Cooks who find hauling out the full-size food processor for little cutting chores quite troublesome may appreciate smaller versions of the gadget.
Although not as versatile, the popular mini-versions beat the bigger processors for these reasons: They are lightweight and require less counter space, and they perform more efficiently in chopping or grinding small ingredients or smaller quantities of food.
Entering the mini-processor market are Seb's Chop'n'Whip, a combination mini-chopper and mayonnaise maker, and Rival's Cutabove Food Prep Center. Success in preparation is achieved in both tools when the limitations are recognized--the machines are little and meant to do little.
Pioneer in Field
Seb, not exactly a newcomer but actually one of the pioneers in the field, added the mayonnaise-making feature to their popular little chopping appliance. Designed like the original machine, the tiny blades in the mini-chopper are incredibly fast. A slight twist of the bowl cover that contains the motor does the trick and the size of grinding can be controlled by the frequency of the motion (it shouldn't be operated more than 15 seconds at a time).
The mini-chopper minces parsley and fresh herbs beautifully. Garlic, shallots, dried lemon peel, nuts, seeds and spices--small quantities used in day to day cooking that somehow become lost in the large bowl of the food processor--can be minced, crushed, and chopped quickly in the chopper. The machine also makes smooth herbed butters or dressings.
For those who like the idea of making their own mayonnaise from scratch to avoid additives and salt, the mayonnaise-making feature could be a bonus. Attachments for this consist of a funnel, a shallow cup, a propeller and a bowl. The egg yolk, vinegar and seasonings are placed in the bowl and then the propeller, cup and funnel are positioned. Oil is then all poured in through the funnel up to the level indicated on the bowl. All it takes then is a 30-second pressure on the power unit, which covers the bowl, and the mayonnaise is ready.
Rival's pint-size processor, Cutabove, takes advantage of the under-the-cabinet convenience. Including the motor housing, the gadget is only 6 1/4 inches wide, 8 3/4 inches high and 9 1/4 inches deep. It's designed with a pulse button that pulses in two to three-second bursts, performing chopping and liquid processing tasks. The S-shaped blade, which attaches to a stainless steel shaft, is larger than Seb's minuscule ones.
As with other mini-processors, many food items require pre-cutting from half- to one-inch pieces in order for the machine to work smoothly. Otherwise larger tough pieces can get lodged in the blade. Firmer foods such as onions, carrots, cheese and celery should be in half-inch cubes before they can be finely processed. This could be the drawback for some cooks who would likely elect to finish mincing with the knife or using a grater. Cheese, for instance, poses problems of becoming mushy and gooey, we found.
The blessings, however, are found in crushing crackers and bread to crumbs, chopping garlic, parsley and similar herbs finely and evenly, pureeing small quantities of soft fruits or cooked vegetables, blending milkshakes, baby foods and dips, and mashing chunks of avocados and bananas.
Rival's safety features include an interlock that makes the unit inoperable unless the cup is properly in place and a release button to remove the cup.
Seb's and Rival's products both come in attractive full-color packaging, ideal for Christmas gifts.
Seb's Chop'n'Whip has a suggested retail price of $35 and is available at Williams Sonoma stores, Le Cookery (Encino), Beverly Hills Lucerne Hardware and San Marino Hardware.
Rival's Cutabove has a suggested retail price of $60 and is available at Bullocks, Broadway, Fedco and Gemco stores.