Kitchen Tools: the Food Processor



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You may be surprised to hear I’m not much of a gadget girl when it comes to the kitchen. Still, there are a few small appliances I can’t do without, and that includes a food processor. Yes! I’m surprised how many people don’t own one – and ask if it’s really necessary. Also: what’s the difference between a food processor and a blender?

The truth is, I rarely use my blender for anything besides smoothies – it’s more suited to liquidy drinks and soups (which I use a hand-held immersion blender for anyway), but my food processor is essential for blending things like hummus and pesto, and I always default to mine to efficiently cut butter into flour to make biscuits and pastry. And it’s essential, of course, if you want to puree beans and hide them in your pizza dough or bread, which I do all the time. It just doesn’t work the same in a blender, which is just one of the reasons I’d choose a food processor over a blender, hands-down. And yet I’m pretty sure I don’t use mine to its maximum potential, judging by the half dozen or so blades and other attachments I have scattered on my basement shelves.

That said, there are plenty of not so great food processors out there. I have a friend who has gone through three machines in about a year – pieces keep breaking or the motor burns out – and I’ve worked with lots on kitchen sets, at cooking schools and in demo kitchens that are clunky, loud and awkward. I’ve always relied on my old (vintage!) Cuisinart – a simple, solid model that’s not available anymore – and stuck to the regular multipurpose blade, happy with my old familiar. It has an on button and a pulse button, and that’s it.

But I was recently asked to take the KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor for a spin – literally – and because I’m often touting the wonders of the oh-so-awesome food processor and yet can’t recommend a model that’s actually available in stores to anyone, I took them up on it. (Also – I need to find one for my mom for Mother’s Day!)

It too is a sturdy machine, bigger than my old one, which suggests a powerful motor. (This is a good thing – I put mine to work.) It’s designed for optimum slicability – something I haven’t used my food processor for before. I found that the slicing attachment is really more useful than I’ve ever given it credit for. Perhaps it’s the fact that the ExactSlice™ System lets you externally adjust the thickness of your slices – anywhere from 1 mm to 6 mm thick – with a lever on the outside – no need to change blades. So it’s easily adjusted as you go to slice or shred anything from cheese (for mac & cheese!) to potatoes (for scalloped potatoes!) to veggies (for slaws and stir-fries!) and have them come out exactly the way you want them. They’ve also considered the storage issue – the blades and discs allow you to slice, shred, knead, chop and puree – and then get packed away into an organized bin so that they don’t wind up scattered all over your basement or endangering fingers as they rattle around in drawers. Pure brilliance!

I put it to work – I chopped, pulsed, pureed and kneaded – and it did its job splendidly, with gusto. The 3-in-1 feed tube meant easy access for all kinds of ingredients, and I didn’t miss the annoying plastic shooter tube that used to fire your veggies clear across the room when they were supposed to deposit themselves neatly in your salad bowl. The timing is good – I’m fine with chopping, but streamlining the process is going to come in handy when coming up with big, interesting chopped salads – my current obsession – especially now that spring has finally arrived, and greens and other inspiring ingredients are making their way into markets. I can feed ends of cukes and chunks of fennel and bits of cheese through the tube and have a big bowl of awesomeness in no time. And that old box grater was just an obstacle between me and carrot cakes – I see far more in my future.

 Which will balance out all those salads, right?

Asian Kale Slaw

Slaw:
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced (discard stems)
a few broccoli stalks, julienned
2 baby bok choy, thinly sliced (optional)
1-2 carrots, coarsely grated
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
a few pea pods, sliced or chopped
a couple green onions, chopped
a handful of fresh cilantro (optional)
a handful of peanuts or sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. mirin (rice wine – optional)
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. sesame oil

Thinly slice all the veggies – preferably in a food processor – and transfer them all to a large bowl. To make the dressing, shake all the ingredients up in a jar.

Drizzle the slaw with dressing and toss to coat well. If you like, let the mixture sit for a bit to marinate – this will help tame the kale. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds or peanuts and serve.

Serves 6.

* Disclaimer: I was provided with the KitchenAid above for my review – as always, opinions are my own. It’s a good one.

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