The evolving blender

"You just turn the blender on and walk away,' says Kay Oswald of KitchenAid.

Falafel balls (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Falafel balls
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Forty years ago, my mother-in-law taught me how to make tehina in her home in Givatayim.
“Be sure to put enough water in the blender to get it going,” she instructed, “and stop often to break up the sesame paste, or else the blender might die.”
Since then, blenders have evolved, and preparing tehina is much easier.
Tehina was on the menu of a class introducing the new KitchenAid blender, the Torrent, at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles.
Chef Tom Fraker of Melissa’s used the high-speed blender to prepare pumpkin tehina and other tasty dips, including roasted vegetable pisto. (See recipes.) To make lentil “hummus,” he substituted cooked lentils for the chickpeas and whirled them in the blender with lemon juice, garlic and tehina. People often make such thick spreads in a food processor, but they can be made more quickly in a super-blender.
“Personally, I love this blender,” commented Fraker. “It cut my prep time in half.”
In the new appliance, programmed settings take the guesswork out of making sauces, smoothies, milkshakes, juices and other preparations.“You just turn the blender on and walk away,” said Kay Oswald of KitchenAid. During programmed blending, he explained, the speed varies, keeping the ingredients in contact with the blender’s blades and thus eliminating the need for tools to push down the ingredients.A timer turns the blender off and a chime signals that the food is ready. This way, noted Fraker, while your sauce or soup is blending, you can work on another dish.
Fraker prepared several sauces in the blender, including a creamy-textured red pepper sauce flavored with garlic to accompany meatballs, and a smooth green chimichurri sauce redolent of fresh herbs to go with grilled steak. (See recipes.) He even used the blender to make falafel batter.
Today’s powerful blenders are able to handle larger chunks of food. They also make it easier to make beverages enriched with nuts and smoothies with leafy greens such as kale, which can be too fibrous for old-fashioned blenders.
Still, even “good blenders are... not indestructible,” wrote Tess Masters, author of The Blender Girl. “They need to be treated with respect. This maximizes durability and longevity, and achieves the most effective blends.”
Masters recommends cutting up vegetables and mincing or grating fibrous foods like beets, carrots, horseradish and ginger “to reduce stress on the motor.” She also advocates soaking nuts, seeds and dried fruits and vegetables so they blend more easily.
Blending Tips:
• To blend more efficiently, start on low speed and work your way up.
• Don’t overload the blender, especially when using hot liquids.
It’s best to allow very hot soups and sauces to cool before blending.
• Pour liquids into the blender first. Next, add hard ingredients and last, put in ice so the blades can move easily when you turn the machine on.
• For thicker-textured smoothies, use chunks of frozen fruit rather than fresh fruit and ice.
• Rinse the blender immediately after use. Clean it promptly by filling it halfway with warm water, adding just a drop of dish soap and blending on high. Then rinse it again and dry it.
Note: The recipes below can be made in any blender. They are adapted from the book, Torrent Blender Recipes.
Adding a vegetable puree lightens up tehina and adds color and flavor. Serve this as a dipping sauce with vegetable sticks or as a spread with fresh pita; it’s also good with falafel.
Makes 1½ cups
■ 2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
■ 6 Tbsp. water
■ ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
■ 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley, plus additional for garnish
■ 3 Tbsp. pure tehina or 1 to 2 Tbsp. more, to taste
■ 2 cloves garlic
■ 1 tsp. ground cumin
■ ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
■ 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
■ Dash of ground red pepper, plus additional for garnish
Combine pumpkin, water, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons parsley, 3 tablespoons tehina, garlic, cumin, salt, black pepper and red pepper in blender pitcher. Cover and blend, beginning on low speed and increasing speed gradually. Scrape down the mixture if necessary. Taste and add more tehina if desired; blend again until mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice if desired.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve sprinkled with parsley and ground red pepper.
This light-textured spread from Spain is traditionally made with either zucchini or eggplant, which are stewed with tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers. In this recipe, the vegetables are roasted instead; you can leave the mixture chunky or blend it to a puree. Serve it with fresh or toasted crusty bread.
Makes 2½ cups
■ 1 zucchini, cut in 2.5-cm. (1-inch) pieces
■ 2 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
■ 1 sweet red pepper, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) pieces
■ 1 onion, quartered
■ 4 cloves garlic, peeled
■ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
■ Salt and freshly ground black pepper
■ 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Combine zucchini, tomatoes, sweet pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Spread on baking sheet in single layer. Roast 45 to 55 minutes or until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown.
Place roasted vegetables in blender pitcher and add vinegar and red pepper. Cover and pulse until desired texture is reached. Transfer to a serving bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.
This bright green Argentine herb sauce resembles a light version of pesto. Traditionally it’s served with steak, but it’s also good with chicken, hard-boiled eggs, roasted potatoes and other roasted vegetables.
Makes about 1 cup
■ ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
■ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
■ ¼ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
■ 2 Tbsp. packed cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves
■ 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
■ 2 cloves garlic, peeled
■ ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
■ ½ tsp. grated orange zest
■ ¼ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Combine all ingredients in blender pitcher. Cover and blend on medium speed, then on medium-high speed until pureed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature.
This easy-to-make, bright orange sauce is delicious as a dip with cocktail-size meatballs, as an accompaniment for roasted eggplant, boiled potatoes or hard-boiled eggs, and as a spread for bread or crackers.
Makes about 1 cup
■ 2 roasted red peppers, homemade (see Note below) or from a jar
■ ½ cup mayonnaise
■ 2 garlic cloves
■ ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
■ Salt to taste (optional)
Combine roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, garlic and pepper flakes in blender pitcher. Cover and blend on medium speed 20 seconds or until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Taste, and add salt if needed. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Note – To roast peppers: Arrange whole peppers in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil about 10 minutes, turning peppers several times, until all sides are blistered. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag and set aside until cool enough to handle. Gently peel away peppers’ charred skin. Remove seeds and stems, taking care because there may be hot liquid inside.
For a sweeter shake, you can blend 4 or 5 additional maraschino cherries with the banana mixture.
Makes 4 servings
■ 4 cups chocolate frozen yogurt
■ 1 banana
■ 1/4 cup milk
■ 1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
■ tsp. coconut extract or ½ tsp. vanilla extract
■ 4 maraschino cherries (optional, for garnish)
Combine frozen yogurt, banana, milk, chocolate syrup and coconut extract in blender pitcher. Cover and begin blending on low speed. When banana is pureed, increase speed to medium and blend to a uniform texture. Pour into four glasses and serve garnished with maraschino cherries.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book, Classic Cooking Techniques.