There was a time in my weeknight cooking life when, if I came across the phrase “In your food processor…” in a recipe, I would automatically turn the page. Who in his or her right mind would want to lug a small appliance out of the upper cabinets when they were on the clock for feeding hungry kids? And who wanted to bother with cleaning all those extra clunky parts after dinner?
Well, times have changed. Not only does it no longer offend me, but this week I decided to award the appliance with the ultimate honor: A permanent spot on the counter. I now use the thing almost every day.
Why the turnaround? Well, for starters, I am talking exclusively about a Mini-Prep Food Processor (as opposed to the more standard Buick-sized one). Also, having older kids who don’t short-circuit when they’re hungry has, in general, made weeknight dinners a little less manic. But mostly, I can’t help noticing the correlation between the mini-prep’s frequency of use and our Weekday Vegetarian undertaking. So often, when I’m missing the depth of flavor that comes from, say, a piece of bacon, my mind hurtles in the direction of…blender sauce. Well, first butter, then sauce. A nice bright, tangy, thoroughly emulsified sauce.
Take these simple weeknight soccas. They’d be so bland without that yogurt-harissa drizzle on top.
And this Halloumi Bowl (here, packed to-go for the parent who drew the short straw and was on late-night soccer practice duty) would only reach half its potential if it weren’t for the…yogurt-y cilantro sauce? I think? I don’t really remember, and that is also another point I feel the need to make here: One of the best things about making quick drizzle sauces in the food processor is that you can have that witches-brew mentality when you’re putting it together. A little of this, a little of that…I guarantee you can make a delicious blender sauce with ingredients you have in your refrigerator right now. In fact, I challenged myself to do this an hour ago and here’s what I came up with.
I always look for plain Greek yogurt first. It’s fatty and tangy and if you start with two or three dollops, you are half way there. Unfortunately, we were all out. BUT, we had more than our share of herbs, many of which were starting to go brown and wilty. (I feel like Superman swooping in to save a falling Lois Lane when I rescue last-leg produce from going to waste.) In the end, I gathered cilantro, chives, some red onion scraps I save for this kind of thing, salt, capers, lemon and olive oil.
I shoved everything in there (not the whole onion, just a chunk or two) and gave it a whirl. The blade was struggling to break down the vegetables so immediately I realized it needed more liquid. I added some white wine vinegar (I could’ve added more lemon juice I guess) and tried again, tasting and adjusting along the way.
I don’t even know what to call what I ended up with (not salsa verde, not chimichurri, though sort of related to both) but I do know that it will be delicious drizzled over beans or on fried tofu tacos or, if it lasts to the weekend, when meat is sanctioned, a piece of grilled fish or steak.
There are very few dinners I like more than simple grilled fish with a nice bright blender sauce.
And on another note, I’ve been using the mini processor to make starters, too. Shown above are my favorite roast vegetable dips. I can’t remember the last time someone came to my house for dinner and I didn’t make some version of the three you see above: yogurt-beet, sweet potato-tahini, cauliflower-onion. (The green one is guacamole, which should be mashed manually to preserve its crucial chunkiness.)
And of course, there is our beloved Todd’s Minty Pea Dip. When I posted that recipe ten (!!!) years ago, it was maybe the only thing that could get me to break out a food processor. If there are any non-believers still out there, this is the one to change your mind.
For those of you who feel more comfortable launching their blender sauce-making career with an official recipe, here is one from Dinner: The Playbook that I recommended with grilled fish or shrimp tacos.
From Dinner: The Playbook
(makes 3/4 cup, enough for 6-8 tacos)
1 cup cilantro (with stems)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pepitas
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste
In a mini-food processor, whirl all ingredients together, adjusting with a few drops of water or lime juice until it reaches desired consistency.