_5 Making the Ultimate Smoothie: Equipment and Techniques

Serves: 5



You will be delighted to discover just how quick and easy it is to prepare a delicious smoothie. Because many of us are feeling completely overbooked with life's daily responsibilities, spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not always possible. That is why smoothies have become the rage of our era. With very little effort, you can have a satisfying and richly flavored drink within minutes that will put a smile on your face.

A few essential tools are all you need to equip your smoothie operation: a good sharp knife for prepping the fruit, a spatula to remove every last drop of the smoothie from the blender, plastic airtight freezer bags for storing freshly cut fruit in the freezer, and the all-important blender. Although a food processor can be used to make a smoothie, a blender seems to be the preferred appliance for most smoothie mavens.

The blender is the most important piece of kitchen equipment you will need to make a proper smoothie. The invention of this indispensable appliance is credited to Stephen J. Poplawski who, in 1922, was the first one to place a spinning blade at the bottom of a glass container. By 1935, Fred Waring and Frederick Osius made improvements on the original design and marketed the "Waring Blender." The rest is history.

A blender basically consists of a glass, metal, or plastic food container that is fitted with a metal blade at the bottom. It sits on a base with a control panel that allows the blades to spin at different speeds so that they can liquefy, puree, chop, or whip almost any food that is reasonably soft.

You should assess certain basic qualities when selecting a blender, including its durability, ease of operation and cleaning, and noise production. Once these criteria are met, you are ready to narrow down your choice. With such a wide variety of blenders from which to choose, I hope the information listed here will help in your decision.

* Blender containers typically come in two sizes: thirty-two ounces and forty ounces. If you will routinely be preparing smoothies for more than two people, choose the larger one.

* Blender motors come in different sizes. Those with 290-watt motors are adequate for most blending jobs, but not optimal for smoothies. Others with 330 to 400 watts are considered to be of professional caliber and are excellent for crushing ice, a feature that is very important for creating the best smoothies.

* Blenders can be found with a variety of blade speed options, ranging from two-speed (high and low) to five- and ten-speeds. Variable-speed models provide more options, such as the ability to liquefy and whip.

* The blender should have a removable bottom for ease of cleaning.

* Container lids should have a secondary lid that can be easily removed. This allows for the addition of ingredients while the blender is turned on.

* Avoid plastic container jars because they do not wash well in the dishwasher and therefore must be hand-washed.

Although the blender is most often used to make smoothies, you may prefer the food processor because of its versatility. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, the advent of the food processor was the "twentieth-century French revolution." This unique appliance can mince, chop, grate, shred, slice, knead, blend, puree, liquefy, and crush ice.

The food processor has a base directly under the work bowl that houses the motor. A metal shaft extending from the base through the center of the work bowl connects the blade or disc to the motor. A cover that fits over the work bowl has a feed tube. When the bowl is locked into place and the motor is switched on, the shaft turns and propels the blades or discs.

Similar to the blender, the food processor has some basic qualities you should assess when selecting one that best fits your cooking needs.

* Food processors come in a wide range of sizes: the two-cup miniprocessor is practical for chopping, especially small quantities of food the seven-, nine-, and eleven-cup capacities are each equally suitable for making smoothies, as well as other food preparations while the fourteen- and twenty-cup units are ideal for professional cooking needs.

* Most food processors have two speeds, high and low, in addition to a pulsing action. (Some food processors have four speeds.)

* Some food processors come with both large and small feed tubes. The larger tube is convenient when large-sized ingredients are to be added while the machine is running.

Once you have decided on the features you would like in a blender or food processor, I highly recommend that you visit several appliance or department stores and personally view the various models available. The salesclerk should be able to provide you with information to further help you in making the best decision. Another resource for gleaning valuable information is the Internet. Many of the companies that manufacture these appliances have sites that are quite informative regarding their individual product, and some also will provide a phone number so you can personally speak to a representative. Finally, CONSUMER REPORTS and similar publications provide comparison quality ratings of a variety of blenders and food processors.

Now that the blender is taking center stage on your countertop, it is time to rev it up and make a smoothie. By now you know how easy it is to equip a kitchen with the necessary tools to make smoothies, and you will be delighted to learn that mastering the techniques required to prepare them is just as simple. Preparing a smoothie is probably one of the most uncomplicated tasks you will ever have to perform in your kitchen. I have no doubt that if you were to simply dump all the ingredients in a blender, you could still end up with a perfectly acceptable smoothie. However, for those who want to create the ultimate smoothie, I have included a few helpful techniques that will help you reach this lofty goal.

* To be certain of using the most delicious fruits, buy them when they are in season and at their peak in flavor.

* Before freezing fruit, wash and dry it first, and then follow the preparation instructions given in "The Incomparable Fruit: How to Select, Prepare, and Store Fruit." Placing fruit in the freezer for at least thirty minutes or until partially frozen assures that the smoothie will have both a thick consistency and a rich, fruity flavor.

* Store-bought individually frozen fruit can be substituted for fresh frozen fruit, but it should be used within six months of the purchase date. Avoid using frozen fruit that is packaged in sweetened syrup.

* To keep a supply of your favorite seasonal fruits, stock up before they are no longer available for purchase. Although fruits have the most flavor when kept frozen for only one to two weeks, they can be kept in the freezer for a slightly longer amount of time.

* If using ice in a smoothie, the individual pieces should be slightly smaller than the fruit to prevent any chunks of ice remaining once the smoothie is blended. An easier alternative to cutting the ice is to buy a bag of ice chips or crushed ice to keep in your freezer. If you don't own a high-speed blender, you can make your own crushed ice by simply placing ice cubes in a resealable bag and crushing them with a mallet or rolling pin.

* When adding ingredients to a blender, always add the chilled liquid first, then the frozen fruit, and the ice or frozen yogurt last. Start the blender on low speed to crush the ice and blend the mixture. Gradually increase the speed until the mixture is smooth. It may be necessary to turn the blender off periodically and stir the mixture with a spoon, working from the bottom up.

* If the smoothie is too thin, add more fruit or ice. Conversely, if the smoothie is too thick, add more liquid.

From ULTIMATE SMOOTHIES: delicious recipes for over 125 of the best smoothies, freezes, and blasts. Copyright © 2000 Donna Pliner Rodnitzky. All Rights Reserved.

This _5 Making the Ultimate Smoothie: Equipment and Techniques recipe is from the Cook'n Ultimate Smoothies Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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