Step into any cooking store and you can see the vast galaxy that is the world of kitchen gadgets. But let’s face it — most of them are duds. The majority take up valuable real estate in your drawers while providing virtually no use to you. And we all know what happens: what little use they might provide is mooted because you can either never remember what you have or know where to look when you do want it.
In short, there’s a big case to be made for (pardon the pun) paring down to the essentials. But here at Home Cooking Well, I’m going to talk occasionally about tools that are useful; items every home cook should have or consider having. Here’s one: the mini-food processor.
I got this one second-hand for $5 from a departing French post-doc who worked in my friend Laurie’s biology lab at MIT. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. But in the years since, it has more than proven its worth.
This little gadget is great for prepping vegetables — particularly onions — before cooking. How many recipes call for chopped onions, garlic or ginger? With one of these, you can simply coarsely chop the vegetables and then throw them in. In 5-10 seconds all your otherwise-tedious chopping is done. And on a busy weeknight, it’s small things like this that can help you cut down on prep time in a major way.
What’s more, as a former picky eater, I know lots of picky eaters don’t like big slimy chunks of onion in their food (it’s a texture issue). This method helps you preserve the onion flavor and content while keeping the individual chunks small.
One caution: don’t chop vegetables at the same time unless the recipe calls for them to be thrown in all at once. Otherwise, just scrape out the dish and chop them separately.
These little gadgets are also great for chopping nuts and pureeing small-batch sauces (I’ve made peanut sauce in mine before), vegetables, or liquids. But beware: inexpensive ones often leak (and yes, I learned this the hard way). For more liquidy jobs, you’ll want the big kahuna: a full-sized Cuisinart or similar. Alternatively, and this is good practice with all food-processors, hold back as much of the liquid as possible from whatever you’re pureeing and add it back in in only after you’ve taken the puree out of the processor.
How about you? Anyone else own one of these little guys? How do you use it?