i never really I thought of myself as a blender. I don’t like smoothies and I don’t make nut butter. If my local bar survives the pandemic, I can go there when I want a frozen margarita.
Every now and then though, I wonder if I’m missing something. I’m a fanatic of a well-built machine and still remember meeting a Vitamix blender in the kitchen of the restaurant I cooked in a long time ago. Often times on the back of a device there is the label where you find the certifications, volts, hertz and amps. But the label on this machine had horses. It was a very subtle glove throw by this minimalist tank-like device that swept up whatever you threw at it. I was amazed.
I wanted to become a blender, I just didn’t want it to involve kale and chia seeds.
Fortunately, this urge hit me at the end of the era known as The Time We Used to Travel, and I had just returned from a month in Oaxaca, land of mole. I had also just received a copy of the cookbook, Oaxaca: home cooking from the heart of Mexico, by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral. It is a beautiful companion of the family restaurant of Lopez Guelaguetza in Los Angeles.
Back home in Seattle, I flipped through the cookbook and stopped by the recipe for black taupe when I saw the words “in a blender”. With three kinds of fried and soaked peppers, into the blender came sesame seeds, herbs, spices, almonds, avocado leaves, plantain and apples, many of which had spent time browning. in my pan.
Now this, I thought, is my kind of smoothie.
On a hunch, I requested a PDF version of the book from the publisher, plugged “blender” into the search box and saw the results sounding in the thumbnail column as if I had just won the slot machines. At that point I called a Vitamix 5200, the $ 450 model of choice for blender enthusiasts around the world.
In much of the kitchen, a blender feels like a specialty player. For the most part, if you already have a food processor and a hand blender (also called a “hand blender”), you will be fine without them. In the Oaxaca book however, it is the star of the show.
I walked up the street to Abarrotes El Oaxaqueno to stock up, I stocked up on chillies and avocado leaves and got to work, starting with a pasta de frijol negro, a paste of black beans with chili, garlic, onion and avocado leaves. It’s kind of a base layer for a lot of iconic Oaxacan dishes, and while it wasn’t much of a challenge for a high-end blender, it was something that would go well with any dishes I would make. in the next few days.
I switched to the Oaxacan adobo paste, which like they put in the cookbook, you “just roll out whatever meat you choose” and then cook it. I also made chileajo, small pieces of vegetables in a paste made with guajillo peppers that you can use as a spread on bread or a tostada. Both recipes feature this fundamental Oaxacan technique of grilling (potentially) and then soaking the peppers before mixing them.
It amazed me at the simple nature of this blender; you tell him what to do and he does it. Bean paste? Sure. A bunch of frozen fruit at the bottom of the freezer? Sure! There is no whine of a tense engine, no puff of overheated parts. In fact, it’s surprisingly quiet. You flip a switch and exactly what you want to happen, as long as it has to do with mixing, happens.
Speaking of flipping the switches, God bless the two-switch, one-dial control panel on the Vitamix, which immediately reminded me of the comment a friend made over 20 years ago when it was got into my old Saab 900 and looked at the dashboard.