Mike Haedrich's microwave epiphany came with pea soup. The Portland man was nuking a bowlful, a process that, as any seasoned microwave user knows, requires a couple of stop-and-stir cycles. Haedrich

thought there must be a better way to get hot soup, the proverbial light bulb appeared over his head, and the Microwave Mixer, patent pending, was born.

The mixer saves you the trouble of stirring food while it heats, just like the microwave itself saves you from that other old-fashioned activity, cooking.

The most common use of the microwave, according my own very unscientific survey in the office lunchroom, is reheating leftovers, although reheating coffee is probably also high on the list.

But I actually cook in my microwave. At least, I think that melting butter and chocolate qualifies as cooking. It's also great for parcooking potatoes before making homefries. But the one thing I cook most often in the microwave, to the dismay of Italian cooking purists, is risotto.

Risotto is simply a particular type of rice, most commonly Italian short-grain arborio, cooked so that the external starch, called amylopectin, is blended into the cooking medium, usually stock, to create a thickened, creamy sauce. This happens by stirring.

As long as you stir enough, it doesn't really matter if the heat (and heat is nothing more than infrared energy, literally next door to microwave energy in the electromagnetic neighborhood) is radiated from the bottom or generated by a bunch of microwave-excited water molecules rubbing together.

When I make risotto in the microwave, I take the bowl out every 5 minutes or so and stir, sometimes vigorously. Getting from rice to risotto this way isn't really much faster, but I can use the intervals between stirring to make a salad, wash some dishes, or just drink a glass of wine.

Hoping to further streamline my risotto-making, I was thrilled when the Microwave Mixer appeared in the WW test kitchen (which, in this case, happens to be the one at my house). I imagined relaxing with a cold drink while a classic Risotto Milanese cooked unattended.

But I hadn't considered just how advanced the technology had become. My microwave, a powerful beast that dates back to the dawn of microwavery--that's the 1980s--lacked the motorized carousel that's standard equipment on modern units. Without it, the mixer is just an attractively designed piece of plastic.

I guess I won't be making the leap into the 21st century quite yet.


Bite Club has learned Chef Vito DiLullo, who left Caffe Mingo last fall, is eyeing the space that housed Alberta neighborhood favorite Chez What. His project: a country Italian kitchen called Ciao Vito. DiLullo, a Higgins/Bluehour alum and an Alberta-area resident, plans on throwing open the Litmus Design-devised doors by mid-April.

For a copy of Jim Dixon's microwave risotto recipe--and his disclaimer--see www.realgoodfood.com/risotto.html .

For information about the Microwave Mixer, visit www.ekimproducts.com .

The Portland company was founded by Mike Haedrich and his wife, Jean, in 2001.