Blend Now, Think Later

For as long as I have been lurking on food blogs, I have been hearing about high-speed blenders, but I never quite understood what all the fuss was about. High-speed blenders are pricey, plus fancy kitchen appliances are always a nuisance to clean–I always assumed I was better off without one. But a few months ago I moved into a house with a glorious 64-oz Vitamix 5200* and I’ve come to see how very wrong I was. I now use the blender every day, multiple times if I’m cooking for the house.

Carrot-ginger-miso dressing is as simple as putting carrots in a blender: see this recipe.

The main thing to know about the Vitamix is that it’s not really a blender, it’s a small car. It obliterates ice cubes, vegetables, nuts, and anything else you stick in there. A while back I made the mistake of trying to stir the contents of the blender with a spatula while it was running and it sliced through the spatula like it was nothing. The Vitamix can turn anything into a rich and creamy sauce.

This is especially great for vegan cooking because it means you can turn a handful of cashews or almonds to a rich cream without any pre-soaking. This past week I used the Vitamix to make a basil cream sauce by throwing in about 2 oz cashews, a small bunch of basil, a clove of garlic, a splash of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a splash of water. The result was a sweet, rich, pesto-y dressing. I then blended some of it with cooked edamame for a pea pesto-like spread that went great with pasta. I mixed the rest with some extra firm tofu for a really delicious basil-tofu ricotta.

You can do something similar with cilantro, switching the lemon for lime and adding in a jalapeno and same white vinegar to taste. The process is pretty flexible–if you start with fresh herbs and a handful of nuts and then add acidic ingredients to taste, you will probably wind up with something delicious. Whether it turns into a spread or a dressing depends on how much liquid you add. Try stirring in a tablespoon or two of olive oil at the end for extra richness, but don’t blend the olive oil as it can turn bitter.

Cilantro sauce goes great on fried tofu and crunchy veggies.

I also love using the Vitamix for creamy soups. No disrespect to my immersion blender–immersion blending is one of life’s great joys. But I think that using a stand blender allows for a more interesting textures, since you can make half of the soup extremely creamy and leave half unblended. If you use a stick blender you have less control and are more likely to wind up with an intermediate texture.

Recently I’ve been using the blender as a time-saver for chopping aromatics. I’ve always had issues with ginger–it’s hard to find a grater that processes it well, and I really hate the fibrous texture of ginger chunks. I also hate chopping hot peppers, since I need to wear gloves and goggles and wipe everything down after (to avoid the dreaded burning hands). Any easy solution is that if I’m cooking with garlic, ginger, and peppers, I just chop them all roughly and throw them into the blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Then I fry the resulting paste whenever I would have fried the aromatics. This works especially well if you’re also cooking with onions: if you add the onion first and blend until it forms a paste, you don’t have to add any additional water. Then you can add the aromatics and blend until there are no visible chunks of ginger or pepper. This saves chopping time (especially if you are cooking 2x or 3x the recipe), and it creates a thick, gravy-like texture which is ideal in dishes like chana masala. I’m not saying it would be appropriate for every dish, but it’s great for many curry or stew-like things.

Blending the onion and aromatics helped thicken this peanut stew.

For what it’s worth, the Vitamix a lot more convenient than I had anticipated. It’s actually not too bad to clean–unlike a food processor, there’s only one or two major parts, and as long as you use the blender for things that are fairly liquid-y it’s not too hard to clean off the blades. (If there is gunk down there, you may be able to get it out by blending some soapy water.) The Vitamix always sits on the counter next to our stove so it’s pretty convenient, which is probably a large part of why I use it so often. I’ve found that using a blender tamper makes the process simpler–you can use less liquid and you don’t have to pause to scrape down the sides so often.

In summary: Blend! Blend early and blend often. Blend for the animals. Blend for the environment.

Truly it is said that behind every great vegan is a vitamix.

*I swear I’m not being sponsored by Vitamix. This is the model my house has. Probably most of what I’ve said applies to other high-speed blenders as well.

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