Monday, August 30, 2010

Hummus is Yummus.

Oh, hummus has been done, you say! EVERYONE knows how to make hummus! Well, not necessarily. I had to look it up the first time I made it. I've experimented a lot with different hummus recipes since then, but I've always come back to this standard. The great thing about this version is that it's a good base palette with which to expand your (awkward metaphors are my speciality). Add roasted red peppers, add pine nuts, add cilantro, whatever you wish. This version will sustain a lot. You can also tweak the standard ingredients. The Bald Guy really likes a hummus that's heavy on the tahini and not so much with the lemon, so I adjust accordingly.

It amazes me that hummus has been made for many centuries - and still is being made - without the benefit of food processors. If you feel passionately that hummus should be ground out the old-fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle, then I will admire your powerful arm muscles and smile ingratiatingly.

I've also seen people painstakingly pick the skins off their chickpeas (it's really easy - just pick the chickpea up between thumb and forefinger and squeeze gently. The chickpea will go shooting across the room and you'll be left holding a little translucent skin). This is actually very therapeutic if you like soothing repetitive motion. I've been known to indulge in a little chickpea-skinning, myself. I don't personally think it makes a hill of garbanzos difference to the taste of the hummus, but do as thou wilt.

Oh - and if you're insistent on soaking and boiling dried chickpeas to make your hummus, this little blog is probably not for you.

Adapted long ago from a recipe found on Simply Recipes.


4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed (or don’t bother, as it’s all going in the food processor anyway)

2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2/3 c. tahini

1/3 c. lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)

½ c. water

¼ c. olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 t. cumin

1 T. paprika

1 t. red pepper (optional)

Garnishes – extra swirl of olive oil, some parsley, toasted pine nuts, more paprika, etc.

1. Do whatever you’re going to do to the garlic. It probably helps to at least chop the garlic so you don’t accidentally end up with crunchy garlic bits. Unless you like that sort of thing.

2. Dump chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, seasoning, and tahini in a food processor.

3. Whiz for…a while. Say, 3 minutes. With the machine running, add olive oil and water slowly in through the top. Add water last, a little at a time, until the hummus is the texture you want it. Some people like their hummus nice and smooth like a goopy paste, and others like theirs chunky, with bits of chickpea still hanging around.

4. Taste often and adjust seasoning to your preferences. Lick the spatula if necessary. You want to be as scientific as possible about these things and take lots of measurements. Evidence-based cooking!

5. Scoop it all into a pretty bowl, garnish with whatever you want to garnish it with, and serve with pita, cut veggies, olives, etc.

Serves 12, if you’re not piggy about it.

A good idea for a quick light dinner: stir hummus into cooked whole-wheat noodles along with chopped cilantro or parsley, pine nuts, and red pepper. Top with a little shaved Parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Green beans with fennel & cherry tomatoes

This is what happens when I look in the refrigerator and realize that massive quantities of strange vegetables need to be eaten NOW or we will wake up with whole civilizations of mold and ick taking over the interior of the fridge. Wars won and lost, epic tragedies, joys and heartbreak, played out on the stage of our crisper by rival gangs of Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Fusarium, and Mucor.

So without further ado, I leaped to the task of throwing together a bizarre concoction of "Super fine beans," as Sainsbury's calls them; parti-colored (or party-colored) cherry tomatoes; a bulb of fennel; and some extra fennel leaves (fronds? bits?) that a friend had given us. What appeared was something I didn't expect - a veggie dish that's actually really yummy.

1 lb. fresh green beans
About 1 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (preferably red and yellow)
¼ bulb fennel, thinly sliced
3 T. fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 T. red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Steam the green beans and sliced fennel until the beans are bright green and al dente. Don't actually cook them all the way through - just soften 'em up a bit, because you don't want the heat from the frying to kill the tomatoes before the beans are cooked.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine green beans with fennel, tomatoes, and seasonings along with the chopped fennel leaves. Toss gently to coat vegetables in oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the tomatoes have just softened.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

These pancakes are made disgustingly healthy by using whole wheat flour and a dollop of plain yogurt, which adds richness and piquancy without adding heaviness. I also threw in a tablespoon of wheat germ, just for giggles. Use whatever spices are at hand, or don't use any. I really like the touch of saffron, which provides a little bit of exotic flavor to what could otherwise be...very whole-wheat.

1 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
c. milk, plus more if necessary
½ c. plain low-fat yogurt (or use more milk, up to 1 ¼ cup)
½ tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
½ c.
blueberries or other seasonal berries

2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
a few strands of saffron
1 T. wheat germ

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and optional spices and set aside.

2. Beat together the egg, milk, yogurt, salt and sugar in a bowl.

3. Stir in flour mixture until just moistened, add blueberries, and stir gently to incorporate.

4. Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray.

5. P

our approximately ¼ cup of the batter into the pan for each pancake. Cook until you see little bubbles in the center and the edges look dry. Turn and continue cooking until golden brown.

Cook's note: You may need to use more milk than 3/4 cup. The batter should be thin enough so that it pours, but not so thin that it's runny. I’ve found that 1/4 cup additional milk is about the maximum needed.