How to Use Your Food Processor
Okay, you've got a food processor with all the accessories you need. Now how do you use it?
The shredding disc quickly and efficiently grates common ingredients like cheese and carrots, and the slicing disc yields perfectly even slices of potatoes and apples in no time at all. You just push the food through the feed tube using the plunger.
Chopping, grinding and pureeing involve a little more technique. Let's illustrate this by learning how to make fresh salsa using your processor.
You know that fresh salsa contains vegetables such as tomatoes and hot chillies; it can also incorporate ingredients like scallions, garlic, and fresh coriander. You might be tempted to just throw all your ingredients into the food processor and turn it on, but you'll end up with something more like gazpacho soup than salsa.
It's better to work in stages, because the different ingredients in your salsa will have different textures: You want the chillies and garlic pureed so that their flavor is distributed evenly throughout; you want the scallions and coriander finely chopped but not pureed, so that small green pieces are visible; and you want your tomatoes in bite-sized chunks. To achieve this variation in size and texture, you're going to have to introduce the ingredients one or two at a time, processing them in turn.
Since the garlic and chilli need the most processing, let's start with them. Peel a clove of garlic, remove the stem from a hot chilli, and throw them in the bottom of your food processor bowl. Then turn it on. You'll see that the garlic and chilli quickly get chopped up, but if your bowl is large, you might find that they get thrown against the side, away from the blades. You will have to turn off the motor and scrape down the bowl, putting the food pieces nearer to the blades again. (Many food processors come with a small plastic spatula for this purpose.)
You will also find that adding a bit of liquid (a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, water or olive oil would be perfect for your salsa) will help ensure that food thrown against the side of the bowl drips back down to the bottom rather quickly. You'll also find that using a pulse action -- turning on the motor for one second, turning it off for one second, then turning it on again for one second -- gives the food time to drip down near the blades. Pulsing is one of the most important food-processor techniques; it allows you to keep an eye on the texture of your food to ensure that you don't over-process it.
After 10 to 15 one-second pulses, and several scrape-downs, your garlic and chilli should be pureed. Now let's add the scallion and coriander. Be sure that you wash all the vegetables well, and trim off the roots and ragged bits. Take the plunger out of the feed tube, throw in a scallion and a small handful of coriander, replace the plunger, and use five one-second pulses to chop up the greens, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
Now, the tomatoes. First, cut them in half lengthwise, then into quarters, and cut off the stem tip. Now feed the tomato chunks into the bowl through the feed tube (with the motor off), and process them with three or four one-second pulses. Voila! Easy salsa, beautifully prepared. Pour your masterpiece into a bowl, season with salt to taste, and grab some corn-chips!
For more information on food processors and related topics, check out the links on the next page.