I went up the street to Abarrotes El Oaxaqueno for supplies, stocked up on chiles and avocado leaves, and got to work, starting with a pasta de frijol negro, a black bean paste with chile, garlic, onion, and avocado leaves. It’s a sort of base layer for many of Oaxaca’s signature dishes, and while it wasn’t much of a challenge for a high-end blender, it was something that would go well with the dishes I’d make in the coming days.
I moved on to Oaxacan adobo paste, which, as they put it in the cookbook, you “just slather all over whatever meat you choose” and then cook it. I also made chileajo—tiny bits of vegetables in a paste made with guajillo chiles that you can use like a spread on bread or a tostada. Both recipes feature that Oaxacan cornerstone technique of (potentially) toasting, then soaking chiles before blending them.
It got me marveling at the straightforward nature of this blender; you tell it what to do and it does it. Bean paste? Of course. Frozen clump of fruit from the bottom of the freezer? Sure! There’s no whining of a strained motor, no whiff of overheating parts. In fact, it’s surprisingly quiet. You flip a switch and exactly what you want to have happen—as long as that has to do with blending—happens.
Speaking of flipping the switches, god bless the Vitamix’s two-stubby-switches-and-one-dial control panel, which immediately reminded me of the comment a friend made more than 20 years ago when he got into my old Saab 900 and looked at the dashboard.
“Wow. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t,” he said. “You could work it blindfolded.”
On the 5200, there’s a chunky on/off switch, another one that allows you to toggle between high and variable speed, and a dial for the latter. There are no lights, no alarms, no apps, no smoothie button, nothing to figure out. Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
I charged on, next doing what’s become my favorite blender activity: liquefying an onion. This was part of a salsa, and technically the recipe calls for the onion to be chopped, but knowing what was coming I just tossed a quarter onion in there and flipped the switch.
For salsa de carne fria, I also made a simple sauce of tomato, garlic, tomatillos, and chipotle chiles that par-cooked ribs stew their way to a finish in, something I’d been wanting to cook since the first time I opened the book.
On my nephew’s birthday, I made Lopez and Cabral’s chocoflan, what’s supposed to be a multi-layer treat with a layer of rich chocolate cake under the (blended) flan ingredients and a layer of caramel. For fun, I even used the blender to make whipped cream. The chocolate/flan layers didn’t work out at all, but my nephew and I still gave it a thumbs up.
By rights, I shouldn’t be judging my success with an appliance on a foray into a new cuisine. Really, I should have focused on tests that made its capabilities and limitations clear. Yet the Vitamix is so good at what it does that I really didn’t think about it at all. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. It helped me on my way.
I did make some smoothies, a mango lassi, and Kitty Greenwald’s kooky-excellent recipe my mom sent to me where you turn a can of tuna into a salad dressing, à la the Bass-O-Matic. Eventually, I even cracked and made some frozen margs.