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Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest Post: Food Processors and Pesach Cooking and Recipes

This is a guest post by Hannah Katsman, who blogs at A Mother in Israel and CookingManager.Com.

A food processor uses electricity, requires washing and takes up storage space. Each family has to decide whether it's worth the expense. But you may find that it pays for itself via savings on prepared products.

This post contains three parts: Choosing a Food Processor, Pesach Cooking Tips (that will serve you year-round), and Passover Recipes and Food Processor Tips from my websites.
Choosing a Food Processor:

What size should I buy? For salads and kugels, a large bowl is less important because you can process the food in batches and transfer to a larger bowl for mixing. But you will need a full-size machine for cakes, or if you have a growing family. Buy as good quality as you can afford, but keep in mind that a very strong motor is most important for kneading dough. A larger size does not mean a stronger motor, just more storage capacity.

Features: The best food processors place the bowl directly on top of the motor. Motors found on the side are connected by a rubber belt that can break from time to time.

A good food processor needs only three settings: Off, On and Pulse. You control the fineness by turning the machine off and on at intervals. A quality machine will be dishwasher safe.

See more buying tips here: Food Processor Basics

Pesach Food Processor Tips:

Horseradish: Easy! Peel, cut in chunks, and process with the S-shaped steel knife. Don't add vinegar or your blade could corrode. Add cooked beets after the seder to make gefilte fish sauce. You'll be tempted to throw out your grater but I keep it on hand in case of emergency.My son pointed out that a knife also works.

Haroseth: Place nuts in bowl and chop coarsely with a steel knife. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until you get the texture you like.

Nuts, fresh herbs including parsley, and garlic: Start with a dry bowl and process as much as you need for that day's cooking. Nuts, including with shells, should always be stored in the freezer.
Store herbs and garlic in olive oil to last longer.

Onions: Peel and cut in quarters, then chop with the steel knife.

Salads: All food processors have a grating attachment. To use it, you push vegetables through the feed tube. Keep a cardboard cutout of the feed tube opening in your purse to buy the right size produce. But you can use the steel knife for most recipes calling for grated vegetables.

Meat, Fish, and Matzah Meal: Save money by chopping it yourself in the processor.

Matzah Balls/Knaidlach. You can get by with a spoon and bowl, but you can also process it if your recipe doesn't call for separating eggs. Matzah ball mixes have lots of additives and don't save you much work.

Potatoes: Grate raw potatoes with the grating attachment or steel knife, but don't make mashed potatoes in the processor. Sometimes I use it for potato salad. I chop everything but the potatoes and store in the fridge. Then I add the chopped, cooked potatoes and dressing closer to serving time.

Cleaning: Rinse the processor with plain water after processing vegetables and raw eggs. Make sure to get all the surfaces by tilting it; no need to fill the bowl with water. At the end of the day or for greasy items, use hot water and detergent, or the dishwasher.

Here are a few recipes and tips from my websites:
Passover Recipes:
Gefilte Fish Balls
Homemade Mayonnaise
Passover Egg Noodles
Potato Kugel or Latkes (includes detailed FP instructions)
Summer Beet Borscht
How to Make Patties from Anything and Everything
Carrot-Apple Salad
Winter Kohlrabi (or Cabbage) Salad
Red Snapper with Lemon and Dill
Chicken with Black Olives and Tomatoes

More Tips and Techniques from CookingManager.Com:
Five Basic Recipes for the Food Processor
Use Your Food Processor Efficiently
Food Processor Basics
The Bar Mitzvah Cooking Session
Preparing for a Holiday Cooking Session
Cooking Spreadsheet

Note: I hope you will visit my websites. CookingManager.Com is meant for a general audience so please save comments with Hebrew terms and halachic questions for A Mother in Israel. Those of you on Facebook are invited to join the Cooking Manager Fan Page.

39 comments:

tesyaa said...

Great post. I would never put my cooking knowledge up against Hannah's, but for grating the horseradish root we have had much success with a Microplane grater. The task that used to be a chore is now almost fun. The Microplane is also good for grating garlic, ginger, and citrus peel.

ProfK said...

A very useful posting for those first looking to get a food processor.

"A larger size does not mean a stronger motor, just more storage capacity"

Not necessarily, which is why you should check out the product's motor capacity before buying. Many of the larger models sold here in the US do have a stronger motor, and a stronger motor will translate into longer life for a processor that gets heavy use.

Re potatoes and the processor, when you are grating hard items such as potatoes the larger bowl gives you greater steadiness. You will sometimes see a processor start to shimmy around on the counter if it is too small and the items are hard ones or the load is too big.

Also, it pays to find out what a replacement bowl and S-blade might cost in case you want to use the processor for fleishigs or milchigs and pareve, rather than just pareve. The bowls are plastic and can't be used for both.

Larry Lennhoff said...

I understand why you need replacement blades, but why replacement bowls? Do you put hot milchigs or fleishigs into the bowl? As long as what's in the bowl is always cold and not spicy, I don't see any issue with reusing the bowls for milchig and fleishig, as long as you clean it between with soap.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Some may suggest waiting 24 hours, but since I don't think any taste was passed into the bowl I don't see a point to that.

tesyaa said...

While I agree with Larry Lennhoff in theory, in practice it's much easier to have 2 bowls and blades. First of all, sometimes you do want to use the processor for hot or spicy items, such as pureeing soups. Second of all, you have to be more careful about cleaning the bowls, even with soap. Personally, I have lived with my pareve processor and KitchenAid mixer for 21+ years and I don't often wish I had a meat or milk bowl. I can grate cheese by hand faster than it takes to use the processor and then wash it out. I don't have time to grind my own beef (although many people like to do this so they know exactly what they're getting).

However, I have replaced my bowl after I put it down accidentally on a burner that was still hot. Something to avoid.

mother in israel said...

Tesyaa, it's not a competition! No one knows everything, as proven by ProfK's comment that contained new information for me.

Larry, for the record I often pour hot liquids in the food processor, but it's not critical. There are spots that are not so easy to clean, so I can understand wanting a replacement set of bowls/blades. But I do occasionally use my pareve machine for a milchig cake.

Pesky Settler said...

Very timely post, thank you. I've been wanting to get a food processor for a couple of years (ever since we started hosting Seder).

Any Israeli brand you recommend? I simply can't afford a Moulinex or Cruisinart.

Also I notice many come with a blender attachment as well. I suppose the caution of motor underneath applies as well.

Just a Reader said...

So you would need to check with your own LOR but ours doesn't allow using anything plastic for both milk and meat, whether hot or cold. All plastics, even the hard ones like in a food processor bowl, are porous. You can't make 100% certain that you got everything out of those tiny pores when you wash it.

I only use my processor for pareve items--never even thought about getting another bowl and blade but it sure makes sense to me. Cheaper then buyingt another processor. And I use that processor for everything. Once you get used to using it you'll wonder why you never had one before.

mother in israel said...

Pesky: I bought one for Pesach two years ago--until then I only had a mini. I can't find the brand name at the moment but it has light-blue trim. I love the bowl/steel blade but hate the attachments. They don't go in the dishwasher and leave a lot of the vegetables uncut. It has a blender, which I don't like and don't need, but I was forced to buy it at a particular store (coupons) and this was the best model in that price range. I think it cost NIS 400 but that was because of the type of store. It would have been cheaper elsewhere.

Miami Al said...

Just a Reader,

We plan to replace the Food Processor at some point... our current one was bought Last Pesach then used during the year. It's okay, but I'm not in love.

We're looking to get additional plastic container/blades or a new food processor, not sure. One thing that we did for the Mixer was get three sets of everything: bowl, paddles, etc., to have one for meat (really paerve), dairy, and Pesach (don't need a dairy attachment for Pesach)... Part of cleaning is to completely clean out the unit Pesach time, but use the same motor.

The vegetable slicing attachments to the Kitchenaid are used relatively infrequently, so we just re-Kasher for Pesach -- they are metal, only used on vegetables, and only really used twice/year, Tishrei and Pesach. We have a couple of Yom Tov only "gadgets" that we clean and Kasher for Pesach, rather than having a separate set.

We definitely minimize the re-Kashering, because it's annoying, but it's hard to justify two or more sets of really infrequently used items.

At some point, I'll get a third Blender set instead of my Pesach blender.

Getting a pro-quality motor and multiple attachments is definitely space saving, and getting "mini" versions for Pesach seems pointless. Given the amount of entertaining that Pesach entails, why would I want to use inferior equipment? Pesach is when I NEED the Kitchen to function, hardly the time I want to limp along with mediocre equipment.

Sima said...

when making ground nuts (for cakes) in the FP, is it necessary to toast them first? I'd like to avoid buying the ridiculously priced ground nuts; this way I'd buy raw nuts.

Norene Gilletz said...

Hi Hannah,

This is an excellent forum for food processor users! Thanks for sharing. For some food processor recipes that will make you want to use your food processor for more than just veggies, visit my website and look for either processor recipes or Passover recipes.

Norene Gilletz
http://www.gourmania.com

mother in israel said...

Sima, no need to toast, and raw nuts are healthier. My kids like to crack nuts.
Norene, thanks for stopping by!

megapixel said...

I have a cuisinart, cost me $200. about fifteen years ago. you can get one for $35.00 but those dont last very long. after two broken ones in a short time, I broke my heart and got the cuisinart. It's doing great and I use it for all year long!

Ariella said...

I always keep my food processors parve -- both the chametz and Pesach ones. I had Cuisinarts for both, and they really do hold up well. But my Pesach one was a blender/food processor combo, so the food processor bowl is rather small. The top fell, and a piece broke off, so I had to hold it down to activate. Given that combination of factors, I wanted to replace it. My mother bought a cheap Black and Decker for me. I hope it will be up to the job. I find I don't really use a blender. I had one strawberry dessert recipe that called for it, but I have an alternative for that. I put the strawberry ice cream recipe I usually make (it requires a stand mixer or a very patient person to hold a hand-held one) in the latest issue of Kallah Magazine. You can read it in the cool new format right on my blog.

Pesky Settler said...

So based on some comments I'd be better off staying away from the bowl/blender combo since I'd be sacrificing size (of the bowl) for multitasking.

mother in israel said...

Pesky, first of all in my model you can't multi-task. Only one can work at a time. You can fill up both bowls, though, and process them in succession.
The blender is just not useful, because it does nothing that a food processor can't also do. The blender's shape makes it slightly easier for liquids, like smoothies, but it's not worth it.

mother in israel said...

Ariella, I keep mine pareve too. My chametzdik bowl is warped (I think one of the kids forced it) and has to be held closed. I'm tempted to make it fleishig and get a bigger model that wasn't available when I bought this one. But since I've learned to make bread without needing to knead, I can't justify the larger size.

Ariella said...

Mom in Israel, that's similar to what happened to my Pesach one. I have to hold it closed to get it to work. That inconvenience combined with the inconvenience of the small size made me realize it's time to go for another. But the new one is not a Cuisinart. I've burned through some Hamilton Beach and other models in the past, so I do believe that a better quality one pays off.

mother in israel said...

Ariella: Bread/yeast dough can kill a cheap processor if you let the machine get overheated. Is that what happened?

ProfK said...

Ariella,

The cheaper models simply don't stand up to the kind of use they can get in a kosher kitchen. It's pricey to buy a more expensive model up front but you'll get years more use out of it. Both my pesach and chometz processors are 34 years old and still working perfectly, but they were top of the line as far as materials they were made of and their motor. I use for Pesach a Kitchenaid mixer my mom bought in 1952 and it too still works great. Quality lasts.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, I would say that if wear and tear were the only issue, you could get away with a cheap appliance for Pesach because it's only used for less than 2 weeks per year. (So you would need 26 years of Pesach use to equal one year of regular use). However, I find the cheaper appliances don't do as good a job of chopping and mixing, which is what you need them for. So you need good quality for Pesach also.

I'd also like to ask why you think a "kosher" kitchen puts more wear and tear on an appliance than a nonkosher kitchen. Do we cook more? (People who don't keep kosher have big holiday celebrations too). Do kosher foods corrode appliances faster? (Just kidding). Do large families mean that we cook more? I guess. But a family who keeps kosher who goes to relatives for the sedarim each year isn't going to put more wear and tear on an appliance than a family that doesn't keep kosher.

tesyaa said...

Part of the reason for my previous comment was because of SL's previous post, which took on the notion that we have to spend more, buy more expensive items, and buy "the best" because we keep kosher. If you keep kosher, you MAY need a better food processor or mixer. Depending on your personal needs, you may not. I get irritated at the notion that because we are kosher/frum, we HAVE TO spend more to buy the best. It feeds into the helplessness that people have when it comes to controlling spending.

ProfK said...

Tesyaa,
I'm the one that everyone goes to for yom tov and have been for 34 years. Yes, the larger family size has something to do with needing solid appliances. So does the fact that a few of our holidays stretch out for 8 days plus the run up to yom tov days. Then there is that some people prepare everything for pesach from scratch, including mayo and ketchup and the like which means more use.

I don't consider it as buying into an idea of having to have the best name because it's in or popular. I do consider it a false economy if you buy cheaper and it 1)doesn't last more than a year or two and 2)doesn't do as good a job or all of a job that you bought it for.

Spend $145 dollars on a top of the line for quality processor (happens to be on sale around here for that price right now) and that's about $4.50 a year for 30 years of use. Buy a cheaper model now for only $40 and replace it every 2-3 years and that's $400-600 you've spent on processors that may give you a lot of agita.

mother in israel said...

Tesyaa and ProfK, fascinating question about whether a kosher kitchen puts more wear & tear on appliances/utensils. I'll argue less, at least for the items you have two of. If you have two dishwashers each will get less use than one alone.

tesyaa said...

MIL - not to mention that at least one day a week we are not using the appliances. For Pesach - you might use it a lot leading up to yom tov, but on yom tov itself and Shabbos chol hamoed, your food processor gets a rest too :)

ProfK said...

mother in Israel,

At least regarding the dishwasher example you gave having two dishwashers doesn't mean that each one will only be used half the time. Let's say you have milchigs for breakfast and for lunch. For an "average" family that could easily fill the dishwasher--mugs, bowls, large and small plates, silverware, serving pieces and cooking pieces. And you still have a fleishig meal to come for dinner which all by itself might have sufficient preparation bowls and serving pieces in addition to glasses and dinnerware to form an average load. If you have milchigs again for dinner you're going to be doing 1-1/2 to two loads in that one dishwasher per day.

If you are not kosher then breakfast lunch and dinner can and will all go into the same dishwasher together. Since you don't have double preparation bowls or serving pieces you may have to wash out by hand a few of them from lunch to use for dinner and then first put them into the dishwasher. Minimally then you are using your two dishwashers for the same amount of washing as the one dishwasher that those not kosher use and you could end up using it for even more if have a larger family group for the meals served.

There is also wear and tear on stoves. If you have only one stove and need to "kasher" it by self cleaning between milchigs and fleishigs you are definitely going to wear out that stove sooner, and certainly will be replacing the thermostat more often. The GE repair man we use says that self cleaning more than once a month shortens the life of the thermostat and the self clean mechanism.

Ariella said...

Prof K, you are absolutely right about quality saving money over the long-term. It was my mother who picked out this food processor. She thought it was such a bargain when she saw it at Amazing Savings that she just bought it to bestow on me. It wasn't my choice.

Ben-David said...

Do you REALLY need a food processor?

My wife insisted last year that we buy a food processor. We wound up using it for a handful of dishes, and this year - when we did not host the Seder - we did not use it at all.

I find that cleaning the processor bowl and blades makes smaller jobs impractical.

Consider the following set of tools, which are more affordable and easier to store:

- Strong stick blender with chopping bowl attachment. These can handle everything from homemade mayo to chopping nuts - some can even crush ice. The big mistake is to buy an underpowered model - look for at least 500-600 Watts of power.

- Large balloon whisk (or you can use the whisk that comes with your stick blender). Most people are amazed how quickly this works. You may prefer to buy a hand-held mixer with a stand - which is less expensive and bulky than a Kitchenaid, and more versatile. But you don't really need a mixer for most Passover cakes - just a large spatula to quickly mix beaten egg whites into the batter.

- Mandoline slicer/julienne slicer. Slice straight into your mixing/storage container.

- stand-up grater - either regular or the wonderful multiplane graters. The stand-up format makes it easier to use.

- good set of chef knives and large cutting boards. I do a lot of small chopping jobs this way, without reaching for a specialized tool. You can save a LOT of money on gadgets by learning how to use chef's knives correctly.

mother in israel said...

Ben-David:
Good suggestions. An FP (or almost any piece of equipment) is not for everyone. It depends on your style of cooking, and how many you are cooking for. I don't have many "small" jobs and even when we go away, we bring food. Also, you can coordinate cooking to use the FP many times before washing it.
A strong stick blender is not so cheap, at least when I priced it.
You're probably right about the cakes; I don't bake much. I use the FP mainly for mayonnaise, salads and vegetables to add to other recipes.

mother in israel said...

And one more advantage of not relying on an FP is that you can't use it on Yom Tov/Shabbat.

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