Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I, Killer of Blenders

A few months back, I discovered the amazing food that is fall squashes. I can attribute this new love to the Athens Farmers Market and the Pumpkin Nook, a great online collection of pumpkin related recipes. So, one Saturday morning, after selecting my perfect locally-grown pumpkin I found this delightful recipe for Curried Pumpkin Soup. I roasted the pumpkin, which is actually incredibly simple and well worth the absence of canned pumpkin puree in your life, and I prepared all my ingredients.

Now, I don't know about you, but for me there is near nothing more agonizing than placing a mixture into the blender only to hear the hum of the motor, the smell of burning plastic and to watch ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPEN. Well, my roommates and I were having a similar crisis at this moment, the smell of pumpkin delighting our noses and singing to us the temptation to use a utensil to hurry along the process. Now my roommate Emily sticks a knife into the blender mashes everything around and it seems to help. I think, good, it's working. So then I try.

Suddenly, the knife has shot through the plastic blender to remain jammed half in and half out the container and a hunk of plastic has launched over to just about strike my roommate Molly. All in all, a disaster worthy of any mother's worst nightmare, a mistake akin to running with scissors or gluing your fingers together with super glue.

Luckily, the Curried Pumpkin Soup was absolutely incredible.

Fast forward two months and here I stand facing our new blender equipped with a food processor ready to attempt my first pesto. I got the recipe from my new seasonal and local cooking book "Harvest Eating" by Keith Snow. In this neat cookbook for the sustainably minded, each recipe is marked with a symbol to indicate the proper season for the ingredients. This winter delight is a Kale Almond Pesto, challenging the misconception that pesto can only be basil and pine nuts.

Kale Almond Pesto

1 1/2 lbs kale This may be deceptive...I bought about this amount in poundage, but the recipe qualifies that this should amount to about 2 cups cooked which my cooked kale did not cook down that much
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped I used two because I loooove garlic
4 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese I used a different variation of parmesan but it seemed to work fine
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Toast raw almonds in the oven at 350 degrees on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes
2. Bring a couple cups of water to a boil in the bottom of a stove top steamer. Place the kale in the steamer, cover, and steam for about 10 minutes. Then, run the kale under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let it drain and set aside.
3. Place the cooked kale, almonds, shallots, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. As guided by other online recipes, you might add a bit of lemon juice and crushed red pepper, which I found to improve the slightly bitter taste.
4. Pulse several times to combine then drizzle in the olive oil Again with the making this seem so much easier than it ever is...I need a professional blender!
5. Adjust seasoning to taste

I enjoyed my pesto on spaghetti but it would also be good on grilled meat or pizza. I also found that this recipe improves with a night in the fridge.

Now back to my blender story. So I'm processing my pesto, a piece of kale at a time and it's taking far longer than the anticipated 10 minute time to complete the recipe. I am much wiser this time around and I unplug the blender before I venture to mash around the mixture with a wooden spoon. However, I manage to destroy another blender anyhow. Well I guess destroy is overstating, but it can be said truthfully, that in the final stretches - the last pieces of kale and the drizzling of olive oil - that my processor simply quits. The burning smell and the whirring, but no evident movement of the blades can be seen. I try many times and all I get is a few globs of pesto on my floor, not the most appetizing globular form, and various parts of processor strewn about. Eventually I simply gave up, removed the remaining unchopped kale and stirred in the olive oil by hand. Although this worked fairly okay, I still am eternally at war with the so-called "labor saving tool" that is the blender.

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