Read an Excerpt
Your Kitchen's Magic Wand
Cucumber Rounds with Smoky Hummus and Soft Goat Cheese
These are absolutely addictive. Don't put them all out at once, or your guests won't have any room for dinner.
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 2 canned chipotle peppers, stemmed and seeded, with a teaspoon of the adobo they were canned with (if you like it hotter, add one more pepper) 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 3 tablespoons tahini (mixed well before measuring) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon ground cumin Kosher salt 2 tablespoons water 1 large seedless cucumber (usually available plastic-wrapped at the supermarket) 1/2 cup soft plain goat cheese, such as chèvre, at room temperature Thick plain yogurt, for garnish 3 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds
Place the chickpeas, chipotles, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, cumin, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons water in a medium bowl just large enough to hold everything. Puree the ingredients with an immersion blender, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the cucumber skin lengthwise at ¼-inch intervals to create a stripped pattern around the circumference of the cucumber, and slice it crosswise into ¼-inch rounds. Place the cucumber disks on a platter.
To assemble, lightly salt the cucumber rounds. Top each round with a smear of goat cheese, then a generous teaspoon of hummus, and top the hummus with a small dollop of the yogurt. Sprinkle the cucumber rounds lightly with the sesame seeds.
Yield: about 40 hors d'oeuvres
Chickpea, Roasted Pepper, and Rosemary Spread
This is a Middle Eastern dip with a savory American accent.
Two (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained One 6-ounce jar roasted red peppers or pimientos, drained well, seeded, and coarsely chopped Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Lightly toasted pita bread triangles 1 large yellow and 1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into lengthwise strips 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed, stemmed, and halved
Combine the chickpeas, red peppers, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pulse the ingredients with an immersion blender for a few minutes, then add the olive oil and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Serve the mixture in a bowl on a platter, surrounding the bowl with the pita bread, yellow and red bell pepper strips, and cherry tomatoes.
Yield: 8 appetizer servings
Flaming Hot Peanuts
You can control the heat in these zippy peanuts by selecting a milder bottled sauce, but this recipe is really for people who like very spicy food. Write down your own approximate combinations for future reference, because people are going to want this recipe! Note: The peanuts need to be started two days before serving.
2 pounds dry-roasted, salted peanuts, such as Planter's 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce 2 tablespoons peanut oil Juice of 1 lime 2 teaspoons prepared sweet red pepper relish ¼ cup bottled or canned sliced jalapeños, drained 8 drops Liquid Smoke Other hot sauce(s) of your choice 2 dozen dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and broken into 1/2 inch pieces (optional)
Pour the peanuts into a large sealable plastic bag. In a 1-cup glass measure, place the Tabasco, oil, lime juice, red pepper relish, jalapeños, and Liquid Smoke. Add the other hot sauce(s) of your choice to fill the measuring cup to the brim. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and roughly puree with an immersion blender.
Pour the sauce over the peanuts in the bag, press the air out of the bag, seal it, and squish it around to mix well. Marinate overnight, refrigerated, turning the bag a few times.
Heat the oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet or jelly-roll pan with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Spread the peanuts overthe sheet. Roast gently for 21/2 to 3 hours, stirring every half hour. Turn the oven off, and let the peanuts rest in the oven overnight to dry out.
Toss the peanuts with the optional chiles de arbol, and keep in airtight container(s) lined with paper towels.
Yield: 2 pounds hot peanuts
This summery flan is delicious as a first course with toasted Tuscan bread or as a restorative lunch with a lightly dressed tumble of mesclun. If the flan doesn't unmold symmetrically, you can easily reshape it with a spoon for presentation's sake. I find that using a Silpat mold doesn't work at all. It won't release the flans.
2 cloves garlic 2 medium dead-ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or one 8-ounce can tomato sauce, preferably Muir Glen organic 10 large basil leaves . ¼ cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder (about 11/3 envelopes) Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste Canola oil, for oiling the ramekins Mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Press the garlic cloves through a sturdy garlic press into a 4-cup glass measure and immediately pour in the tomatoes or tomato sauce. Add the basil leaves, cucumber, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, gelatin, and salt and white pepper to taste. With an immersion blender, puree the mixture at high speed for 2 minutes, or until very smooth.
Lightly oil six 1/2-cup glass or glazed ramekins. Divide thetomato mixture among the ramekins and refrigerate them for at least 20 minutes. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap if you're refrigerating them for much longer.
To serve, dip the bottom of each cup in hot water to loosen the flan. Place a plate over each mold and invert the ramekins over the plates to unmold the flans. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired, and droplets of olive oil.
Yield: 6 servings
Baba Ghanoush with Toasted Pine Nuts
This fabled dip demonstrates how well an immersion blender lets you control the texture of a dish. I find that white eggplant brings a certain subtle sweetness to the dip, but you can also use classic purple eggplant. If you want to take the Baba to spicy Mexico, add the chipotles. If not, leave them out. I like to tame the garlic by sautéing it with the onion, but if you want that raw sharpness, just press the garlic into the final mixture and stir well. Serve with pita triangles, olives, and tomatoes.
2 medium white eggplants, pierced all over with a skewer 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling the baking sheet 4 cloves garlic 1 medium yellow onion, diced 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste) ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers, chopped, with 2 teaspoons of their adobo sauce (optional) Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts only ¼ cup toasted pine nuts 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, or to taste Dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste Minced parsley leaves, for garnish
Heat the oven to 450°F. Place the eggplants on an oiled foil-lined baking sheet flesh side down. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, until very soft. Let the eggplants cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Pass the garlic cloves through a sturdy garlic press into the oil, and immediately add the diced onion. Saute, stirring, until the onion begins to darken, 15 minutes. Transfer to a roomy bowl.
Scoop out the insides of the eggplants and place the pulp in the bowl with the onion. Add the tahini, lemon juice, chipotle pepper(s), if using, and a judicious amount of salt and pepper. Puree the ingredients to your liking with an immersion blender on medium to medium-low speed. Stir in the scallions, pine nuts, sesame oil, and Tabasco. Mix well. You might want to thin the mixture with a little water. Taste carefully, and add sesame oil, Tabasco, and/or salt as needed. Garnish with the minced parsley, and serve at room temperature.
Yield: varies, but surely enough for 4 appetizers
These beloved stuffed eggs have been around for centuries in one form or another, but their name didn't come about until the eighteenth century in England, when "deviling" and "food" were first conjoined in print. Mustard was usually involved, as it is here. Do try to use smoked Spanish paprika. To make peeling the eggs a lot easier, use eggs that are at least a week old, but not so old that they float in water. Those must be tossed. The immersion blender will make your filling fluffier than it's ever been before.
8 hard-boiled large eggs ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons prepared mayonnaise 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as chervil, chives, and/or tarragon leaves 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard, or to taste 2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce ¼ teaspoon ground cumin ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice Sweet smoked Spanish paprika, for garnish Bottled pickled sliced jalapeno peppers, for garnish (optional)
Shell the eggs, halve them lengthwise, and carefully remove the yolk halves, leaving the white halves intact.
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, herbs, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, cumin, salt, whitepepper, and lemon juice. Blend the mixture with an immersion blender until well combined, fluffy, and soft.
Either spoon the mixture in mounds into the egg white cavities, or pipe the mixture into the egg whites with a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, or transfer the mixture to a plastic storage bag, snip off a lower corner of the bag, and pipe the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Finish with a gentle sprinkling of paprika and a pickled jalapeno slice, if desired.
Yield: 16 deviled eggs
Cheddar Beer Dip
The 1960s wouldn't have been the 1960s without this dip, although then it was most often made with processed cheese, such as Velveeta orGod help us-Cheez Whiz. You have a lot of control over the texture, so if you like your dip chunky, restrain your immersion blender.
16 ounces (1 pound) sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated 1 cup beer 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced 1 teaspoon bittersweet smoked Spanish paprika 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste, or 2 cloves garlic, pressed Shakes of Tabasco sauce to taste
Place the cheese and beer in a large bowl. With an immersion blender on medium-high speed, puree the mixture. Add the scallions, paprika, mustard, garlic, and Tabasco. Puree the mixture again. Refrigerate the dip, covered, for 1/2 hourno longerto let the flavors meld. Serve with good crackers, potato chips, tortilla chips, crudites, gherkins, and/or toast points.
Yield: 3 cups
Horseradish Cheese Dip
Do make the effort to find fresh horseradish. It's actually quite easy to grow, but if you haven't planned that far in advance you can also find it in most gourmet food shops.
1/2 pound cottage cheese, or fresh ricotta cheese 4 ounces cream cheese, softened watchfully in a microwave oven, 10 to 15 seconds on high, depending on your oven's wattage 1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled horseradish 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon bittersweet smoked Spanish paprika 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried imported oregano, or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, minced 1/2 teaspoon dried powdered sage 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
In a medium bowl, blend all the ingredients thoroughly with an immersion blender. Stir and blend again, then refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Serve at room temperature with crudites, crackers, and/or chips. This recipe keeps, covered tightly, 4 to 5 days.
Yield: about 2 cups
Basil is the very distillation of summer itself. The leaves taste like raw sunshine. In July and August, when there's so much basil here in the northeast, I make quarts of pesto and freeze it without adding the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, in tightly covered I-cup containers. It thaws fairly quickly, and then I can add the cheese and use it on pasta or drizzled into salads with a splash of balsamic vinegar for the taste and scent of summer all winter long.
This is an excellent example of an immersion blender recipe that saves lots of time and dirty dishes. You're sullying only 2 bowls (one for serving), a spoon or whisk, a cheese grater, and the tip of the immersion blender.
This dip works well with all kinds of crudites. Use your imagination, but don't omit red bell pepper strips, cucumber spears, and pita triangles.
3 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted if you wish 3 cloves garlic, pressed at the last minute ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or slightly more to taste Salt to taste 1 cup crème fraîche 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise 1/3 cup buttermilk, plus more to thin the dip if necessary
To make the pesto: Place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and garlic in a large bowl. Pulse with the immersion blender until you havea creamy mixture, stirring often. (If you're going to freeze the extra cup of pesto, do so now.) Stir in the cheese and blend the mixture well. You could give it another buzz or two with the blender. Season with salt to taste.
Make the dip: Measure out 2 cups of the pesto and place it in a serving bowl. Refrigerate the remaining pesto (or see the head-note for freezing instructions). Add the creme fraiche, mayonnaise, and buttermilk to the pesto and blend well with the immersion blender. Thin the dip with a little additional buttermilk if you think it's too stiff.
Use the dip at once or freeze in increments as discussed in the head-note.
Finished pesto will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yield: about 3 cups
YOUR KITCHEN'S MAGIC WAND: GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR HANDHELD IMMERSION BLENDER. Copyright © 2006 by Tom Steele. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.