Entrepreneur Margaret Park Esterman is an author and inventor who relies on her own ingenuity. As an accomplished gardener and cook, she loves serving up her homegrown vegetables and fruits. When she couldn’t find a cooking tool that would press food against the bottom of a colander or a bowl, she decided to invent one by attaching a curved blade to a pestle. The end product, the pressaluna, can press, drain, chop, purée, trim, mince, crush, pound, knead, and–well, you get the idea. Just this single tool can replace a food mill; mezzaluna; mortar and pestle; mallet; potato ricer; and pastry blender. This innovative tool is now a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $20,000 by November 14.
Product design and cooking might not seem to have much in common, but Esterman sees cooking as a conduit for human creatiivty, and cooking requires tools. Whether the person in the kitchen is a five-star chef or a mom making dinner, the tools that they use need to be convenient and easy to use and to maintain. The pressaluna enhances culinary creativity because its versatility makes cooking more efficient. The pressaluna can chop items in a bowl; crush nuts and spices; rice potatoes; purée in a colander; make a flaky pie crust; knead pasta dough; juice pomegranate seeds, pound meat into cutlets, trim and chop herbs, and more. Thanks to her meticulous experimenting over the past few years, she’s been able to make sure that the shape and size of the current pressaluna model, which is made of high quality hardwood and stainless steel and can be washed in the same manner as any other wooden kitchen utensil, will make cooking easier. The handle is designed for comfort and safety, while the convenient size of the tool lets it fit into a standard kitchen drawer.
The ease of the pressaluna means that so many cooking tasks have been simplified. Esterman found that when she chops her juicy garden tomatoes in a bowl, she’s no longer dealing with the juice spilling from the cutting board to the countertop. She no longer has to peel tomatoes when puréeing them in a colander because the skins and cores don’t escape through the holes. Her purée is now juicier because she doesn’t need to use a blender, which whips air into the purée. The result is a gazpacho and tomato soup and sauce that is juicy, not frothy.
Even the best cooks and bakers can find pie dough a challenge. When she switched her recipes from vegetables to pastry, Esterman found that with the pressaluna, she now has a foolproof method for making delicious, flaky pie dough. The pressaluna layers the butter and flour, creating a textured pie crust that doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling it out. By using the pressaluna to make her pasta and gnocchi dough in a bowl, the process has become much quicker and tidier.
Thanks to its curved shape, the pressaluna can be used to pound meat into cutlets without damaging the surface of the meat. Need nuts and spices for baking? The pressaluna easily crushes them. Esterman admits that she hasn’t even been able to reach the limit of possibilities for the pressaluna because she’s still finding new uses for the tool.
Esterman perceives cooking not as a household chore but as an imaginative exercise that results in something tasty. “We tend to become blasé about the activities we engage in on a daily basis. when cooking, we engage all the capacities of any other artist or innovator–calling upon our senses, imagining our meal and how it will taste and look even before we even slice our first ingredient.” Cooking opened up the world of creativity to her, and once she went through the door, she found her talents blossoming into other creative domains. In short, Esterman says that sometimes, “what’s cooking is us, the cooks.”
Experienced at introducing new products, Esterman has sold numerous new products to national and international audiences. The crowdfunding donations will be used to manufacture the initial run of the pressalunas, with some of the funding going to advertising, instructional videos, and development of the website. Having found a factory that will be able to produce the pressalunas at a reasonable price, Esterman expects the delivery date to be April 2016 or earlier.
For more than three decades, she’s been the co-owner of a book publishing company. In that capacity, she has years of experience managing the production, distribution, fulfillment and storage of new products. That makes her able to adapt to the production issues that may arise. She’s also the author of four children’s books. An avid gardener who is committed to sustainable organic gardening and the use of minimal resources that yield abundant harvests, she’s written More Food from Small Spaces which introduces the reader to inventive new methods that maximize garden productivity. Some of her techniques can be found on her Margaret Park YouTube channel.
Modern cuisine blazes the trail that a meal travels when it journeys from garden to table. Esterman has taken that trail and, with the invention of the pressaluna, added an on-ramp.