Remember when small Volkswagens outnumbered Cadillacs? Likewise, little may be getting bigger for the revolutionary cutting machine, the food processor. As with compact cars, the newer mini food processors may not have the versatility, the power drive and the capacity of their upscale counterpart--however, there are certainly big reasons for them.
These little time-saving appliances don't take up a lot of counter space and could very easily scoot in and out of kitchen cabinets. With a smaller chopping bowl, many ingredients frequently used in small quantities are evenly and finely ground up. There are fewer accessories and less complicated parts so the mini processors are not only simpler to use but they're easier to clean as well.
When we first saw the SEB "Minichop" at a gourmet products show at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco about a year ago, we fell in love with the little device immediately. The unit found a busy spot in The Times' Test Kitchen and sometimes even outstarred our confident Cuisinart. No, the baby brother hasn't replaced the Cuisinart and we don't think it ever will. However, for mincing, chopping and grinding certain ingredients like garlic, citrus peel, parsley, nuts, dried chiles, herbs and spices, the little one was a winner. A simple twist of the motor lid for two to five seconds usually does the trick. Of course, the chopping gadget has many limitations, and one of them is chopping onions. The pieces have to be chopped smaller before mincing or chopping finely; otherwise, the large pieces could stick to the blade and prevent rotation.
The success of SEB (from Gourmet Housewares Inc. in New Jersey) in Europe and here triggered the introduction of an upgraded product from Vivalp U.S.A. called the V19 Mini Food Processor Plus. Vivalp's three-in-one-device features mincing, coffee grinding and mayonnaise making. It comes with a removable seven-ounce bowl and chopping blade for mincing, a small oil reservoir and whipping paddle for making homemade mayonnaise, salad dressings and dip; and a seven-ounce coffee grinder attachment. The separate grinder container is wonderful for preventing those unpleasant odors of other foods from ending up in your coffee beans.
Also available from Vivalp, for straight mincing or grinding purposes, is the V21 Mini Food Processor, which comes with just the removable seven-ounce bowl and the cutting blade. All of the above processors have a 240-watt motor, surprisingly powerful enough to crush hard praline or grind fresh coconut into snowlike flakes.
Moving on, our final and latest product in this line is Sunbeam's Oskar. The new "whiz kid" is a cross between the mini food processor and the standard-size food processor. Introduced as "the food processor for us all," and targeted for small, fast-moving households, we predict this upscale machine could be the beginning of a trend toward a smaller more versatile "hybrid" generic. Sleek and sturdy, the Oskar is manufactured in France and carries a five-year limited warranty. It stands about 11 inches high with the bowl attached, and is about 3 1/2 inches at the base.
Blade revolutions of 4,000 to 5,000 per minute, (more than double the speed of most food processors) and a 500-watt motor provide incredible chopping, shredding, slicing, pureeing and blending power. The transparent spherical design of the processing bowl and cover, combined with the faster blade speed, cause the food to be tossed to the top of the container, then returned to the blades again and again.
The Oskar passed with honors for excellent shredding (ardent cheese and carrot lovers will fall for the nice shreds) and tough-chopping tasks when we used it to grind firm and hard lemon grass and fresh coconut. However, what hasn't been perfected by Sunbeam, as with its larger processor, is the noise level produced in performing more tedious grinding of ingredients such as these.
What makes this revolutionary machine unique? In addition to having no complicated switches, it offers a continuous-feed slicing and shredding feature. Aside from the processing bowl and steel blade, the Oskar comes with a feed-through, side-discharge bowl and a reversible slicer-shredder disk. The ejector disk is ingeniously designed to enable the processed food to be thrown out through a chute into an outside container. Haven't you ever wanted that in your old processor?
The Oskar food processor is now available at Fedco and Buffums and will soon be available at May Co. and Robinson's. The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $87.95. The SEB is available at Williams-Sonoma chain stores for $30. Vivalp's V19 Mini Processor Plus has a suggested retail price of $39, and the one-unit V21 Mini Food Processor for $29. Both are available at Bullock's and Robinson's department stores.