Posts Tagged ‘appetizer’

It’s odd sometimes, the way I associate things. Or rather when things remind me of other things that are in no way connected and for some reason the connection remains strong enough for me to remember it for an unhealthy length of time.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas. And obviously since it’s June I shouldn’t be talking about Christmas anyway. But growing up we watched the movie White Christmas every single year, and it became one of my favorite movies. I still watch it, and not necessarily around or even close to December. There’s a scene in the movie where Danny Kaye is trying to “clumsily entangle” Bing Crosby with some dumb blonde dancer in their show. The idea is that if Bing gets a family then Danny will finally have some time to himself – they’ve been super busy producing their show and what not. Later that evening they go to a club to check out a sister act and Bing ends up entranced by one of the sisters, Rosemary Clooney. The girls, of course, end up in a bit if trouble and Danny insists on helping them out. When one sister asks what’s in it for them – as they are practically strangers – he says, “45 minutes, all to myself.”

The other day I was sitting on my bar stool, hunched over my kitchen sink, peeling the skins off a big basket of cooked chickpeas. I looked at the clock when I was done and the first thought I had was, “45 minutes, all to myself.” That’s how long I was sitting there shucking the skins off my chickpeas. My second thought was, “This hummus better #*%$^@*! taste good.”

Lately I’ve been on a quest to replicate the Sabra hummus. I absolutely love the stuff! It’s super smooth and creamy, yet not too airy. But there’s also this tang in it that’s not coming from the lemon juice. I couldn’t figure it out. But one day I looked at the ingredients and saw it contains citric acid, and this little lightbulb finally went off in my head. In pastry class we made these sour jelly candies and the main souring ingredient we used was citric acid. Of course! How could I be so dim?!

I made this several weeks ago using the citric acid and everyone loved it. Five of us went through a very large tub of it in just a few days. The texture wasn’t quite there yet, however, and this is where those 45 minutes come into play.

It’s been a super long time since I’ve bought canned chickpeas so I don’t rightly remember, but I’m thinking the skins have already been removed (that’s probably why they cost so much – it’s a pain in the ass). When you cook dry chickpeas you’ll notice near the end of their cooking time these clearish-white shells coming off the beans – those are the skins. Typically I just throw the whole mess into the food processor and don’t think twice about it. But my hummus is never as smooth as I want it to be. So I sacrificed my time, and my posture, and separated the beans from their shields. And I think it made a HUGE difference.

And one more thing, there isn’t any tahini in this hummus. I love tahini, I do, but I hate shelling out the money for it. It’s usually at least $7 for a jar and that’s fine if you’re going to use it all but who really makes that much hummus at home? It’s just a lot of money to spend all at once for hummus. So since tahini is only just ground up sesame seeds mixed with oil, I see no reason why I can’t do it myself. Feel free to replace the sesame seeds in this recipe with tahini if you already have it, but if you don’t, my method works just fine.


  • 2 C dry chickpeas, cooked and shelled (or 2 cans)
  • 1/3 C sesame seeds, toasted and ground
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 4 – 6 T cooking liquid or water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic (more if you like it garlicky)
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t citric acid

So typically they say you need to soak dry beans over night before cooking them. It does help to soak them but you can cheat and skip that part if you forgot. However, chickpeas probably take the longest time of all the beans to cook, whether you soaked them or not, so don’t plan on cooking your beans off in one hour and being on your merry way. Plus with hummus, you want the beans as soft as possible – so you gotta cook the crap out of them. I put mine in a big pot, cover them with a ton of water, place it on the stove with a lid and turn the fire on med/ med-low and just walk away. It takes hours, but you aren’t involved in any of it. You can, obviously, just buy canned chickpeas… but then you miss out on the 45 minutes of shelling fun!

If you do go the DIY route, when the beans are very soft drain them, but save the liquid. When they’re cool start rubbing those skins off. It takes some time, but it definitely produces a smoother product. Put the liquid in the fridge while you’re shelling the beans.

For the sesame seeds, toss them in a small pan and turn the heat on medium. They’ll toast quickly so don’t walk away and get a manicure or anything. You need to hang around and toss them frequently. When the majority of them are toasty brown, remove it from the heat, let it cool a few minutes and then grind them up in a small coffee grinder (preferably one that you don’t use for coffee).

Once your beans are shelled and seeds are toasted, you’re ready to go! Dump the chickpeas, sesame seeds and garlic in the food processor. Add just enough liquid or olive oil to help process them but don’t pour it all in. Pulse it for 30 seconds or so until everything is getting pureed finely. Now add everything else, except the liquid, and process.

Whether you’re using the cooking liquid or just water, add it in small increments as you don’t want to end up with hummus soup. If you use the cooking liquid, the amount you’ll need will vary depending on how long your beans cooked and how much the liquid reduced. Bean juice (that’s what I call it) absorbs some of the protein from the beans (at least I assume it does) and can thicken and congeal almost like there’s gelatin in it, so you may need more or less liquid depending on how goopy the bean juice is.

When you’ve reached your desired consistency, transfer the hummus to a tub and refrigerate for awhile so the flavors can get a chance to know each other. I’m never satisfied with my hummus straight out of the processor but it always tastes way better once it’s gotten a chance to mingle. And if you want to get all fancy, make a little well in the middle of it and add some paprika and olive oil before serving it.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. Once the beans are cooked it only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to throw it all together, assuming you’ve mise en placed (gotten everything you need ready).

There’s almost always a tub of hummus or pesto or some sort of dip in my house as it comes in handy. It’s good to snack on, make naan sandwiches with, thinned out for salad dressing, or tossed with pasta – endless possibilities!

Do you have a favorite hummus or hummus recipe? Please share if so!

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I can be a little naive at times. Or maybe I’m just overly ambitious. Or plain dumb. Whichever it is it typically results in me spending far more time in the kitchen than I had planned, a lot of sighing and a beer at some point to quell my anxiety. A word of caution: puff pastry making is not for the faint hearted.

A long time ago I saw this asparagus tart thing on Vegan Yum Yum. Lately I’ve been seeing all this pretty green asparagus at the store – something I don’t buy often as it’s always too expensive. But my girlfriends and I were getting together to make chocolate and drink wine and I thought this would be the perfect excuse to make the asparagus tart. So I go pick up some asparagus and head on over to the frozen section to grab a box of puff pastry. “Hmm, they only have Pepperidge Farm…” I’m not a big fan of high fructose corn syrup or evil corporations that put it in everything they make, so I decided to walk all the way back over to the natural foods section to see if they had puff pastries over there. Nope. Damn. “I’ll just make it myself.”

This is where you laugh. This is where I should have realized that there’s a reason that every tart recipe I’ve seen online uses the store-bought puff pastries. But I don’t come to this realization – due to one of the aforementioned characteristics.

Being that I’m in culinary school I have this great big text-book on baking. I flip to the puff pastry section and it all seems pretty simple and straightforward. There’s even a step-by-step diagram illustrating the folding techniques; you need at least 1,000 layers in a puff pastry, that’s what makes it puff.

I encountered my first disaster before I even got to the folding. The book says to mix the flour and salt, place it on your work surface, make a well in the middle and pour the melted butter and water in the well. Then you mix it with your hands to form a ball of dough. Piece of cake. Well, I live in this ancient house where nothing is level. If you put a ball on the floor it will pick up speed as it rolls. I have to battle gravity every time I use my rolling-pin as it starts rolling off my work table immediately after I set it down. I didn’t think about this. I start mixing my melted butter and flour and it immediately begins spilling out all over the place and races right for the edge of the table. I lost a bit of the liquid to the floor, grocery bags and my shoes. If you know me at all you can adequately imagine me scrambling, sighing and cursing while trying to salvage as much of the liquid and flour that I can.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. After the dough sits in the fridge for 30 minutes or so you roll it out into a rectangle.

You also take the butter (stick form), and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and smash it with the rolling-pin then form it into a rectangle as well.

You place the butter rectangle on top of the dough rectangle and start folding the dough over to enclose the butter. Enclose is the key word here. I don’t think the butter’s supposed to immediately squish out of every side it possibly can. Did you know it’s basically impossible to use a rolling-pin on something that buttery? There’s a blurb somewhere in my baking book, that I evidently didn’t read, that says to place the dough in the fridge between folds; I’d suggest that if you ever try this at home.

My book was also very specific about how you fold the dough and how many times you do this. These specifics, as well as my photo tutorial, got canned the second my hands, rolling-pin and table where all slathered in my overly expensive Earth Balance butter. Eventually (like half an hour later) I got it folded about 6 times, threw it in the fridge, ignored the mountain and butter and flour covered dishes in the sink and went for a run.

I think the pastry dough is supposed to be a bit thinner when you go to actually make your tart or whatever it is that you’re making. Since mine had the resemblance of a brick rather than a sheet I had more rolling to do. This is where the pint of beer got poured. I did, however, finally get it thin(ish) and in a decent sized rectangle – though I didn’t think about it shrinking slightly in the oven so my perfectly trimmed asparagus got trimmed again.

You can see my beer in the upper left corner.

So what I had thought would be an hour or two long process basically took up my entire day and drove me to drinking. I guess there’s a reason most people buy the pre-made puff pastries. I’m thinking there might also be some differences in the melting properties of real butter versus vegan butter, which could be part of the reason I appeared to have way too much butter “enclosed” in my pastry. It tasted good though, but it’s kind of impossible for something with that much fat in it to not taste good. I didn’t bother taking a very good (artistic) picture of the finished product because I was frazzled, pressed for time and thought it looked like poop.

Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe calls for baking the tart with the white bean dip and asparagus already on it. I didn’t want to cook the beans so I baked the tart by itself, roasted the asparagus and then put it all together afterward. I used the Provence White Bean Puree recipe from Foodie Family instead of Yum Yum’s pesto. And the asparagus was just roasted for about 12 minutes with garlic, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Pretty simple combination but it all worked well together.

So, the moral of the story is: make sure your table is level and do scratch baking the day before you need it.



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