Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘appetizer’

Hummus – stuffing our pockets

Hummus was one of the first things I learned to make as a 20-something year old bent on eating well, while not making life difficult on relatives of cows I’d grown to love as a girl. The hummus of those days has morphed a number of times over, as we ourselves tend to do.

Back then I used canned chickpeas. I prefer to cook my own these days, but I’d much rather use canned chickpeas than face the dreadful plight of hummus-lessness when the mood for hummus-in-a-hurry strikes. I’m not at all a fanatic about cooking my own and  always have canned chickpeas on hand. BUT, I do think home-cooked beans are noticably better-textured and flavored and if you want to consider giving it a gohere are some reasons why you might consider it too –

You’ll cook them with no preservatives, no gross amounts of salt in the canning liquid – (though not all canned beans come loaded this way.) You can use some of your own cooking liquid to puree in with the beans. (Much better than plain water.) I won’t use the liquid if they’re canned. A batch of your own fresh-cooked chickpeas is a fraction of the cost of canned. There’s less to throw away (or recycle.) And then, there’s the taste.

One of the changes to my hummus has come about quite recently – only since developing a mad crush on Ottolenghi (I mean, his recipes!) It would seem that the skins of the chickpeas, even when the beans are cooked to softness, retain a bit of their toughness unless measures are taken to further soften them. Ottolenghi adds baking soda to both the soaking water, and then again to the cooking pot. This addition and sufficient cooking time are  probably THE keys to THE creamiest, most velvety hummus your mouth will ever taste. I’d like to compare it to ambrosia’s savory cousin, but having never tasted ambrosia…Anyway…

Another measure which I’ve read about recently – in several places – seems awfully tedious at first. – but perhaps especially in the case when canned beans are used, worth the extra effort. You squeeze each and every little chickpea between thumb and forefinger, easily slipping them out of their filmy skins. This happens all the more easily with the addition of baking soda to the cooking water. (It’s as if they were itching to shed them, and you came along, right place, right time.) What’s left, once these naked beans are pureed with garlic and fresh lemon juice and tahini (the “butter” of sesame seeds”) is exquisitely smooth.

________________

The pita-pocket sandwich is just about whatever you’d like it to be. What I’d like it to be goes something like this:

Home-baked pita, sliced in half. A good slathering of lemony hummus, topped with thinly-sliced tomatoes and English cucumbers (the kind with the very small seeds); perhaps some sprouts or pea-shoots or micro-greens; maybe some delicate leaves of Spring lettuce, or any other lettuce shredded; perhaps some shredded carrot; a little feta; thin slices of red onion; perhaps some marinated & grilled kabobs of fish or chicken (or you decide); definitely some Greek-style yogurt or tzatziki. And maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil. And because each half is fairly small and because life comes with SO many choices, and choosing is sometimes very hard, make them every which way.

PitaHummus-3

But DO start with the hummus:

PitaHummus-2

The Hummus

_______

1¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Juice of 2 to 2½ lemons, or to taste

2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

4 – 5 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

a pinch (or several) of ground cumin

extra virgin olive oil

_____

OPTIONAL: see below for optional garnishes & serving suggestions

Hummus becomes a personal thing over the years. You find what you like – more garlicky or lemony, or less? – more tahini, less tahini? – more herbs or none at all? It pays to taste a little as you go. Taste your tahini before you start. Is it bitter? Then go with far less than what’s shown above. (I ruined a batch once with tahini far different than what I was used to.) Add most of the lemon and 2 cloves of garlic to start. It won’t be the right consistency yet, but Taste. If it’s tasting about right, don’t add the rest until closer to the end if at all. You’ll develop your own perfect proportions. With that out of the way, here’s the method –

NOTE: 1¼ cups dried chickpeas will equal about 3¾ cups cooked – if you use canned chickpeas you can give them a little extra cooking time in fresh water to soften them further, and then if you like, remove the skins from them as well.

_____

Read more

Spicy Candied Pecans (or Walnuts)

Here’s another one of the appetizers served at our Beat the Winter Blues Party .  I’ve tried a number of recipes for candied nuts over the years, but my favorite is this.  (Judging from responses to these sweet and savory bites, I’m not alone.) I’ve made it with both pecans and walnuts, and though I love walnuts, pecans definitely have the edge here – something about their sweetness offset by the savory heat of the spices is just right.

Spicy Candied Pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • 4 cups pecans

Spread the nuts in a shallow pan (either a broiler pan or a jelly roll pan will do.)  Roast for 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle on to the hot nuts…

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B is darker and has a bit more maple-y flavor)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup

Stir to coat well, and then pop them back into the oven to roast another 10 minutes.

While the nuts are roasting, in a small bowl mix together:

  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. salt (or 1-1/2 if using Kosher)
  • 2 t. paprika
  • 1/8 t. (to as much as 1/4 t.) cayenne pepper

Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter and wait – (have you noticed that smell in your kitchen? ah!) When the nuts come out of the oven for the second time, quickly sprinkle the spices over them and mix well to coat.  Quickly spread the candied nuts onto the parchment paper to cool, breaking the clumps apart with your fingers when they’re just cooled down enough to touch.  Store airtight. (These make a nice gift too, in a pretty container or vintage jar.)

Serving suggestions:  These are absolutely wonderful in a salad.  I’ll give a favorite salad to utilize these nuts in an upcoming post.  You can chop them up and roll a log of chevre over them and serve with crackers or crusty baguette.  Or chopped and scattered over green beans or yams or – .  And always as they are, straight from the jar, with nothing but your fingers.

This recipe came by way of my dear friend Carolyn, and to her, from another friend. That’s the way it goes with good eats.  The original recipe called for corn syrup.  I’ve replaced it with brown rice syrup, and not only is their taste improved (yes, hard to believe), but they’re crunchier and healthier too!

~ ~ ~

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here

~ ~ ~