Tag Archives: Vita-Mix

ASPARAGUS SOUP AND SPAGHETTI WITH PEAS

This last weekend turned out to be a good family gathering. Sarah drove from San Francisco with her two boys. We spent the days enjoying some of the attractions of Southern California even though it was cold and overcast. Sarah was disappointed that Bay Area weather followed her. The boys swam – shivering – in the unheated pool. There were walks along the seaside cliffs and among the yellow waves of flowering mustard. Everyone is on a diet. Mine is medically prescribed, Carol’s is more casual, and Sarah’s is a crash strict vegetarian regimen. For a few hours we were fairly conscientious. Our first evening’s meal was a green salad with shredded rotisserie chicken and various vegetable additions. Dessert was fruit salad, actually a mixed fruit and berry compote. On that I gained two pounds! What???

Dying eggs, filling Easter baskets, and trying out an antique Easter bunny chocolate mold that Sarah found in Petaluma were all subliminal messages to relax our diet ambitions…and so we did.

After dress-up church, Carol came home for a brief walk before she launched into preparation of a delicious feast that set back my weight-loss ambitions by several days. We enjoyed a Southern California evening with drinks and snacks on the patio. The weather had a change of heart that made it possible.. Then Carol began the cavalcade of food with tiny glass cups of chilled creamed asparagus soup topped off with a dollop of lemon cream and a bit of asparagus tip.  We sipped the delicious amuse bouche and watched for the green light as the sun dipped below the ocean horizon. As always, we did not see it.

Carol often makes a chilled mushroom soup that she serves as a first course, but because it’s spring and Easter, and because it is high season for asparagus, she changed her menu. The lemon cream was a good foil for the vegetal soup. In preparing the soup, the final step is to puree the soup mixture. Just be aware that a regular blender will not work. Carol used a Vita-Mix for several minutes to get the velvety texture. I guess you could also pass the mixture through a tamis, but that sounds like a lot of work to me.

Chilled asparagus soup with lemon cream

At Carol’s request, Sarah made “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese and Duck Fat” from Rich Table, pages 129-131. The dish was a popular favorite when the restaurant first opened. It has been off the menu for a while, but it is featured in the cookbook. Sarah brought her own supply of fresh green peas and pea tendrils from San Francisco, but I am sure that Los Angeles peas would have worked. You can probably find your own pea tendrils in a little plastic clamshell at a store like Whole Foods. Who would think that green peas and spaghetti are a delicious combination? Clearly, goat cheese and duck fat contribute to  the rush of flavors, but the finished product is both beautiful and delicious.

Sarah heads to New York City after her visit here for the James Beard writing awards. The cookbook is a finalist for best cookbook in the restaurant and professional category. Good luck, Sarah.

Spaghetti with peas, lime, goat cheese, and duck fat

Add to that  a beautiful glazed Japanese-style ham with honey-glazed carrots and hard rolls and the feast was complete…

EXCEPT

You can’t have a feast like that without dessert. And so Carol made a three-layer spice cake filled with berries, topped with cream cheese frosting along with fresh blackberries. Ice cream on request. So long to any last remnants of a diet.

Spice cake with mixed fresh berries

But there’s always Monday.

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SHRIMP-STUFFED ROASTED ARTICHOKE

Before we left for our child-tending excursion in San Francisco, I bought two beautiful artichokes at the grocery store. They were on special for Mothers Day. We wound up eating out a lot during the week, and so the artichokes languished in the refrigerator. When we returned home, I was worried that the artichokes might have spoiled. They had not, so I was confronted with what to do with them. Usually I boil them and serve them with Hollandaise, but I wanted to do something a little different. I remembered a wonderful dinner that we enjoyed many years ago in Ruston, Louisiana. Our host had gone to enormous trouble to wedge a bit of spicy shrimp into every space between the leaves. Such a dish is a traditional Louisiana favorite, but it is usually reserved for special dinners because it takes so much effort. I thought that maybe I could make something that approximated that long-ago creation with not so much work. It turns out that this version is really easy if you have a food processor. Probably a Vita-Mix would work, too.

RECIPE

Shrimp-Stuffed Roasted Artichoke

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 2 slices good quality French bread
  • leaves from 6 stems of parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more to drizzle on the tops of the stuffed artichokes
  • ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup ready-cooked salad shrimp, thawed
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Prepare the artichokes by trimming the stem and the tips of the leaves. Cut off the top of the artichoke and remove the inner leaves to reveal the choke. Using a spoon, scrape out the fuzzy bits of the choke.
  2. Cut the bread into cubes and place in a food processor. Process until the bread forms coarse crumbs. Add the parsley leaves, chopped garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil and process until well combined but not puréed. Add the Old Bay, salt and pepper, optional Tabasco sauce, shrimp and grated Parmesan and process for just a few seconds until the shrimp are finely chopped but not puréed.
  3. Fill the center of each artichoke with the shrimp mixture and then spread the remainder over the tops of the artichokes. pressing down to force some of the mixture between the leaves.
  4. Place the stuffed artichokes in an oven-proof pan filled with about 1½ inches of water. Drizzle the tops with olive oil. Cover the pan with heavy aluminum foil, and poke four holes in the foil. Place in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F. Roast for 1 hour covered, then remove the foil and roast, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. NOTE: Be very careful when you remove the foil, as steam may rush out and burn your fingers.
  5. Transfer the roasted artichokes to plates and serve with Hollandaise. I used Julia Child’s never-fail quick blender sauce.

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NO SOUP FOR YOU – HUNGARIAN MUSHROOM SOUP A LA VITA-MIX

Santa Fe is fortunate to have a great lunch spot named the Backstreet Bistro. It is owned by a transplanted New Yorker, and the specialties of the house are an ever-changing array of delicious and unusual soups. For those reasons, it is not surprising that the owner is likened to the infamous “Soup Nazi” who shouted, “No soup for you!” on the Jerry Seinfeld show of the 1990s. That is a totally unfair comparison, because the owner, Dave, is a very nice man who is loved by his staff and the regulars. He does run a tight ship, and when he is working the floor – which is to say every day – he conveys a friendly but no-nonsense demeanor. One of his rules is no credit cards; cash or check only.

Hungarian mushroom soup never seems to leave the menu. I am sure the reason for that is that customers insist on it being there. It is that delicious. I’m not sure where Dave got his recipe, but there is a very good one in the Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley). That  and the Vita-Mix recipe book served as the sources for a version of the soup that I whipped up with my new Vita-Mix. My soup is not vegetarian like Katzen’s, and it is not as good as Dave’s, but it is still pretty tasty. Be warned, though, the recipe makes a lot of soup.

RECIPE

Hungarian Mushroom Soup a la Vita-Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cups celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups yellow onions, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill + more for garnish (fresh is better if you have it, just triple the amount)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • ¾ cup sour cream + more for garnish

Method

  1. Set aside 1 cup of mushrooms to be sliced and added later.  Quarter the remaining mushrooms to be chopped.
  2. By cupfuls, chop the quartered mushrooms in the Vita-Mix with speed set at Variable, 3, pulsing 10 times.
  3. In a soup pot  sauté  the chopped mushrooms in 4 tablespoons of the butter.
  4. Processing 1 cup at a time, chop the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic with Vita-Mix settings on Variable, 3. Chop each batch for 10 seconds.
  5. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic to the mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes longer.
  6. Stir in the beef stock, tomato paste, and bouquet garni. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, sauté the remaining cup of sliced mushrooms in the remaining butter. Set aside for final assembly.
  8. Remove the bouquet garni and stir in the sautéed mushrooms, dill, lemon juice, paprika, and sour cream. Heat gently. Do not boil or the sour cream may curdle.
  9. Serve while warm, garnished with more sour cream and dill.

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SECRETS OF THE AGES REVEALED: BLENDER HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

I have been making hollandaise sauce in a blender since reading about it in Mastering the Art of French Cooking over forty years ago. After all this time I learn that I have been doing it wrong. That’s probably because Julia Child wrote that any 8-year-old child could follow the recipe.  (How’s that for an ego-squelcher?) She also said that the sauce would not accept as much butter nor be as good as the sauce you made laboriously over a steaming water bath. My hollandaise always turned out a little runny, but I thought it was a butter thing and just the way it was. Nothing could be further from the truth. From watching too much TV on the Food Network, reading Michel Roux’s Eggs and Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking, and playing with my new Vita-Mix, I have discovered several mistakes I have made over the years. By correcting them, I have been able to make the hollandaise of my dreams and fool-proof. It has become so easy to make and so delicious that I have become a serial saucier, putting hollandaise on asparagus, artichokes, and tonight I’m thinking of hamburgers.

HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED:

1.) The eggs must be at room temperature. This is very important. If you are even thinking about making hollandaise in the afternoon or evening, take the eggs out of the refrigerator in the morning.

2.) Too much acid (lemon) and the sauce may not emulsify and will be runny. For three egg yolks use one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. If you want a more lemony flavor, you can always add some more juice after the sauce has come together.

3.) A little mustard will help the emulsification just as it does with vinaigrette and hand-made mayonnaise.

4.) Clarified butter is the gold standard, but plain melted butter, preferably unsalted, will work. Just don’t pour the milk solids that settle on the bottom into the blender. You can melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. The measuring cup may give you better control as you pour the butter into the blender. In either case, be careful not to brown or burn the butter. Let the melted butter sit for a minute or two so that the solids settle to the bottom, but the melted butter should be warm when you add it to the sauce mixture.

5.) Patience. If you just dump the melted butter into the blender, it may not come together. A slow drizzle over several minutes – just as you do with the oil in making a vinaigrette – is best. You can actually see and hear the changes when the sauce emulsifies.

So, there they are: secrets of the ages revealed. And here’s a basic recipe for hollandaise sauce made in a blender.

RECIPE

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • pinch cayenne (to taste)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Method

  1. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, mustard, and cayenne to the container of the blender. Cover with the center plug of the lid removed. Blend on one of the higher settings of your machine.
  2. When the mixture is completely blended, very slowly pour the melted butter into the mixture by drizzles. This should take at least a couple of minutes. Stop adding butter when the solids at the bottom reach the lip of the butter container.
  3. Serve immediately. Otherwise transfer the sauce to a bowl and keep it warm in a larger bowl of warm water for no more than 30 minutes.

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LEEK AND POTATO SOUP – VITA-MIX VERSION

My Vita-Mix is a new gadget that I have had a good time learning about. It is very efficient in chopping. Instructions call for using small volumes of food to chop. That is important because the chopped pieces are thrown against the sides of the container, and chopping stops before the food is turned into mush. That means that chopping large amounts of food requires several passes. That slows down the process, but still – 10 seconds to chop a cup of carrots is a remarkable efficiency. The big bonus is puréeing large volumes of soup into the smoothest dish one can imagine. You get to do both of those processes with the recipe for leek and potato soup. Actually, I think you could do the same thing with a food processor or an old-fashioned blender. For that matter, you could even use a knife and chop things by hand. But then it wouldn’t be as much fun.

RECIPE

Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 large leeks, cut into 1 inch slices, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Method

  1. Set Vita-Mix controls to Variable and speed 3. Fasten the lid with the center cap removed. Turn on the machine and by cupfuls, pour the cut-up leeks through the opening. Pulse 10 times. Turn off the motor. Transfer the chopped leeks to a bowl. Repeat the process until the leeks have all been chopped.
  2. Repeat the above steps to chop the onion.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion, stir and cover. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the potatoes, chicken broth, cream, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Use more if needed for taste. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 4o minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Remove from the heat.
  5. Cool the soup mixture until it is easy to work with. Remove the parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Then, in three divided portions, add the mixture to the Vita-Mix container. Make sure the top and top are well seated on the container. With the settings on “Variable” and “8” speed, process the mixture for 30 seconds until it is smooth. Combine the three batches. Reheat, garnish with minced scallion greens or chives if desired, and serve immediately. You may also refrigerate and then serve chilled. Makes about 12 cups.

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