Natural Confections

by Carly Gelfond

My Cuisinart Pro Custom 11™ Food Processor arrived on a warm afternoon in late summer. John had gotten home first and lugged the large and (reportedly) heavy cardboard box up the stairs to our apartment. I squealed when I saw it (a kind of primal noise I release intuitively when face to face with a brand new kitchen appliance) and skipped off to find a pair of scissors.

The back-story here can be summed up thus: a well-timed Bloomingdale’s ad meets an easily tempted amateur chef. While it’s true I owned a food processor already, it was a hand-me-down from my stepmother and I’d always suspected not all of the parts had been handed down. Every time I used it, food would come flying out an open plastic chute on the side. I’d devised a clever system to avoid this irritation involving a square Post-It note and some Scotch tape, but the Bloomingdale’s ad in the paper put fantasies in my mind that had lingered well after I’d turned the page.

I slid the scissors along the edges of the brown packing box and flipped its flaps open. Inside was the large white Cuisinart box with pictures of perfectly sliced and arranged peppers on its sides. Inside of that was an instruction booklet. The first page read: IMPORTANT UNPACKING INSTRUCTIONS. Unpacking instructions? Was a person who needed instructions to take things out of a box to be trusted with a twenty-pound machine with whirring blades and something called a shredding disc? Next was a How-To DVD (running time: one hour). Maybe later, I thought. Beneath the booklet was a Styrofoam block followed by a layer of plastic bags, which appeared to contain a number of metal discs and blades. I set to work opening each one. My coffee table was starting to look like an armory. I lifted more parts out of the box, more Styrofoam, a work bowl, detachable stem, a “pusher assembly” (itself consisting of three parts), a spatula, a compact cover, and finally, beneath more Styrofoam, a motor base “with a vertically projecting shaft and two large control levers.” At last, everything was unpacked. Feeling like I needed a motor of my own I collapsed onto the couch.

A week passed, and I had yet to assemble my food processor. What can I say? I’d lost momentum, intimidated by a machine that consisted of fourteen separate parts, an exhausting setup procedure, and an emergency assistance helpline to call if the machine did not shut off. Sometimes I would carry the box of parts with me from one room in the apartment to another, where it would be nearby should I be struck by a wave of ambition. Mostly, we began to use it as an ottoman.

Finally, on a Sunday night, John was watching a game of golf and I was sitting next to him pretending to watch it, too. My box was a few feet away. “You can have peppers as perfect as us!” I imagined the little peppers on its sides saying. On TV, the crowd cheered as somebody sunk a long, undulating putt. Just then, John looked at the box, then looked at me and said, “What do you say we assemble that thing?”

“Okay.” I said. “Let’s do it.” We got off the couch and parked ourselves on the floor, and together, we hunched over the instructions, with their diagrams and photos and safety precautions. In the end, you know, it wasn’t that difficult. We carried the appliance into the kitchen. We joined the shredding disc to the detachable stem and slid the pusher assembly over the feed tube. Amazingly, the parts clicked into place. I got a zucchini from the fridge. We sliced it in half and inserted it into the feed tube, pressing it down with the pusher. In a second, it was toast, or rather, perfectly shredded zucchini. We shredded another. This was fun. We shredded all the zucchinis we had, about six. It was as easy as that.

“Okay, I’m tired,” said John. “Me, too,” I said. We packed the zucchini shreds into plastic Tupperware containers. What to do with six shredded zucchinis? This was a project that would have to wait until tomorrow. Would I ever work up the drive to use this thing again? It was really hard to say.

As we shuffled off to bed, John looked at the Cuisinart box, finally sitting empty on the floor. He picked it up. He popped open the bottom flaps and slipped the whole thing over his head and down his body. “Get me the pusher assembly top,” he said. I did, and he put it on his head, the feed tube sticking up in the air. “Halloween?” he said, looking at me.

And just like that, my purchase was justified.

Zucchini Pumpkin Bread

I promise that you do not need a fancy food processor to make this bread. In fact, I hate to say it, but you really don’t need a food processor at all. Any box grater will do. Obviously, this recipe is inspired by the six shredded zucchinis in my fridge begging to be used, but it also occurred to me that pumpkin zucchini bread is the perfect September cooking project. The last of the summer squash crop gets put to good use, while the pumpkin, in fact also a squash, brings a taste of fall. And even though, for better or for worse, the bathing suit season has come and gone, this bread happens to be pretty easy on the waistline.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts (optional)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (I like the Farmer’s Market brand)
2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 3 medium zucchinis—yes, I still have quite a bit to use up.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, then sprinkle with a bit of flour so that entire pan is coated. Tap out excess flour.

Combine flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.

Add walnuts (if using) and mix to combine.

In a large bowl, mix egg, vanilla, melted butter, pumpkin, and zucchini. Little by little, add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring after each addition, until batter is blended.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let it cool before slicing.

September 2012