If you don’t have a blender, or yours is old and rusty, or maybe you’d just like to have an extra one at the bar (now there’s an idea, and this machine is perfect for that purpose, as the little removable cap is marked with a 1-ounce measure), now’s your chance to get one for FREE. Just leave a signed comment on this page or on the Spoon & Ink Facebook page, and I’ll enter your name in the drawing.
I’ll draw the winner’s name on Monday, August 3, so get your comments in over the next week.
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There comes a time at the height of summer when the idea of turning on the stove or heating up the oven is nothing short of anathema. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on prepared foods. You just have to expand your definition of the word “cook.”
When the folks at Hamilton Beach sent this Wave~Action Blender my way, it seemed the perfect excuse to whip up some cool dishes that would still satisfy the Kitchen Goddess’s need for complexity. KG note: Farther down in this post is a truly amazing cold soup, so if you get bored with the smoothie, just speed-read until you get to the soup.
Challenge #1: Smoothie
It was early in the day when I set to work – “early” in the world of the semi-retired being, ...oh,... 10am? But whatever the time, we all need breakfast. And in my kitchen, I noticed a phenomenon that plagues me all summer: what to do with soft fruit? When I buy it – at the farmers’ market, natch – it’s nothing short of gorgeous. So I set it out on the counter to ripen a bit, and because I so enjoy the look of it sitting there, I lose track of the days. Before I know it, the fruitflies are gathering and my lovely plums or peaches are now too soft to eat plain.
If that happens to you, you can either make preserves or ...(drum-roll, please)... make a smoothie. The great, fruity taste will still be there – even a bit stronger in ripe fruit – and, well, you’re blending it anyhow, right?
So my first success of the day was one I’m calling Yummy Plummy Yogurt Smoothie. The Hamilton Beach Wave~Action Blender made short work of the fruit – including skins (where most of the vitamins are) – as well as the banana and the ice. Crushed that sucker into a super-smoothie in no time flat. Not a single lump of ice, which you can’t say for a lot of blenders. So for Challenge #1, the blender gets an A+.
Kitchen Goddess note: You’ll see that I use Minted Simple Syrup. Ladies and gents, unless you really dislike mint, this stuff is so worth making. It takes almost no time, you can use in a zillion ways, and it lasts forever. The stuff I’m using now is left over from last summer. (I also have a jar of it in my Texas fridge.) But I don’t want you to fret over clicking around to get the recipe, so here it is.
Minted Simple Syrup(from Gourmet, August 1998):
1½ cups packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
In a small saucepan, combine the water, the sugar, and the mint. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Simmer 2 minutes and remove from heat. Strain out the mint and reserve the syrup. You should get about 1½ cups of syrup.
And now you can make...
Yummy Plummy Yogurt Smoothie
5-6 small plums (golf ball size) or 2-3 large plums
3-4 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt
½ ripe banana
2 tablespoons Minted Simple Syrup
1 cup ice
Pile all ingredients into the blender, loading the ice in last, and let ‘er rip. Blend on high about 1 minute, or on the Smoothie setting for the Wave~Action Blender.
Challenge #2 – Cold Soup
Then it was time for lunch. At the farmers’ market on Sunday, I had purchased a bunch of sorrel. Don’t ask why – it sounded like something I should try, and 2015 is my year of living with adventure.
Sorrel is a leafy, perennial herb that more closely resembles leaf spinach than anything herby. The taste is sharp and lemony, so it’s usually combined with other types of greens in cultures the world over. It’s stewed with spinach in Romania, mixed with mashed potatoes in Croatia and Bulgaria, used with spinach, leeks, and chard for spanakopita in Greece, and added to lettuce for salads in Viet Nam.
I thought my sorrel would be good in a soup with cucumbers, and found an interesting sounding cold soup with just that base of ingredients at an Austin friend’s fun blog, What Jew Wanna Eat. I’ve tweaked hers a bit, and because it’s such a lovely color – the perfect color for chilling out – I’ve called it Cool Green Soup. It’s a great blend of flavors – sweetness from the onion and the grapes, tartness from the lemon and sorrel, grassiness from the avocado and the cukes. And while the soup is good on its own, don’t skip the garnishes – they’re easy and really add to the total taste.
Cool Green Soup
Adapted from Amy Kritzer's blog, What Jew Wanna Eat
Makes 6 cups.
12 ounces seedless cucumbers, a.k.a. English cucumbers (about 5 small or 1 large), cut in 1-inch dice
2 cups sorrel, roughly chopped, with thickest stems removed
2 ripe avocados, cut in 1-inch dice
1 small Cipollini onion (about 4 ounces) (can substitute white boiling onion or pearl onions), cut in 1-inch dice
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
2 cloves garlic (roasted is best, raw is ok), chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 3 teaspoons fresh)
Mint oil (½ cup mint plus ½ cup olive oil, processed fine and refrigerated overnight)
Seedless green grapes, cut in ¼-inch dice
Ripe nectarine (with skin), cut in ¼-inch dice
Combine all ingredients (except the garnishes) in a 6-8 cup container and refrigerate overnight, to let them get to know each other well. (Trust me, it makes a difference.) Make the mint oil and refrigerate overnight.
Purée the soup well for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasoning (salt and freshly ground pepper) to taste. Serve with a few drops of mint oil and a spoonful of the grapes and/or the nectarine.
For Challenge #2, my Wave~Action Blender performed like a champ. Even with the large quantity (which I eventually divided into two batches when it threatened to overflow), the soup was smooth and the sorrel was finely shredded. I even made the mint oil in the blender, and it was as well puréed as I might have gotten with my food processor.
Challenges #3 and #4 –
I conducted two other tests: making a salsa and grinding ice. I’m pretty sure making salsa in a blender is just a bad idea. It tasted good, and the blender’s pulsing function worked well, but the avocado/tomato combination I tried became pretty close to a purée by the time I got the tomatoes sufficiently chopped. And the final test – grinding/crushing ice – didn’t go well with just ice. The machine needs liquid to keep things moving. When I added a cup of liquid to a cup of ice, I got very nice, finely and evenly crushed ice. So I think it’ll do a great job on a frozen margarita or a dacquiri.
All in all, the Wave~Action Blender is a nice machine. It’s got a number of well-thought out features, like the pour spout on the lid; and the removable cap that doubles as a jigger is just brilliant. The blade housing is part of the pitcher construction, so it’s hard to have one of those lose-a-finger accidents, and cleanup becomes really easy. Most blenders are so heavy, you feel like you have to call a friend just to get them up onto the countertop. But the Hamilton-Beach motor housing is lightweight and easy to move while still feeling stable; there’s no sense that it’ll dance around the countertop. And the price is amazingly reasonable.
So if you don’t win the drawing, you can find this little gem at Walmart in RED (get back, Loretta) for $21.77, or save a couple more bucks and get it in steel grey for only $19.78. Whew. Or you can go to amazon.com, where it’s $38.19 with free shipping. Hard to say which is the better deal, as shipping costs are all over the lot. The Walmart site says you can get free shipping for orders over $35, or FREE pickup. So, Walmart, there’s no shipping charge if you pick it up? Hahahahah. Thanks for reminding me.