In praise of blenders

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Why is it that when it comes to ecquipment cookbooks either assume that you cook in a primitive, empty kitchen, or else devote the whole thing to squeezing every possible use out of one particular gizmo?
I wish sometimes they'd include pressure cooking instructions. And I have no wish to bake a cake in a rice cooker, thank you very much.

It gets really annoying when it's all embraced in a spirit of simplicity, back to a happier time before we were the slaves of electrical machines. Machines that turned up in kitchens just as servants were exiting them.
Except from restaurants. Funny, that.

So I'm not impressed by entreaties from chefs to use volcanic rock pestles and mortars. As for mayonaise by hand...well. Really. Mayonaise was the very first thing I learnt to make, ever. It is ridiculously easy, as long as you have a blender. Crack an egg, add salt and vinegar, pour over a cup of oil, lower the stick blender into the mess. Pulse as you slowly raise it. In a few seconds, you have mayonaise.
Although these days I just use bottled mayo and add lots of lemon juice and a bit of good oil, and it's excellent.

So anyway, here is a song of praise to the humble hand held stick blender, hero of countless gazpachos, pureed soups, smoothies and milkshakes. And if you get one of those with a small bowl with a fierce chopping blade, also home to hummus, small chopped vegetables for sofrito or soup, spice pastes, and pesto.

And since we're on the pesto theme, don't be blinkered by the classics. The Genovese version, heady with basil and peanuts is wonderful, and certainly, make it in a mortar if that's your thing. Myself, I take the broad, sweeping view. Cooked vegetables, or even fresh tomatoes, or ruccola, or leftover pisto, blended with a bit of garlic, a handful of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or pine nuts) a bit of parsley, some cheese and a good glug of oil...that's a pesto. And it's not just great on pasta, but on sandwiches and in soups and quesadillas

So I'm very happy with my blender. I could live without it, yes, but why would I?


Fruit salad

In all of my many many cookbooks, there are always a bunch of recipes I flag, and some that I try. They are usually the ones where I spot a sensible new way of doing something complicated. I care more for tips and methods than for actual recipes, and more for ease of handling than for time cuts.
Lucky for me, or not, maybe, that this book by Alice Medrich has every single sweet recipe of that sort that you could ever want. Crusts that don´t need rolling, one bowl cakes, cookies that use melted butter, and tequila poured over shop-bought lime pops, sprinkled with salt. Pure, undilluted genius. Buy it inmediately.

There is only one omission, because it is a very hip book: there is no fruit salad. And yes, I hear the collective groan that springs from memories of those boring, boring apple-pear-banana-orange fruit salads from winter bowls of yore. That is boring. But a good fruit salad is a joy, the easiest, most comforting way to eat fruit, and it is a bowlful of love. Making fruit salad is a generous, selfless task. Nobody is going to say "oh wow, did you really make that?", as they would over a daintily piped cream cake. They will not be impressed by your skills, because a six year old could make it (in fact, train your six year old to make it). But they will eat it, and be pleased.

So go on, make fruit salad. Especially in a place like this, where the fruits that arrive can be a little bit short on flavour (ahem. A lot, most often). And yes, it really is the best way to make a couple of wrinkled nectarines and a  woebegone pear look good.
Cut them up, squeeze an orange over them, dot with strawberries, don´t forget a bit of banana for heft, and let flavors mingle in the fridge for a bit. 

Sweet Sherry, vanilla extract, mint leaves, whipped cream...yes, you can add them, but don´t forget to give in to the simple pleasures.