Tuesday, April 27, 2010

hummus.

In all my years of eating hummus, I cannot believe I’ve never made it from scratch before. I really don’t know why, because it takes all of five wee little minutes if you’ve got the proper equipment (food processor) and are using canned chickpeas. The finished product is so much better than anything you can get at the store – I mean, seriously, until I had an epiphany the other day, I’ve no idea why I’ve never made hummus before.

Years and years ago, I worked for a Mediterranean restaurant in Florida. In our downtime, we picked parsley leaves from the stems for tabbouleh. I ate more hummus and baba ghanoosh than I care to remember. Maybe because I saw it being made by the truckload in the kitchen that in the back of my mind I thought it was a daunting endeavor. Who knows. Here I am telling you that I’ve been missing out in a big way, and I’m betting you have too.

The best thing with this, as with any food you make at home, is that the quality is far superior than any store-bought hummus. Plus it’s about half the price (or even more than half, really). Hummus really isn’t all that expensive from the store, but when you factor in that I can eat a ton of it in a week (at least one big container of that Sabra brand, and that’s about 4 bucks and change), it pays to make it at home. Plus I’m kind of broke these days. I always have canned chick peas on hand, but you’ll get an even better end result if you start with dried and cook them up ahead of time. A bag of dried chickpeas is like 80 cents or something (they were on sale at my local Kroger this week. 80 cents I can do).


This recipe, one of Mark Bittman’s which I found on the epicurious.com site, says that tahini is optional, which I put my foot down and have to disagree with completely. Tahini MAKES the hummus. If you don’t have any lurking around in your fridge already, you might find the cost of one container to be alarming; but you only use a small amount of it and you’re going to be making this again and again. A container of tahini in your fridge is a worthwhile investment. Also, I recently learned that hummus is one of the best sources of protein out there. The combination of chickpeas with tahini makes a complete protein – chickpeas on their own are incomplete.

So break out your food processors – or if you don’t have one, you can always make it by hand with mortar and pestle. I managed a batch of falafel once without the food processor, as we’d temporarily loaned ours out to a restaurant where the boy once worked. Anything is doable and delicious.



Hummus.

adapted from Mark Bittman

• 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved (Note: if you’re starting with dried chickpeas, 1 cup of dried yields a bit more than 2 cups cooked. And it’ll take you a lot longer to cook those, so if you’re on a time crunch, keep that in mind).
• 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), with some of its oil
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• Salt (I like a lot) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• Juice of 1 lemon (you might need more, I like a lot of it)

1. Put everything in the bowl of a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid until you’ve produced a smooth puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning (do you need more salt? Lemon? Garlic? Add it!)

2. If you’re serving to guests, put in a pretty bowl, sprinkle with paprika and drizzle the top with some olive oil. You can even toast up a few pine nuts to toss on top. Serve alongside some raw vegetables or lavash or pita wedges for dipping. If you’re not serving to guests, plop the whole thing in a Tupperware container and just have it at the ready in the fridge. I’m a big fan of standing at the fridge, doors open, dipping various things in it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

not really food related.


this must have fallen from one of the tall pines we have out back. we have several bird feeders, and there have been robin and cardinal sightings up the wazoo. this makes me happy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

lentil salad



Recent conversation with the boy.

Boy: Why don’t you blog about anything tasty anymore?
Me: What are you talking about? I blog about what I eat.
Boy: Yeah but none of that is tasty.
Me: It’s tasty to me.
Boy: No it’s not tasty. And we’ve grilled out and done tons of food in the smoker. Why don’t you blog about that? None of this rabbit food crap. I wanna see something interesting on the blog.
Me: Dude, i eat healthily during the day, so I blog about that stuff.
Boy: Dude, don’t call me dude.


So just for that, Oh Boy, you’re getting a blog post about lentil salad. This is me sticking my tongue out at you. NYAH.

Yes, I am mentally 12.

So moral of the story is, I’m trying to eat less meat and more vedge and grains. I’m home all the time these days - am currently in between jobs if you must know, although the new one starts Monday and fortunately it’s going to be an exclusively working from home deal. During the day, I’m trying to eat better than I used to. As I explained in the last food-related post, I thought I’d been doing okay on the ol’ MyPyramid thing, but turns out my evaluation wasn’t all that fabulous. Sort of a wakeup call, if you will.

A recent clean up of the pantry, brought on by an ant superhighway which forged it’s path across the closet floor, permitted me to evaluate just what we have in there. I found all kinds of things I didn’t know were hiding in there, including various things waaaaaaaaaay past their expiration date. But I also found some red lentils I think I’d bought from one of those big bins at Whole Foods. So I figured I’d do something with lentils for lunch one day this week.

See, I don’t know much about lentils, other than the kind you can get in a package from the grocery store which I usually stew up in the winter. I figured all lentils were alike, except some came in pretty colors. So while adapting the lentil salad recipe from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, I just unthinkingly poured in some of those red lentils… only to check on it five minutes later to discover a big pile of coral mush. Turns out these here red lentils are great for thickening up stews and soups (thanks for the tip, Patty), but not so great if you want them to retain their shape and texture. Go figure.



So I started over with the regular ol’ run of the mill lentils you can find anywhere, and ran with that.

Since I’m spending the majority of my days outside lately (in fact, I’m sitting out back in a bikini typing this while watching the NASCAR.com live webcast news conference, where they just finished interviewing Tony Stewart – I can multitask with the best of them), I like to eat things that can sit out at room temperature without affecting the flavor too much. This salad falls into that. If you like lentils, that is.



Lentil Salad, for two as a side or one if you’re super hungry - Adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters

½ cup regular Joe Shmo lentils
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (you’ll probably need more)
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
3 tablespoons parsley
3 tablespoons cilantro
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 to 3 tablespoons feta, crumbled
Handful or two of arugula leaves


1. In a deep saucepan, add the lentils with enough water to cover by 3 inches. You can add chicken stock or veggie stock if you’d like instead of water, or do a mix of stock and water. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until done but not mushy (start checking them at the 15 minute mark – it could take up to 30 minutes depending on your lentils). Drain and toss into a mixing bowl with the vinegar and a couple of pinches of salt and pepper. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Stir the lentils again; then add the olive oil, scallions, parsley, cilantro, cumin seed. Mix together. Taste; add more vinegar or cumin if you think it needs it.

3. To plate: add a couple of handfuls of arugula (or other green if you want) to a shallow serving bowl and top with the lentil mixture. Sprinkle the feta on top.

This would go really well with some grilled lamb chops or grilled shrimp, if you were to serve it with meat, which I didn’t. I ate the whole thing in one sitting for lunch, along with a glass of wine. Or maybe that was two glasses of wine – ah, who’s counting. I’m in between jobs; I can afford to have wine with lunch.

Friday, April 16, 2010

not really food related.

a bit of leftover fall on a warm spring day.



the yard is full of these things. some are still clinging to the tree as new leaves emerge and push them off. since i am spending an obscene amount of time outdoors these days, i might post the occasional picture of something not food related.

although if you think about it, this pod from the sweetgum tree is technically a fruit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

cold soba noodle salad



yippee! Spring is here. And for once, I’m not dying of seasonal allergies. Having said that I’m sure a pox will soon come upon me, as I know many people whose noses and eyes are swollen from the trees going nuts with pollen production. All I have to say is thank God my generic Allegra is working.

So, Springtime means outdoortime. And outdoortime means picnics. Or eating al fresco. Or clumsily forking food into my mouth while trying not to fall out of the hammock in my backyard. I love to eat outside. I love the smells of fresh cut grass, trees, herbs growing, and charcoal burning. And I’m determined to enjoy all that before mosquito season hits, which, unfairly, will start very soon here in the South.



I totally swiped the idea for this salad from a restaurant where the boy once worked. You can serve cold or room temperature, which is great because you can make this in advance and let it sit while you get on with grilling your entrée or whatever you’re doing. I ate some for lunch today topped with some cubed firm tofu, which I lightly brushed with olive oil and baked on 400 F until goldeny and somewhat crisp. The baked tofu idea I totally swiped from my friend Nathan; I mentally took notes as he was describing it to me while we were sitting in a gay sports bar last week – thanks Nathan for the tip, and for the fascinating people-watching at Woofs.



In fact, I should be eating more tofu. I’m taking a nutrition class, and one of my homework assignments last week was to keep a food diary for three days, then analyze my intake via the Food Pyramid (remember the old Food Pyramid? It’s now called MyPyramid.gov and it’s pretty nifty. Go take a looky loo). At the end of three days, I thought I’d done reasonably well even though I’d used up all my discretionary ** calories on wine and eaten the world’s largest burger (with fries!) at the Vortex. That was all fine and grand until I created my report, and it showed that in those three days I’d consumed three times more meat than was necessary for a woman of my age, height, weight and caloric intake. Meh. You live and learn.



You can probably find all of these ingredients at your local grocery store, in the so-called International Foods aisle. I'm fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of a couple of Super H’s, so I just grab all the ingredients from there. You might have trouble finding sweet soy sauce – it’s kind of like a thicker sweeter version of traditional soy, and flows like a thin molasses. If you can’t find any, use regular soy but augment it with a dollop of hoisin or brown sugar. As for the ginger, I tend to not use mine up before it rots, so I store it in the freezer. When in a frozen state, ginger grates really well. If you don’t have a microplane grater, use the smallest grate hole on the side of a box grater. And if you don’t have one of those, just mince by hand.

** Discretionary calories: calories left over in your diet once all the nutrient needs have been met from the basic food groups





Cold Soba Noodle Salad

serves 4 super hungry people, 6 as a decent sized side. will keep for about a day or so before the noodles get mushy.


Dressing:


3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or more – I’m not hugely “into” fish sauce, so I usually put less than others would)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like it spicy) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon each white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds – or just white if that’s all you can find
2 garlic cloves, microplaned, or chopped finely
2 teaspoons ginger, microplaned, grated, or minced.


Salad:

2 bundles of soba (one package usually holds three wrapped bundles, so I use two of them (unwrapping the paper tape around the bundle before cooking)
2 handfuls of snow peas (about a cup or as much as you’d like)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup Napa cabbage, sliced (optional)


1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

2. Get a big pot of water on, and bring to a boil. Salt it liberally. Get a bowl full of ice water ready and set to the side of the stove. Drop the snow peas into the boiling water to quickly blanch – let them sit in there for a minute or two (no more), then remove them with a slotted spoon and put into the ice water. Don’t dump out the boiling water yet.

3. Next, the soba. One package of noodles usually holds three wrapped bundles of soba, so I use two bundles (unwrapping the paper tape around the soba before cooking). Dump those in to the boiling water, and follow package instructions on how long to cook (around 4 minutes or so). While these are cooking, remove the snow peas and let drain in a sieve. Keep the ice water bowl handy, placing another sieve over that. When the noodles are done, remove them with tongs, slotted spoon or whatnot and place in ice bath to cool.

4. The soba doesn’t need to spend far too long in the ice bath. You dont want the noodles to get waterlogged, so wait a few minutes for the noodles to cool down, then remove them from the water and drain thoroughly.

5. Next, assemble the rest of the salad. You can pretty much put in whatever vedge you want. The reason I put in snow peas is because they have a nice crunch. So into a large mixing bowl, add the well-drained and dried snow peas, some thinly sliced red bell pepper, the chopped green onions, and about a cup’s worth of sliced Napa cabbage if you want (optional - I happened to have some of this in the fridge).

6. Toss in the drained soba noodles (make sure they are super well-drained). Mix gently. Add some of the dressing (you may not need all – pour in some, then mix and see if you need more). Taste for seasoning.