Sunday, January 1, 2012

Praise for the immersion blender

A month or so ago, I was in the Chicago area, and after a nice dinner out with friends, we wandered into Sur la Table.  I saw this Cuisinart immersion blender on sale for $25 and made an impulse buy.  Now I only wonder why I waited so many years to buy this little appliance.  Well, I know why--I figured that since I already own a blender and food processor, this was totally unnecessary and would just be one more appliance on the counter.  But now I find that for someone like me who loves making soups, many of which involve blending, this is great!  No more transferring of hot soup to the blender or food processor, and no more cleaning up the soup that sloshes out.  Just stick the blender stick in the pot of soup, press the button, and it's done.  And the clean-up is so much easier, too.  Instead of the big, awkward pieces of the blender or food processor to wash, you just detach the mixer part from the colored handle with the press of a button, and run it under the faucet.   Here's a link to Sur la Table--less expensive than on Amazon; note other colors available: 

Tomato Soup with Coriander

A couple of years ago, my friend Natania was going away for several months and lent me one of her favorite cookbooks to use while she was gone--a great idea for sharing a beloved cookbook.  Of the recipes I tried, my favorite is this one for "Soupe à la Coriandre."  Last night, I made it to bring to a New Year's Eve dinner, and everyone loved it, so here's the recipe.  It's one of those recipes that I look at each time and think, "It looks too simple to be as special as I remember it."  Then I make it again, and re-discover that simple can be special too.

adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, Mediterranean Light
6 servings (for a first-course soup)

2 bunches cilantro
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1-1/2 t. paprika
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
28 oz. water
4 T. tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. vermicelli or angel hair spaghetti, broken into pieces--about 1"
juice of 1 lime
sprinkle of cayenne
2 T. cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a soup pot and sauté the onion over medium-low heat until tender.  Tie the bunches of cilantro together with a string, so that they can be easily removed after soup simmers. 

Add the garlic, cumin, and paprika to the onion and sauté for a minute.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, the water, tomato paste, the 2 bunches of cilantro, and salt/pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat.  Take out the cilantro and discard.  Blend the soup (using an immersion blender makes this easy).  Bring the soup back to a simmer and add in the pasta.  Cook until the pasta is al dente, adjust seasonings, and stir in the cayenne and lime juice.  Garnish with additional cilantro (if using) and serve.  (It's nice to have the garnish, but you do need the full two bunches in the soup, and sometimes I don't feel like buying a 3rd bunch just for the 2 T. of garnish.  The soup is still great, even without the garnish--just a matter of appearance.)

Shulman emphasizes that the soup should be served at once, and that if you make it ahead (which is fine) or freeze it, that you should put in the pasta only later, when you are going to serve the soup.  But last night the soup sat for an hour or so before we ate it, and it was just fine.  And this morning I ate the leftovers, and that was fine too.  So don't worry about how long it sits with the pasta already cooked!