It is better to use a blender than a food processor for some tasks that include a lot of liquid, such as pureeing soups or making frozen drinks, smoothies, or vinaigrettes, because liquid can seep through the central hole in the processor bowl.
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Using the Food Processor
When pouring out the contents of the food processor bowl, the blade can fall out, too. To remedy this, stick your finger in the hole in the underside of the bowl to secure the blade, then invert the bowl.
When any fresh herb is chopped in a food processor, a thin layer of the herb gets left behind in the bowl. Add a slice of bread and pulse until the bread forms crumbs. You’ll get herb-flavored crumbs and a clean work bowl, too. If you aren’t using them right away, freeze them.
Mixing and Blending
When you puree hot foods in a blender, leave the lid ajar to vent the steam and start the machine on its lowest speed. Otherwise, when the blender is turned on, the trapped steam will explode in a geyser-like burst of hot food.
Pouring foods back and forth between a stand blender and a bowl or pot is at best messy and at worst dangerous (think boiling hot soups and sauces). An immersion blender works right in the bowl, pureeing soups and dips, making smoothies and milk shakes, and whipping up salad dressings. Consequently, clean up is a breeze.
While stand mixers seem to be the gold standard for professional cooks, often a handheld works just fine or even better. Use a handheld for whipping cream, making meringue, mashing potatoes or beating together butter and sugar for the occasional batch of cookies. For heavy-duty jobs, such as creaming butter and sugar for cakes, mixing big batches of cookie dough, or kneading bread dough, a stand mixer is both more efficient and convenient.
Bread the Easy Way
A heavy-duty stand mixer is a great appliance for making bread dough. You can use the dough hook for both mixing and kneading. If the dough isn’t coming together with the dough hook, switch over to the paddle attachment and mix just until the ingredients are combined, then switch back to the dough hook.
Short of measuring out the ingredients, a bread machine does all of the work, resulting in a freshly baked loaf. If you want to bake a loaf of a different shape in the oven, you can still use the machine to mix, knead, and proof the dough through its first rise. Set a timer so you don’t forget to remove the dough after the proofing cycle, then remove the dough, shape as desired, and let rise again before baking in the oven.
For the best flavor, buy coffee beans and grind them yourself. The flavorful oils in coffee beans dissipate when exposed to air, so grind only the amount you need for immediate brewing. Different coffeepots require specific grinds. For filter drip coffee, grind to the consistency of granulated sugar. Grind coffee for espresso almost to a powder. If you have a French press, grind the beans coarsely, similar to dried bread crumbs.
Of course, a coffee grinder grinds coffee beans, but it can also grind spices. Like coffee beans, the flavors of spices are at their peak when freshly ground. To avoid transferring flavors, outfit your kitchen with two grinders, one for coffee and one for spices.
Ground spices will leave their flavor and aroma behind in the grinder. To clean the grinder, add a handful of raw rice to the canister (granulated sugar works, too) and grind until powdery. The rice will absorb the residual spices as it is pulverized. Toss out the ground rice, and use a dry pastry brush to remove any remaining powder in the canister.
You can melt chocolate in a microwave oven, but you must be careful not to overheat it. Use medium (50 percent) power for 40 seconds, then check the chocolate. If it has not melted, continue to melt it, checking it at 20-second intervals. When you take it out of the microwave, the chocolate may not look melted, but sometimes brief stirring will push all or most of it to the melted stage. If all the chocolate has not melted, return it to the microwave for about 15 seconds at medium power. Because of the wide variability in the power put off by microwave ovens, you will have to learn to judge how quickly your microwave melts chocolate.
If you crave a cappuccino, but don’t have a milk frother, use your blender to make the foam. Bring about ½ cup whole milk to a simmer in a small saucepan or in a glass pitcher in a microwave. Transfer to a blender and process on high speed until the milk is foamy. Skim the foam off the top and spoon over the hot brewed coffee.
When you’re out of nut oil, here is how to make a stand-in: Process ½ cup toasted and coarsely chopped almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts and ½ cup canola or other flavorless oil in a blender until the nuts are pulverized. Let stand for 10 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. You’ll have about ½ cup nut oil.
To mince garlic, fit your food processor bowl with the metal blade. With the processor running, drop the peeled garlic cloves through the feed tube. The minced garlic will collect on the sides of the work bowl.
To chop dried fruit in a food processor, partially freeze the fruit to minimize sticking and spray the chopping blade and the work bowl with flavorless oil. Use 1- to 2-second pulses to chop the fruit to the desired size.
You can microwave crystallized honey to heat and liquefy it, but there are caveats. First, if the honey is in a glass jar, remove its metal lid before microwaving. Don’t microwave honey in a plastic container, or the container might melt. And because honey heats quickly in a microwave oven, use medium power in 10-second bursts, stirring after each burst to check progress.
If your custard or other egg-based sauce has gotten too hot and threatens to curdle, use an immersion blender to whirl it back to smoothness. Use a relatively deep pot or bowl to avoid splatters.
Use your toaster oven to toast nuts for baking. The countertop oven preheats quickly and keeps the larger oven clear for other jobs. You can also toast nuts in a microwave (on high power for about 1 minute for 1 cup whole nuts). However, it’s difficult to assess their doneness because they will smell toasted but they won’t brown.
Finding room on the stove top to simmer stock for hours is often difficult. With an electric hot plate, you can move the cooking to another room of the house altogether or even to a weather-protected porch. This is especially helpful when making a beef stock that needs to simmer for 8 hours or more. Just be sure the stock setup is safe from curious children or pets.
With hundreds (if not thousands) of teas available, from robust to delicate, it makes sense that you should use a range of water temperatures to prepare them. Black teas are the heartiest, and should be prepared with rapidly boiling water. Oolong teas are ideally made with water at about 190°F (the bubbles in the water will form vertical rows). Green teas taste best when prepared with water at the gentle temperature of 160°F (the bubbles will just begin to break the surface of the water). Using an electric kettle will ensure the perfect temperature every time.
To avoid splattering, have the blade well below the surface of the food before engaging the motor, do not lift it from the food while the motor is running, and always wait for a few seconds after turning off the motor before removing it. For the best results, place the food in a deep, rather than shallow, pot or bowl. Use a gentle, barely perceptible up-and-down motion as you guide the blade through the liquid.
When you’re hosting a party, keep an immersion blender near the bar so guests can make their own pureed or blended fruit drinks.
If you keep rice warm for more than a few hours in a rice cooker, a thin layer of crisped golden rice will form on the bottom of the insert. In China, this sheet of crunchy rice is broken into pieces and served as an edible garnish on top of the rice. The Chinese think of this crispy layer as a delicacy, and Chinese youngsters consider it a special treat.