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TND – July 8th . . . . In Which I Complain About Blenders

September 16, 2014

soup header

Dinner – July 8th . . . . In Which I Complain About Blenders
Strawberry Gazpacho
Onion Ricotta Frittata
Cornmeal Scones
Spicy Tomato Jam
Salami
Olives
Salad
Watermelon

I need someone to explain to me why you would ever use a blender versus using a food processor or immersion blender.  I have a blender.  It lives tucked away in the far back corner of one of my kitchen cabinets.  I have to move about seven things to get to it, which should tell you everything you need to know about how often I use it.  I don’t use it because I find it more annoying, less effective, and harder to clean than either my food processor or immersion blender.  But, people seem to proselytize about blenders all the time, so I need someone to explain what it is I’m not getting about them.

In my experience in order to make a blender function effectively you have layer the things you want blended into the blender in a very specific order to make the blades at the bottom of the pitcher catch, and I always end up turning it on and off, and poking a spoon (or my hands) down into the pitcher to rearrange the ingredients, and then jiggling the pitcher while it’s on to make the ingredients shake down to catch on the blades.  Generally I end up swearing a lot, and getting more and more frustrated by the experience.  Then you have to try and get the blade end off the pitcher in order to clean it, and that’s a whole other travail that leaves me muttering creative imprecations.

However, I listened to an America’s Test Kitchen podcast a few weeks ago where they sang the praises of the blender, and its ability to really puree soups to a silky finish, and against my better judgment I hauled my blender out of the dark corner it lurks in and attempted to use it to make gazpacho.  After much swearing, and transferring of ingredients from cutting board to blender pitcher to bowl back to blender pitcher back to bowl (because I hadn’t layered them in right the first time, and the blades were spinning uselessly at the bottom of the pitcher) back to blender pitcher and then to a soup pot, and a kitchen counter that looked like the aftermath of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, I pulled out my immersion blender and stuck it in the pot to eliminate all the chunks the blender had left behind.  If I’d just done this in the first place I could probably have eliminated about 30 minutes of work, and an incalculable amount of frustration from my night.  Plus, there would have been a lot fewer dishes to do.

So, someone, please explain to me the appeal of the blender, because I feel like I’m missing something important.

Strawberry Gazpacho
(serves 12)

You can go two ways with something called a strawberry gazpacho.  It can either be something slightly sweetened that you eat as a light & different dessert, or it can be a riff on a traditional savory gazpacho.  This is the savory version.

soup

2 quart strawberries, divided
3.5 lb tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, seeded & halved
2 fresno chili, seeded & halved
3 cucumber, peeled & seeded, divided
½ cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped and soaked in ½ cup very hot water
4-5 cups water (cut with a little chicken stock if desired)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 small slices bread, cut into ¼” cubes
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp olive oil
Handful of basil + more for garnish
Salt/Pepper – to taste
Red Wine Vinegar/Honey/Hot Sauce – to taste

Place the halved and seeded bell peppers and fresno chilis on a foil lined broiler pan, and broil until the skin blackens and blisters.  Transfer to a bowl and cover to allow to steam for 5-10 minutes, then peel the skin off the peppers.  Reserve.

Cut a wide X into the bottom of each tomatoes and place on a foil lined broiler pan.  Broil until the skin just starts to blacken – you’re mostly looking to make the tomatoes easier to peel, not to actually cook them.  Peel the skin off the tomatoes, cut out the core, and roughly chop.  Reserve.

In a large skillet fry the bread and garlic in the olive oil until the bread is golden brown.  Reserve.

Hull 1 quart of the strawberries.  Reserve.

Soak the chopped sun dried tomatoes in the hot water for 10-15 minutes.  Reserve.

Peel, seed, and roughly chop 2 of the cucumbers.  Reserve.

Place all the reserved ingredients (peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, toasted bread & garlic, cucumber) in a blender with the water and basil (okay, realistically do this in batches – or use an immersion blender) – and blend until very smooth. Transfer to a large bowl/pot, and season to taste with salt/pepper/red wine vinegar/honey.  Strain if desired (I didn’t). If you don’t strain the soup you may need to add additional water/stock to thin the soup down.  Chill overnight.  Adjust seasonings before serving.

Finely chop the remaining quart of strawberries, and remaining cucumber.  Either stir them into the soup, or divide evenly between the bowls as an artistic expression and allow people to stir them into the soup as desired.  Deploy some chopped basil and a swirl of olive oil as additional garnishes.

Onion Ricotta Frittata
(serves 6)

You can do this one of two ways – either bake it in the frying pan, or in a baking dish.  I made 12 eggs worth of the recipe (so 1.5 times the recipe) and baked it in a 9×9 square baking dish mostly because I wanted to make it the night before, store it in the fridge and then cut it into squares.  But, if you bake it in your saute pan you don’t get another dish dirty – just make sure your pan is oven safe.

fritatta

1 large sweet onion (like a Vidalia), halved, and then thinly sliced
1 Tbsp butter
8 eggs
1/3 cup parmesan
3 sage leaves, minced
1 tsp minced rosemary
3 basil leaves, minced
¼ tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
½ cup ricotta

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute the onion in butter (or olive oil, but butter is yummy) until it starts to caramelize (15-20 minutes).

Whisk together the eggs, parmesan, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Either pour the eggs over the onions in the pan, and stir slightly to distribute the eggs evenly.  Or, allow the onion to cool slightly and then stir into the egg mixture and pour into a lightly greased 8×8 pan.

Dollop the ricotta evenly over the top.

If cooking in the skillet cook on the stove top until the eggs just start to set (2-5 minutes), and then transfer to the oven to finish cooking (5-10 minutes).  If baking in a pan, bake for 20-25 minutes until the eggs are set.

Serve at room temperature.

Cornmeal Scones
(Makes 12 scones)
You can add some chopped sundried tomatoes to these if you want.  Since I was serving them with a strawberry-tomato gazpacho, and a spicy tomato jam I omitted the dried tomatoes.

biscuits

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
(optional – 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
9 Tbsp butter
(optional – 1 cup diced juicy sundried tomatoes)
1 cup buttermilk
Some milk for brushing tops of scones

Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (including dried herbs if using).  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the diced sun dried tomatoes if using.  Add the buttermilk and stir until it just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and pat into ¼” thick rectangle.  Cut into 6 large rectangles, and then cut each rectangle in half diagonally to create triangular scones.  Transfer to the lined baking sheet, brush the tops with a little milk, and if desired sprinkle with a little kosher salt & cracked pepper.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve warm.

Spicy Tomato Jam

Recipe previously given:  Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

jam

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