Smooth Operator

18 05 2010

For a long time I refused to even attempt to make smoothies at home because after a few terribly watered down and flavorless attempts I decided it was best left to the masters at Jamba Juice. But, recently I decided that it was actually something I could conquer. I realized that there are really only a couple of key elements to making an awesome smoothie at home:

1. One of the fruits must be frozen
2. One of the fruits must not be frozen
3. A decent blender (you don’t have to spend a ton, it just needs a powerful motor)

At the heart of it that’s the real key because it allows you skip the ice so you don’t have to thin the flavor just to get it cold. No one likes a warm smoothie so just blending warm fruit is no good either. Having the fresh fruit is also essential because you need something that liquefies easily so the blender can do its work. The fresh fruit is the catalyst to get the whole thing churning. A lot of the time you won’t even need juice to thin it out but if you do, add it a bit at a time and only as much as you need so you don’t end up with a thin liquid smoothie.

Now come the other steps that aren’t as key but in my opinion are pretty essential. For starters, I almost always have a banana in the mix. Banana just adds a perfect creamyness and really binds everything together in the perfect texture. When I buy bananas I almost never make it through the entire bunch before they go bad. So when it gets to the point where they’re almost starting to turn brown (because the longer they ripen, the sweeter they get) I slice them up and freeze them in a tupperware tub. Then when I’m ready to make my smoothie I just grab that, a little bit of fresh fruit, some yogurt and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice and I’m ready to go. Honestly I usually don’t even use more than two fruits, one of which is almost always a banana.

The other option I’ve been using lately that allows me to use the fresh bananas too is using frozen chunks of fruit from Trader Joe’s. Some of my favorite combos are below.

Frozen banana + frozen blueberry + fresh strawberry + plain yogurt + lemon juice

Frozen mango chunks + fresh banana + plain yogurt

Frozen banana + peanut butter + chocolate syrup + milk or vanilla yogurt (trust me, it’s awesome)

Useful ingredients are…

Fruit (fresh and frozen)
Yogurt (plain or flavored)
Honey
Lemon juice
Juice – orange, pineapple, carrot… whatever
Peanut butter

The trick is when fruit is in season and it’s cheap, buy a bunch and freeze what you can’t eat when it’s at the peak of its ripeness or even a bit past.

A word on blenders – I’ve tried making smoothies with shitty blenders in the past and it just discouraged me from wanting to make them at home. I’ve found two options that are affordable (compared to restaurant grade blenders) and work great. One is the super simple old-school clover shaped blender. The shape of that thing was apparently designed perfectly to encourage mixing and it does an amazing job of getting stuff mixed without needing to stir or beat the hell out of the side. The second is what I use now, an Oster Beehive. It’s relatively cheap and has an amazingly powerful motor for its price.





Forever Lemons

28 01 2010

When life gives you… nevermind. The Meyer lemon tree in our neighbors’ yard is packed and they’re ripe. It’s overflowing into our yard so I feel like it’s my obligation to clean off our side of the tree so they don’t rot and go to waste. I’ll never drink enough lemonade to use all these suckers so I decided that since it’s preserving season… I should preserve some.

This is maybe the easiest thing in the world to do with a lemon, other than eat it raw. You just have to be patient… but you don’t even really have to be patient, you just have to be able to forget. This works out great for me because usually my problem is remembering, so I can just forget about these and whenever I do remember they’re in my cabinet, they’ll probably be perfect!

Step one: rinse lemons and slice in half.

Step two: cover lemons in kosher salt.

Step three: forget about lemons for 1-3 months.

Step four: eat.

 
The details (adapted from Charcuterie):

* Use some sort of nonreactive container – I used a glass jar.
* Make sure your lemons are completely submerged in salt. Totally covered.
* They’ll be usable after a month but better after a little longer. They’ll last pretty much forever in the salt… when I say forever I mean months, not like… ten years.

To use them rinse off the salt, scrape out the insides and chop up the rind or do whatever you’re planning to do with it… you can use them in salad too, in which case you should blanch them in simmering water quickly to reduce the intensity.