Friday, February 25, 2011

Traditional Hummus

Hummus is one of my go-to party foods, and has also become a staple for my lunches when I've gotten sick of PB&J's. I make a big batch, then bring some in a container along with crackers or tortilla chips for a lunch I can eat all at once or snack on throughout the day.

Tahini, one of the ingredients, is like peanut butter, but made from sesame seeds rather than peanuts. It's a strange ingredient - and I rarely use my tahini for anything but hummus - but it is truly necessary if you want the creamy consistency for which hummus is well known. You can find it in many grocery stores near the peanut butter.

If my garlic hummus was too strong for your taste, you will undoubtedly enjoy this recipe, which has a much more mellow flavor.

  • one 28 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • one 15 oz can chickpeas, mostly drained
  • two drizzles of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • spoonful tahini (sesame butter)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (1-2 tsp, to taste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  1. Combine both cans of chickpeas (including the small amount of liquid from the smaller can of chickpeas), olive oil, garlic, tahini, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
  2. Add black pepper and half the lemon juice. Pulse to mix well. Taste test and add more lemon juice to your liking.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup

Sometimes I get inspired by food. It happens at random. The orange of a beautiful sweet potato is what did me in this time. I chose this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen for its simplicity, high nutritional value, and staying power.

Friends joined us and we made up some fresh guacamole, enjoying it with tortilla chips as an appetizer. This soup came next, along with some fun beverages that fit the evening's theme. One friend commented that the soup 'surprised' him. Although he watched it being prepared, the finished product was not what he expected.

Here is the recipe with my alterations. You can purée more or less depending on your preference for a creamier or chunkier soup. Also, the scallions seem unnecessary, like a garnish, but they add another layer of texture (crunchy) that deserves to be included.

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • two 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, cinnamon, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Stir well.
  4. Add sweet potatoes, black beans, and water. Cook until sweet potatoes are very tender.
  5. Remove a little less than half the mixture and purée using an immersion blender or regular blender. Return to pot and heat until soup is hot throughout.
  6. Add lime juice and stir well. 
  7. Remove from heat and stir in scallions. Serve with bread or tortilla chips.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jonah's Fish Chowder

Our friend Jonah made us this amazing chowder when he visited recently. He commented that many people expect chowder to be thick and creamy, like traditional New England clam chowder; however most chowders are hearty soups with milk or cream in their base but not excessively creamy. He did mention that this soup could be thickened by making a roux but I enjoyed it as it's listed below.

Another comment about ingredients: the haddock purchased at the fish counter was frozen when we brought it home. It was still fairly frozen when added to the soup, which allowed many of the pieces to stay whole while they cooked. If using really fresh fish, the pieces will break down quicker in the soup.

  • 4 Tbsp butter (divided use)
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced in discs
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 1 lb haddock, cut into chunks (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc) or water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups milk

  1. Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until onions are soft.
  3. Add potatoes, fish, wine, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and cook until fish is flaky and cooked.
  4. Add milk and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and cook until heated throughout.
  5. Serve immediately.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    the Vegetable Issue

    An AE fan writes in with the following question:

    My significant other hates vegetables, but wants to like them. What could I make him [to get him more comfortable with eating vegetables]?

    First off: major props to your dude for wanting to give vegetables a try! They're not as scary as they seem, and can easily be disguised until his true love for them comes around.

    Root vegetables are a great place to start because they dress up nicely and can do a lot of different things. If someone likes potatoes (and honestly, do you know anyone who doesn't?), other root veggies can be substituted 50/50 or even 100% in many recipes. Some examples:

    • Use both white and sweet potatoes to make mashed potatoes.
    • Slice some sweet potatoes thin, coat them with olive oil and a healthy dose of salt and pepper and bake them up for some homemade sweet potato fries.
    • Make home fries using a mixture of white potatoes and turnips. Their similar coloring makes them nearly indistinguishable from one another. Turnips may have a bad rap but they're actually pretty high up on my favorites, mostly because they taste like a combination of carrots and corn. Yum!
    • Chopped root vegetables (perhaps a mixture?) drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary if you've got it, baked at 475 degrees for 30 minutes.
    Soups are often a good choice because many people who "hate vegetables" won't go to the trouble of picking them out of a soup. Chicken noodle soup with green beans, corn, carrots and celery or Tomato Florentine soup and grilled cheese might be worth tries.

    My focus here is to target things that he already accepts as "safe foods" and then slowly work to replace some of the ingredients with vegetables, or add vegetables to them. The Tomato Florentine soup listed above is pretty much plain tomato soup with some veggies thrown in. If he is comfortable eating roasted potatoes or homemade french fries, he may be willing to give them a try even if they're not make with white Russets.

    He may also transition well (in the future) to meals like my Leek and Lemon Risotto with some chopped asparagus added in; a good beef or chicken stir fry with veggies like broccoli, thinly sliced onions, carrots, and peppers in a peanut sauce or sweet soy ginger sauce; or homemade pizza with pepperoni and some colorful veggies.

    Faithful readers, do you have any other suggestions that may be of help?