New Toy! New Toy! - Playing with the Food Processor

chevre & pepper and broccoli & garlic twice baked potatoesI received an email from a friend yesterday that piqued my food-centric curiosity and got me thinking. She just got a food processor, but now is a bit at a loss what to do with it. That's not to say she doesn't know what to use it for, because that's pretty obvious. I felt much the same when I got my first one, back in the day. It was great to have a new toy, but I hadn't put together any recipes that actually used one because that would be kind of stupid without one handy. So, now that it was on my counter, I didn't want to run around just pulverizing the crap out of everything for the hell of it, so I tried to create recipes that would be made better by having this kick-ass tool on the job.

There are plenty of things which aren't quite right for the processor. Like curry pastes and pestos, which are much better in a mortar and pestle (a fabulous toy for another time). Or loose and delicate doughs and meatball blends that need the gentle touch only hands can give. But, when you want smooth, creamy texture, the food processor is your bestest of the best friend. Or when you want to blend and chop simultaneously, what else can give you that level of badass speed and efficiency? Nothing else, really.

cleaned, pierced garlic headsIf you get those super-cheap bags of potatoes when the supermarket is chucking them out for pennies after a big holiday, you'll find yourself (like me) wondering once again, "What the fuck am I going to do with this?" There's lots of badass kitchen magic you can do with potatoes, but so much of it takes active time for prep and can be a pain in the ass. But, if you bake a few extras that first time out, there's a pretty quick, easy, and foodgasmic treat your food processor can give you, twice baked potatoes!

garlic, ready for the ovenThe cool thing about twice baked potatoes is that, not only can you bake the potatoes ahead of time, you can put just about anything in the mix from rich cheeses to leftover steamed veggies. So long as you have just a little bit of butter and cream to help it along in getting smooth, you're good to go.

Here are a few variations I like to play with:

** All recipes start with 2 large baked russet potatoes (4 servings of 1/2 potato as a side) OR 3 medium/4 small. You can use just about any potatoes you like, so long as the volume of potato is comparable. In fact, twice baked fingerlings make kick-ass little treats for a cocktail party. **

TWICE BAKED POTATOES

Super-decadent: Gorgonzola, Basil & Walnut
4 TBSP gorgonzola - the creamier kind if available
(1 TBSP butter - softened if using drier crumbly gorgonzola)
1 TBSP butter - softened
4 TBSP cream - heavy cream or half & half **
1 TBSP granulated garlic (or 4 cloves of roasted garlic if you have some handy)
2 tsp - fresh basil - finely chopped
* 2 tsp - walnuts finely chopped

Kinda decadent: Ham, Swiss, and Spinach
4 TBSP Gruyère - shredded
2 TBSP butter - softened
4 TBSP cream - heavy or half & half **
* 1/2 cup cooked spinach - fully drained of fluid and finely chopped
* 2 TBSP ham - in small dice (or prosciutto, or bacon)

pepper roasting on the gas flameStill a bit decadent: Chevre & Pepper
4 oz chevre goat cheese (I tend to like more goat cheese in mine but your mileage may vary)
1 fire-roasted red pepper - seeded and loosely chopped (or pre-packaged if not convenient to fire-roast)
2 TBSP butter - softened
4 TBSP cream - heavy or half & half **

Barely naughty: Garlic Veggie
8 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup steamed broccoli
(some caramelized leeks are great in this, if you feel like an extra step)
2 TBSP butter - softened
4 TBSP cream - heavy or half & half **
* 2 TBSP scallions - sliced thin - optional

good in all of the above!

kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper

** Cream can be substituted with yogurt for a slightly more tangy richness and stiffer blend. **

1 - Pre-heat oven to 350º Split the potatoes in half length-wise and scoop out the centers, leaving enough behind to support the skins and make good cup-like boats.

2 - Put your scooped-out potato into the processor with ingredients not marked with an asterisk + salt and pepper. Start at a pulse on low setting until everything is starting to blend well. Then let it go on low a few moments before briefly upping the speed to high. The important thing is getting it smooth and creamy while avoiding going too long and making the mix too sticky and glue-y.

3 - Once the blend is smooth, add the asterisk items and pulse lightly on low just to incorporate them into the mix. Then scoop the filling evenly back into the skins laid across a baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Another great food processor goodie, one that stars olives, one of my favorite ingredients that doesn't get to be center-stage in too many common dishes, is tapanade. It is one of the easiest appetizers in the world to make, sexy as hell, and totally vegan-friendly, as well as pretty damned good for you, too! 


TAPANADE
1 lb low sodium black olives - pitted OR 3 standard 6oz cans
1/2 lb  kalamata or cracked green olives (depending on your taste) - pitted OR 6 oz. can/12 oz. jar (drained wt. about 6-7 oz.)
2 heads roasted garlic (can be made in advance and stored in broth or olive oil for several days)
2 TBSP capers
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

olives!1 -  Put the olives into the food processor and pulse a few times on the low setting, just to break them up a bit.

2 - Squeeze in the garlic from the roasted cloves (keeping peels out) and add capers, basil, and parsley. Pulse on low until olives are well-minced and all ingredients are blended well. Add a drizzle of the roasted garlic broth as you pulse through the spout if the mix looks a little dry.

Is great served with crostini, fresh bread, or sliced veggies.

roasted garlic:
2 - 3 garlic heads
kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1 cup broth - vegetable or chicken

Preheat oven to 375º  Place heads in a ramekin or oven-safe bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and pour broth over. Cover tightly and allow to cook for 60-75 minutes. Set aside to cool when done.

Well, that's the lot for now. Have a great week, everyone!