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Blender 911

Irma R., a novice home cook, turns to F&W's Tina Ujlaki with her kitchen questions. This month, the topic is using a blender: making cool summer soups and icy-cold smoothies.

Question

Dear Tina,

Whenever I make gazpacho, it turns out bland and thin. How can I fix it? Yours gratefully, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,

There are zillions of choices beyond the obvious tomato-and-bell-pepper combination. I particularly like this grape-almond gazpacho from Cindy Pawlcyn at Mustards Grill in Napa Valley; it's fruity, savory and complex. I doubt the cream cheese is classic, but it does give the soup quite a bit of body; toasting the almonds enhances their flavor. Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,

I just tried to puree a soup in my blender, and although the lid was on, soup started spewing out all over the place. What did I do wrong? Yours truly, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,

I'm usually skeptical when reading the do's and don'ts in equipment manuals (since I generally resent being told what to do, period). But in this case it's wise to take the booklet's advice to heart and not puree with the blender jar more than three-quarters full—or you're asking for trouble. Take it from someone who has wasted too much time wiping splatters off cabinets, walls, appliances and furry pets. It's especially important if you're blending hot liquids, since that can be not only messy but dangerous. Also, start the blender at a low speed and work your way up; sometimes even a half-filled blender jar started at superhigh speed will spew. Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,

My husband, Irving, is the smoothie maker in our house, but by the time he's finished whipping them up, they're always lukewarm. I like my smoothies cold! Do you have any suggestions? Yours faithfully, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,

I'm with Irving! I don't like smoothies when they're superfrosty (in fact, first thing in the morning, they give me a headache ). But my children do. I always try to keep bags of both frozen berries and frozen peaches on hand precisely for that reason. I also peel and freeze bananas on the verge of becoming overripe and grapes that I can't get anyone to eat. My son loves tropical flavors, so I usually keep Goya fruit purees (from the supermarket freezer case) in stock too—mango, papaya and passion fruit; they're frozen in flat, rectangular packages, so breaking off chunks is easy.

To make a basic icy-cold orange-strawberry-banana smoothie, blend 3 cups of chilled orange juice with 1 large ripe banana and 15 frozen strawberries. Any juice can stand in for orange juice; we prefer those with texture, like apricot, pear, peach, pineapple and carrot. All fruits work well, with the exception of pineapple, because it's so fibrous. Best, Tina

Published June 2003
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