Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stupid Blender Tricks

I got a basic Osterizer blender in college and it lasted me a few years, but a couple years after graduation, I threw a chunk of ice into it at the wrong angle and broke the glass. My then-roommate (hi Janet!) had one, so I didn't worry too much about it.

I moved out and lived without a blender for twenty years. Shopping for one proved a treat. I found what I thought was the perfect blender online--a Hamilton Beach that also had a food-processing attachment and ran about $40. Would I like a KitchenAid? Who wouldn't, but who can afford it? Actually, what I'd really like is a Vita-Mix, which, according to Lynne Rosetto-Casper of The Splendid Table can liquefy concrete, but anyway. Amazon's site said what I found would be shipped from Macy*s, I thought I'd eliminate the middleman and go to the maul mall.

Not a Hamilton-Beach to be found in the Danbury Fair mall. After checking a few stores, I came home with the floor-model of a Cuisinart that was on sale, and because it had no box, I got an extra 10% off.

I hadn't made anything requiring a blender in a long time, and last week's Chicken Vindaloo, and this week's recipe needed one, so I rationalized it was worth a purchase.

This week's recipe is Firecracker Spinach Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing, from the fine folk at Epicurious.  I doubled the recipe because this was for a dinner party where I'd be serving eleven people. I generally stuck to this one, with one exception below:

Orange Sesame Dressing
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil  I got this on our trip to the Asian market, though I'm told Whole Foods should generally carry it.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce I wish I could recommend a brand here, but ours was picked up at a Japanese Market in White Plains and the writing on it is in Japanese. If you have an Asian market near you, make use of it. You'll get less sodium and more flavor.
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (optional) We have several kinds in the house, but I used bog-standard Tabasco. This is actually what sold me on the recipe, because between this ingredient and the ginger below, we were not going to get some sticky-sweet tasting salad.
  • 1 shallot, chopped Funny story here. I asked Austin the minimalist housemate to pick me up two shallots. He brought home huge ones, so I only used one. Figure about 2 tablespoons to get the right bite.
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger  conveniently, I also needed some for the vindaloo.

  • 6 cups washed baby spinach in most grocery stores, you should be able to find a bag or tub of triple-washed spinach. If you're going to wash spinach yourself, get a salad spinner and be prepared to do a lot of drying
  • 1/4 cup daikon sprouts logic would dictate I could find these at the Asian market. No such luck, just soy or mung bean sprouts. When I finished my shopping at Trader Joe's, I had a choice of alfalfa or pea shoots. I grabbed the pea shoots. This changed the flavor profile of the recipe a lot, because pea shoots are sweet (and yummy) and radish sprouts are not, but I gambled on the ginger and the hot sauce working well to contrast.
  • 1/4 cup julienned carrot
  • 1/4 cup julienned jicama Availability of this root vegetable varies from market to market. When I lived in Nashville, I could find it in Kroger, here in CT, I found it at the Asian market.
  • 2 tablespoons mixture of black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds, for garnish this does make a pretty dish when everything is assembled.
1) For the dressing, cook the orange juice in a saucepan until reduced by half. Combine with the honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, water and hot sauce in a blender. Add the shallot and ginger and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator.

Kate's two very important notes to the above:
1)give yourself plenty of time to reduce the orange juice
2)should you happen to double the recipe, do not blend in blender all at once. If you do, the result will be the lid flying off despite your efforts to hold it down and dressing going everywhere in the kitchen, including the new sweater you bought to wear to the dinner party

2. For the salad, mix the spinach, daikon sprouts, carrot and jicama in large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat well. Garnish with the sesame seeds.
My gamble paid off and even though we only had seven of us instead of eleven, there were few leftovers. I think this was helped by spinach being just a little bitter, the jicama and the carrots and the pea shoots all being sweet, but the dressing having that "firecracker" hot and spiciness from the ginger and tabasco. I plan on making this again, and I think I'll stick to the one change I made.
And only blend one recipe's worth at a time.
What are some of your Stupid Blender Tricks? Have a recipe you want deconstructed? Let me know.


  1. So, when you making pesto?

  2. That sounds delushious!

  3. I like it! Ginger and hot sauce; Yum!

  4. Beki--I've always wanted to make my own pesto, so that'll be my next trick. I found a recipe that doesn't require a food processor!