Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Love Me Blender

It's taken a few years, several apartments and the kindness of many strangers, but I've finally amassed a decent bunch of kitchen bling. For all it's lack of counter and storage space, my kitchen now possesses nearly every appliance known to man, and certainly has everything I need to make pretty much anything. While I've fallen in and out of love with many appliances over the years, the one item that will always hold the most space in my heart is the blender. Year after year, as the weather turns cold and the bright, juicy produce of summer fades away, the markets overflow with greens and tough root vegetables. In my experience, in the only tool that consistently makes something delicious out of these less than lovely ingredients is a blender.

Whether you're looking to make a meal out of a soup, or a simple puree to garnish, the blender is the master of any task. Lately it's made its way off the pantry shelf to take up permanent residence on my kitchen counter. This time of year I'm especially drawn to making soups, not only because of what's in season, but because of the weather. It's way too easy for me to curl up under a blanket and dial those magic numbers that bring food to the door, so I always make sure and have the basics on hand to make a delicious soup out of almost anything. Having a blender means you're half-way there, and all you're missing are aromatics. With one onion or shallot and a clove of garlic you're ready to go. If you have a few herbs or spices you'll be golden, but otherwise all you need is some chicken broth. Keep those around (to recap: blender, onion, garlic, broth, herbs/spices) and you'll always have a warm meal within arms reach, and with the advent of dirtying only one pan.

My most recent soup came with the advent of
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, finally becoming prevalent at the farmers market. For anyone that's not familiar with them, Jerusalem artichokes are the tuber of a plant similar to the sunflower. They're said to taste faintly or artichoke, which they do, only very subtly (I think of them as part potato, part artichoke). It's important to choose those that have the smoothest skin, and if possible the thinest. Many people don't peel them, but I prefer to. If you plan on shaving them into a salad or using them in some other raw preparation, remember to soak them in acidulated water (water with lemon juice or white vinegar) to keep them from browning, as tubers often do. I quickly peeled and chopped mine, then sautéed them with onion, garlic and a handful of fresh thyme. I added some broth and a little something extra and clamped on the lid until everything was cooked through. After the mixture cooled down a bit I added it to the blender with a little more stock and pouf!--I had soup. I topped it off with some homemade croutons for crunch and some quickly sauteed chorizo for a little extra spice. Here's the recipe:

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

4-5 medium Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 cups chicken or non-tomato based vegetable stock
1/4 cup cider or malt vinegar
ground white pepper

1. Sauté onion and garlic on medium heat until starting to brown, then add Jerusalem artichokes, pepper and half of thyme mixture and sauté two minutes further.

2. Add vinegar and enough broth just to cover mixture, then cover and simmer until Jerusalem artichokes soften. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Carefully add entire contents of pan to blender and puree until smooth (remember to remove the center part of your blender lid when blending hot food to release the pressure). Add broth as necessary to achieve proper consistency and help your blender along. Taste for salt and pepper and serve garnished with croutons and chopped chorizo (or anything you like). Enjoy!


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