Chop Shop

Oh, how I love my one-use kitchen gadgets and their ability to solve cooking problems I didn’t know I had until I saw the infomercial. The Spiralizer, cherry pitter and pizza scissors all hold esteemed places in my kitchen. So when I purchased my immersion blender – a hand-held chopper-upper that’s plunged directly into the ingredients – I thought it could only puree soup on the stovetop. But this smart little appliance, also known as a wand or stick blender, is so lightweight, portable and infinitely versatile, it deserves a place in every efficient kitchen.

This blender works best when immersed fully in the ingredients (duh). If you’re whipping up a little bitty something, like one scrambled egg, place the ingredients in the tall, narrow beaker that comes with most brands instead of a shallow bowl. Can’t find the beaker? A quart-size measuring cup or the bottom of a cocktail shaker will do in a pinch.

Immersion blending is a great hack to make everyday foods just a little better. Spin some heavy cream with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla to start the day with a better cuppa coffee or turn fresh fruit into instant dessert. Vinegar-and-oil dressings that separate into mouthfuls of either one make people grumpy. Use your immersion blender to emulsify homemade dressings for perfectly balanced bites of salad. And cleanup couldn’t be easier. After use, fill the beaker with hot, soapy water and give the immersion blender a whirl one last time.

Is there anything the immersion blender can’t do? Well, yes. You shouldn’t chop ice with it unless you want to prematurely dull the blades. And you’ll still need a high-horsepower stand mixer for heavy work like kneading dough. But if you’re happy to drink fresh fruit smoothies and buy bakery bread, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. I should also mention that the immersion blender made my whipped potatoes too gluey. So if you want fluffy spuds, use another of my favorite one-use gadgets: the potato ricer.

Use your immersion blender to make:

Homemade Mayonnaise
If you don’t know the joy of homemade mayonnaise on a hearty sandwich, then you are missing out on one of life’s tastiest simple pleasures. Start with room-temperature ingredients and combine 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon minced garlic and ½ teaspoon white pepper in the immersion blender beaker. Pulse until well combined. Add 1 cup canola oil. Hold the immersion blender against the bottom of the beaker, then pulse until the oil starts to turn opaque. Move the blender up and down until the texture becomes light and fluffy, approximately 30 seconds.

Black Bean Dip
In a deep bowl, combine 2 15.5-ounce cans rinsed black beans, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Pulse with the immersion blender until creamy. Serve as a spread on sandwiches and burritos or make into a dip by stirring in ¼ cup diced red onion or prepared salsa and garnish with cilantro.

Lentil soup
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute 1 chopped yellow onion and 1 chopped large carrot in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, 2 cups cooked lentils, 1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Add 1 bay leaf and 1 sprig fresh thyme. Simmer 15 minutes, then remove the bay leaf and thyme. Rest the immersion blender at the bottom of the pot and pulse as you move the blender up, down and around, until the soup is creamy and about half the vegetables and lentils are still intact. 

Avocado Cream Cheese
Toast, smoast. Spread the avocado love to your bagels using your immersion blender to whip together 1 small avocado, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and kosher salt and white pepper to taste.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Drain 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, reserving the liquid. In a mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas with 2 diced roasted red peppers, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons tahini, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and a pinch of kosher salt. Pulse with the immersion blender until the beans and peppers are nearly smooth, adding up to ¼ cup of the reserved bean liquid to thin to your preference. Garnish with paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Silver Fizz Cocktail
Place 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 tablespoon simple syrup and 1 fresh egg white in a cocktail shaker. Place the immersion blender in the shaker and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds. Fill the shaker ²∕³ full with ice and shake 1 minute. Strain into a chilled highball glass and top with 2 ounces club soda. Stir gently. Garnish with a lemon slice or bitters atop the foam.