshest and most responsibly sourced ingredients, which often means produce picked from their own backyard.
“I not only want to know what goes into our food, but how it got there,” said Faisst, who works in information technology for a major oil company. “Practicing sustainability is essential as I see it, and we both are dedicated to being respectful of the Earth and what it provides.”
The couple’s home, on 1.5 acres of former farm land, is surrounded by fruit trees and garden plots that over a year’s time yield a farmers market worth of produce. In addition to the fig, pear and pecan trees for which the area has historically been known, they also harvest a variety of other fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Having honed her horticultural talents during childhood when she spent time on her godparents’ farm in Germany, Faisst is capable of propagating many of her plants from scratch as well. Whether it is a seed tucked into the dirt, or a lone cutting stuck into the ground, she seems able to coax a crop from the earth itself, her husband said.
The couple’s garden-to-table routine is further supported by an outdoor sink in which fresh harvest and hard-working hands can be quickly rinsed off before being taken into the couple’s newly remodeled kitchen.
Although they had a good idea of what they wanted before starting the project — even to the point of having marked out the proposed kitchen’s footprint with blue tape on the floor — they found professional advice provided by Randy Godeau of Bay Area Kitchens to be invaluable.
“Randy not only guided us around potential design mistakes, but also was cognizant of the sticker shock often associated with kitchen remodels and helped explore ways to keep the project within budget,” Hinton said.
Faisst, not quite 5 feet tall, is understandably particular about the accessibility of her kitchen appliances and work spaces.
“As you can see, I’m not very tall, and a kitchen that would fit me was essential,” she said.
A door on a standard oven can pose a serious challenge, especially when she’s handling a large, hot pan, she said.
She demonstrated the ease with which the side-swinging French doors on her GE Café model oven allow much easier and safer access to items on its baking racks.
“No one should ever make an oven any other way,” she said.
The oven set the tone for the rest of the kitchen that features a five-burner cook top, also from the GE Café line, a warming drawer used regularly for making bread and a powerful Vent-a-Hood for efficient but quiet ventilation. A German-made faucet by Grohe provides a high-tech outlet for the kitchen’s reverse osmosis water system that draws from a private well.
A professional-grade KitchenAid mixer is easily positioned for use thanks to a specially designed lift-up hinged shelf. Travertine subway tile and a large granite countertop have been set above Wood-Mode cabinetry outfitted with sliding drawers rather than shelves.
“Drawers are very important to me,” Faisst said. “Not only do they allow you to access what’s inside your cabinets more efficiently, you can’t crawl into cabinets so easily as you get older.”
To illustrate her point, she pulls open a large under-the-counter drawer and a coffee table-sized space filled with spices rolls into view, with each container laid on its side so that the dozens of labels face upward and are clearly identifiable at a glance.
Because of the couple’s commitment to working with the basics, they didn’t include a large pantry in the remodeling. And although they met at a wine tasting, they today make their own beer and cider.
“I use mainly staples, so that cuts down on the need to store a lot of different things,” she said.
She also makes butter occasionally with fresh milk from a local dairy. Venison from Hinton’s hunting ventures is incorporated into her signature sausage mixture that the couple stuffs into natural casings using a special appliance kept just for that purpose.
Despite the difference in backgrounds and culture, the team spirit and affection that exists between Faisst and Hinton is obvious.
“Although I am the main cook, he’s my cutter-upper, dishwasher and sous-chef,” Faisst said as she smiled at her husband of five years.
“It surprises many people, but the two of us really are a good fit — we even say that to one another a lot,“ Hinton added, shrugging good-naturedly as he stood at his post over the cutting board used to prepare flammkuchen, for which the recipe follows here.
Relatively quick and simple to make, Flammkuchen can be served as a snack, appetizer or main dish. It’s a popular dish from the Alsace region, which for years was flip-flopped between Germany and France but now is geographically within French borders. Nevertheless, Faisst said that this dish is as popular today in Germany as in France. Note that the ingredient amounts as provided by Faisst are to be measured by weight, not volume. Faisst recommends serving this with a white wine or riesling from the Rheingau area.
For the dough:
7 ounces of flour
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1⁄2 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter
7 ounces crème fraîche or sour cream
7 ounces onion, diced
7 ounces feta cheese
31⁄2 ounces bacon or prosciutto, thinly sliced (about four slices bacon from a 16-ounce package)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to the highest temperature possible, 450 F to 475 F.
Thoroughly mix flour, oil, water and salt to make a stiff dough — it should not be sticky. Roll dough out as thinly as possible on a pizza stone or similar cooking surface. Place in oven and bake for about 5 minutes, then remove.
While dough is baking, melt butter in a pan, then add onions and allow to “sweat” for a few minutes until they start to soften.
Spread crème fraîche or sour cream on top of the baked dough, then top evenly with the onions, feta cheese and bacon. Season with salt and pepper.
Return to oven and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Once the bread looks crispy, it’s done.