Ever since I made that 60 second aioli, I’ve been thinking a lot about hand blenders.
Ferran Adria, one of the world’s great chefs, uses a hand blender; that was his aioli recipe, after all. If a chef of his stature uses a hand blender, surely there must be something to it. Off the top of my head: it’s easier to clean than a regular blender. Whatever vessel you use for blending (a nice big jar, for example) can also be used for serving. Because you can move it around, you can make sure that you blend every last bit. It works better for smaller quantities. Plus: it’s kind of fun.
When I make my famous Caesar salad (see graphic here) I usually use a regular blender. It’s definitely messy and sometimes not all of the garlic gets blended. Which is why, on my most recent Caesar foray, I used a hand blender.
It’s as simple as this: into a large glass measuring cup, add 3 to 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 to 3 anchovies (I’ve been using salt-packed anchovies, which I rinse and then filet before blending), an egg yolk, a big spoonful of Dijon mustard and the juice of one lemon.
Add a pinch of salt and then stick in your hand blender:
Blend all of that into a paste (don’t worry if not everything gets worked in; it’ll smooth out as you add the oil) and, with the hand blender running, start pouring in olive oil in a steady, thin stream. As you’ll see: the dressing will start to emulsify, then it’s just a question of how thick you want it. You could add anywhere from 1/2 a cup to a whole cup of olive oil, depending on how you like it. I say: don’t measure. Just use your senses to figure out when it’s to your liking; and don’t forget to adjust with more salt and lemon juice.
After that, it’s just a question of chopping up romaine, pouring on the dressing, grating on lots of Parmesan cheese and grinding on lots of black pepper, tossing and serving in chilled bowls. A Caesar of champions. Thank you, hand blender!
But there’s more to life than Caesar salad.
On July 4th, I was asked to bring a “starchy side” to a July 4th dinner, and after turning to Twitter, Kathryn (aka @Finnsspace) suggested a “quinoa, yam & black bean salad with chili lime dressing.”
That sounded good! So I Googled it, found a recipe at Tasty Kitchen which I then riffed on.
I roasted some sweet potatoes (real ones, apparently, not yams);
I cooked some quinoa:
And tossed them all together in a bowl with drained and rinsed black beans:
Then, for the dressing, I took out my trusty hand blender and whizzed up a bunch of lime juice, 3 Chipotles in Adobo, a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of salt:
Then I added olive oil as I continued to blend until the dressing was to my liking:
That’s some good stuff, right there. Zippy, spicy, vibrant: you could even just use this on your regular weeknight salad and everyone will have a thrill.
But as it was, I worked it into the quinoa/sweet potato/black bean mixture and added scallions and cilantro for color:
And it was a big hit at the BBQ.
So if you have a hand blender sitting in a drawer somewhere gathering dust, it’s time to break it out. Make aioli; make skhug (from yesterday’s post). Or, if you’re serving salad with tonight’s dinner, make a dressing from this post. The sky’s the limit.