Food Processors: Getting Down To Basics
Excerpt from: Process This! by Jean Anderson
Included here are pointers to guide you in buying one of the new-generation food processors as well as tips on using it safely. I also offer handy reference charts that list the foods best suited to these new machines, then tell the best ways to prep, slice, chop, grind, and pur�e them. As an additional help, I've added a chart of equivalents so you'll know exactly how many slices of bread it takes to produce one cup of crumbs, how many apples for one cup of slices, and so forth.
On the preceding pages, I also list the things you should know in order to use this book wisely. Read it, please, before trying any of the recipes.
About the New Generation of Food Processors
These new machines combine the best features of their predecessors with cutting-edge innovations that make them more versatile, more powerful, and more reliable. In addition, they're quick to clean, thanks to their streamlined designs. Here's a quick rundown of the most capable and readily available models.
KitchenAid has introduced mini bowl and blade inserts for its 9- and 11-cup food processors, even for its compact 5- and 7-cuppers—inspired space-savers that make one machine do the work of two. In addition, there's a timesaving chef's bowl insert for its top-of-the-line professional model. Work bowl dirty? Just slip in the chef's bowl and continue processing. For serious cooks, amateurs as well as pros, there's KitchenAid's "Chef's Chopper," a powerful 3-cup mini with reverse spiral action and scalpel-sharp blade to ensure uniform chopping with little or no bowl scraping. Just the thing for a single onion, a few carrots, or a handful of parsley.
KitchenAid has also created a reversible thin slicing/shredding disk that's standard equipment for all of its machines, with separate medium slicing and shredding disks for the 11-cup models. Its new slip-on citrus juicer attachment (with a small reamer for lemons and limes and large reamer for oranges and grapefruits) really works. Finally, its see-through plastic accessories box means no more disks and blades jumbled up in a drawer.
LeChef, Ronic's food processor with eleven functions, has some welcome innovations, too. Its work bowl's sloping sides eliminate that right angle where foods being processed in straight-sided bowls so often collect. Moreover, its S-shaped metal chopping blade is serrated and one end of it turns up like the wingtip of many airliners. This combination helps keep food in the middle of the bowl and in the path of the blade, so you don't have to stop the machine as often to scrape the work bowl—a time and nuisance saver. On the downside, this French food processor's work bowl is fairly small. It holds up to five cups of semi-liquid ingredients, and twice that of sliced or shredded foods.
After twenty-seven years, Cuisinart has completely overhauled its workhorse with an Italian design that's as racy as a new Ferrari. Gone are the old dirt-catching pulse and on/off levers at the base of the machine, and in their place, a smooth easy-to-clean keypad at the front. Cuisinart's biggest breakthroughs, however, are a slower "dough mode" for kneading yeast doughs and a reconfigured dough blade made of metal instead of plastic. The expanded feed tubes with small inner feed tubes remain (just the thing for slicing and shredding long skinny foods) as do the big work bowls. There are two models in the new line: the Prep 11 Plus with an 11-cup work bowl and the pricier PowerPrep Plus 14 with a mighty 14-cup work bowl. And here's truly good news, the blades and disks of earlier Cuisinarts are not obsolete; they fit the new machines.
Cuisinart's mini food processor (a true mini holding just a shade over 2-1/2 cups) is both chopper and grinder, thanks to its reverse-action motor and two-sided blade: dull for grinding coffee beans and whole spices, sharp for mincing garlic, fresh herbs, and so forth. But there are a couple of drawbacks: the work bowl quickly scuffs in the grind mode and genuinely hard spices—cinnamon sticks, for example—do not grind to powder, only to coarse crumbs.
Cuisinart, KitchenAid, and LeChef food processors all offer a load of attachments, some optional, some included—everything from egg whips to vegetable juice extractors to julienners and french-fry cutters. In addition, there's a wide range of shredding and slicing disks from coarse to fine and from thick to thin. Recipe booklets come with each machine; KitchenAid and Cuisinart also include how-to video tapes with their full-size processors.
All of the new food processors come in "basic white," but for certain models KitchenAid offers as many as nine decorator colors (from Onyx Black to Majestic Yellow and Empire Red to Almond Cream). Cuisinart's color choices, limited to its mini and 11-cup machine, are white, black, blue, and brushed chrome. All 14-cup machines are white—so far, at least (except for the shiny cast zinc number commissioned and sold by Williams-Sonoma).
Which processor should you choose? I can't recommend a particular brand, but I will say this: If you are a dedicated cook and are serious about adding a new-generation food processor to your kitchen, or if you're hoping to replace an old one, talk to friends and neighbors who may already have plunged. Then ask if you can test-drive their new food processor. If that fails, request a personal demonstration—either by a friend or at a local kitchen shop.
Consider, too, the type of cooking you do, then let your particular needs guide you in your choice. If you bake yeast bread or frequently cook for a crowd, you should spring for the machine with the most powerful motor, the most heavily weighted base, and the biggest work bowl. Otherwise a less Herculean 7- to 11-cup model will serve you well.
New Recipes for the New Generation of Food Processors
+ Dozens of Time-Saving Tips
by Jean Anderson
Hardcover, 304 pages
Price: $27.50; $41.50 (CAN)
Reprinted by permission.
This page created March 2003