Year of Gadgets: Why fall is an immersion blender’s season to shine

Immersion blenders are made for fall.

Also known as stick or hand blenders, these handheld electric devices make short work of a short but very important list of tasks: pureeing hot soups and sauces, emulsifying vinaigrettes and mayonnaise, making Mason jar smoothies and milkshakes, whipping cream, blending pancake batter and beating eggs.

Many of these tasks you can complete with just a whisk or even a fork. But if you’ve ever found a string of egg white cooked into your quiche or pancake or burned yourself trying to pour just-cooked soup into a food processor to puree, you’ll see the advantage of a smaller blender that can break down ingredients and mix them back together with surprising efficiency.

So efficient, in fact, that the first time I tried to use an immersion blender to make whipped cream, I made butter. The blades spin much faster than you might anticipate, cutting the job into mere seconds rather than minutes.

The main reason I bought an immersion blender this year, however, was for soups. Chunky stews and soups are a large part of my fall and winter cooking catalog, but many winter vegetables are perfect for creamy soups, sauces and curries.

Before electric tools like food processors, mixers and blenders were invented, home cooks had to use sieves and good-old elbow grease to achieve the smooth texture that these gadgets provide.

Many of us use at least one of them as we go about our regular cooking routine, but because I might be a bread-baker and you might be a smoothie-maker, there’s much debate about which ones are the most essential, especially if you’re short on space in your kitchen and can’t fill cabinets or countertops with several appliances.

Having played around with this immersion blender, I’m convinced that, for some cooks, it’s the only pureeing/mixing tool that you might need. It all depends on what you like to eat and want to be able to cook. If you don’t bake, you probably don’t need a mixer — and if you don’t drink smoothies or frozen cocktails, you probably don’t need a $500 Ninja blender.

Food processors, including the smaller ones, have always been one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, and they are an excellent tool to have on hand for making hummus, pie dough or breadcrumbs. But I’m learning that smaller handheld blenders can tackle many of the same functions with far less hassle and bowls and parts to clean.

Mariana McEnroe, the Austinite and blogger behind “Yes, More Please!” uses her immersion blender to do things I wouldn’t have thought of, like pureeing roasted pumpkin instead of buying the canned version.

Though I’m still skittish about the lack of safety protection around those small, fast blades on an immersion blender, these gadgets have a huge advantage over other options because the entire appliance can fit in a small drawer.

Cauliflower Soup with Pangrattato

The secret to a creamy vegetable soup that doesn’t taste like baby food? Adding multiple textures, as in this cauliflower-on-cauliflower soup. The roasted florets and crisp pangrattato — a spicy, rustic breadcrumb topping — add two layers of crunch, while a spoonful of Greek yogurt amps up the creaminess as it sits in the warm soup. Using this recipe as a guide, you could replace the cauliflower with many other vegetables to create your own creamy soup; just don’t forget to add some crunch.

— Addie Broyles

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 onions, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 1/2 heads cauliflower (about 3 lb. total), chopped

6 cups vegetable stock

2 teaspoons mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt, to serve

Roasted cauliflower:

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 sprigs thyme, leaves only

For the pangrattato:

4 slices sourdough bread, crusts removed

3 sprigs thyme, leaves only

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons chili flakes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 3/4 oz. butter, melted

In a stockpot, melt the stick of butter with the olive oil over medium heat, then sauté the onion for about 15 minutes or until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and coriander and stir for another minute. Add the chopped cauliflower, half of the stock, the mustard powder and Tabasco to the pan, stir and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining stock and simmer for a further 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.

Remove the soup from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then purée with a stick blender (or in a blender or food processor, in batches).

To make the roasted cauliflower, heat the oven to 350. Place the cauliflower florets on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and thyme and toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp around the edges and golden.

To make the pangrattato, in a food processor, place the sourdough, thyme leaves, salt and chili flakes and pulse until roughly chopped. Transfer to a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil and melted butter. Toss to coat. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve the soup topped with the roasted cauliflower florets, pangrattato and a spoonful of Greek yogurt. Serves 8.

— From “It’s Always About the Food” by Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins, $35)

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