Saturday, August 7, 2010

Homemade hummus.

So this is also a new venture for me.  I opted to cross reference two recipes I found in this particular case.  Disgustingly Good's "Hummus and the Secret" really gave great insight to a process that they felt was helpful to the overall texture of the hummus.  Blending the olive oil, lemon juice and tahini until well-combined before adding the chickpeas into the equation.  Tight Bod with a Pod's "Simple Hummus" detailed the process of using dried chickpeas as opposed to canned, which is supposed to be better nutrient-wise and also has a lot less sodium (I do prefer salting to taste myself, I don't need a can to do it for me).

So I started off soaking about 8 oz. of chickpeas overnight.  I say about because I think I used half of the 16 oz. bag I bought.  I approximate a lot.  The chickpeas got a bit extra soak time due to my work schedule keeping me away until 3 in the afternoon, but my chickpeas were nice and plump when I strained off the soaking water and got them set up to boil away for a while.

A while turned into a long while.  I think my misstep here was leaving the lid off the pot.  The chickpeas seem to shed their skins much faster if they really get to bubble away under the lid. Spotting the shedding skins was pretty easy, they kind of look like little jelly fish bobbing around after you stir the chickpeas.  Since they came off at such varied rates, I just kept a small dish to the side to toss them in to.

Luckily my boyfriend is a chef, so he's helping me work through my mistakes on this one.  Next time I make hummus I'm definitely going to try blanching the chickpeas to help shock the skin off. So I'll probably do a revision on this in the future.

So after picking out the skins, I saved my cooking water as instructed by tbwap and proceeded to the lemon and tahini step as instructed by Disgustingly Good.  Being a poor college kid, all I have is the 25-year-old blender I inherited from my mother when I got my first apartment, so all my processing was done via blender.  My lemon was finicky and didn't yield as much juice as I expected, so I had to add some of the cooking water to help aid the whipping process.  Sure enough, after I'd added enough extra liquid, it fluffed up and turned a nice, light tan color.  I started adding my chickpeas in small batches, adding touches of the cooking water from time to time as the blender started vibrating my entire counter.

First taste was salt-less to get a sense of where I needed to go with it.  My boyfriend and I stared at each other as we smacked our lips and thought on the flavor.  Something was off.  I looked over my shoulder and there was my sauteed garlic still sitting in the pan.  It hadn't burnt or anything, but I'd definitely set it far enough to the side to momentarily forget it (My garlic was slightly browned though, contrary to tbwap's recommendation, mostly due to getting distracted by stirring my tahini to get it reconstituted).

After a bit more cooking liquid and working my garlic in along with a few dashes of salt, the overall product tasted like it should.  I don't have any pitas on hand as of the time of writing this, so I stowed away all my hummus in a container to set and mingle overnight, hopefully that will help meld the flavor and let it set up a bit (it's a little thin right now).

I think working between the recipes turned out just fine.  So all in all, I'll write out my abbreviated recipe combining the two-

8 ounces dry chickpeas (garbanzo)
Excess cooking liquid
1 lemon
1/4 cup tahini
4 cloves sauteed garlic
Salt to taste

Soak chickpeas (garbanzos) overnight in fresh water.  Drain.  Top over with fresh water and allow to boil at medium-high heat with the pot lid on.  Watch for skins to loosen and float, skimming off foam periodically.  (Note- future attempt will include blanching the chickpeas to help get the skin off)  Strain chickpeas, reserving cooking liquid for later use.  Squeeze all lemon juice into a blender or food processor and add tahini.  Blend until light-colored and slightly fluffy; add cooking liquid if lemon juice is not enough.  Add chickpeas, garlic and cooking liquid to the blender/food processor in three to four small batches.  Salt to taste.  Place in serving bowl and top with olive oil.

I'll also note that one of my favorite uses for hummus is on sandwiches.  I loathe mayo and this is a great way to add moisture to a turkey or chicken sandwich that might be a little dry otherwise.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jamming in the posts.

Basically catching up to where I've been in recipe testing and the lot.

So a co-worker of mine has this massive fig tree that's been overwhelming her, and she offered to let my man and myself come over and pick through and grab some.  So after about an hour of mosquito bites, we returned home with a massive basket of figs.

Being entirely unfamiliar with these fruits, my boyfriend only moderately familiar, I sought out to process them quickly and with as little loss to over-ripening and mold as possible- jam.  The last time I made jam or canned anything was eons ago as a kid with my grandmother.  We used paraffin wax due to my grandmother's arthritis. Canning lids and figs, oh boy, two new things at once!

After searching through TasteSpotting's "fig jam" recipes, I was torn between two recipes ( A Good Appetite's Fig Jam, and kiss my spatula's Homemade Fig Jam), I ended up opting for A Good Appetite's recipe due to personal lack of Grand Marnier and having already bought the fruit pectin with suspicion that I may need it.

I'll go ahead and say now, I'm still moderately appalled at the concept of 7 cups of sugar.  It's a lot.  The recipe called for it and the pectin called for it, but it's a lot!  It was like a whole 5lb bag of sugar.  Even as a person that doesn't like artificial sweeteners, it was a lot of sugar.  7 cups!

Alas, 7 cups was a necessity as I found out I couldn't skimp on it for fear of wrecking the jam.  This is where I faced another small problem.  I basically needed the same pot for two functions.  My kitchen's wonderful stainless steel stock pot was needed for boiling the canning jars, but I had no stainless steel pot big enough for the 5 cups of figs and 7 cups of sugar.  I settled for boiling the jars in my stock pot, combining the base ingredients in my largest sauce/fry pan and then splitting it into another pot for adding the sugar.

Thankfully my kitchen also has two whisks so I was able to (mostly) simultaneously boil both mixtures with the sugar and then combine them into my largest mixing bowl.  Being a poor college kid, I don't have a potato masher; but I did break out the hand mixer to try and break up the larger fig halves that didn't get mashed by packing them into the measuring cup (I keep a 4 cup measuring cup, I just filled it to the top with packed figs, I figure it was close enough to 5 cups in the end) or whacked apart during the whisking.  There's still some decent sized fig-pieces in the jam, but we'll say they're there for "charm."

Overall, canning wasn't intimidating as much as it was a bit time consuming for me.  It felt like a genuine marathon.  I'll also point out that my batch yielded enough jam for 9 jars, with even a little bit still leftover.  The jam set up just fine, so apparently the excess didn't hurt anything.  The 7 cups of sugar are there, but aren't overpowering in that super-sweet-syrupy way.  I don't believe I used the full on 1/4 cup of lemon juice, I probably only added a couple tablespoons worth; you still get the bit of acidity though.  I absolutely loved the little touch of cinnamon (loving cinnamon a lot, I probably added closer to a teaspoon, I just eyeballed it as opposed to measuring it), it really added a nice layer of depth that seemed to match the figs just fine.  It's kind of like opening a jar of Christmas, which is probably what I'll save some of these jars for to give out as presents.

Overall, the recipe was super easy, though I suggest preparing by having two huge pots ready to go.  Lid-canning was ridiculously easy, just slightly time consuming as a first timer.  The jam is delicious, I'm pacing myself as to not overwhelm my appetite with it.  I definitely recommend the recipe, it'll just be a while before I charge myself up enough to take on another project like this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

S'mores... on a STIII-K

Alright, not a huge Jeff Dunham fan, but I do love that jalapeno.

So I stumbled upon this tasty number during my initial voyages of TasteSpotting.

S'MORES ON A STICK- Capslock included!

Super easy recipe.  Double boiler some chocolate, throw marshmallows on disposable bamboo kabobs, send the boyfriend off to be manly and crush graham crackers and arrange the assembly line.

I opted out on the chocolate sprinkles, mostly because I forgot to buy them.  I suppose if you really wanted to get fancy you could drizzle these with dark or white chocolate to look like those spiffy strawberries, but at the same time you're craving the flavor profile of childhood camping.  Chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.

I do admit I had a slight hang up in the process; I thought my chocolate was just a little on the thick side, so I decided to try and slowly add some half and half- the chocolate seized.  Tragedy.  Tried cooling it and re-warming it with no luck.  Fortunately I'd only used half the bag of semi-sweet chips.  Second time, I let the chocolate do as it wished and set about dipping.  The marshmallow is a huge fan of sticking to the bamboo, so there was never an issue with dropping them into either the chocolate or the graham crackers as you went through the process.  This could be insanely kid friendly due to the resilience of the marshmallows.  You can really abuse them and they'll still taste great.

Another perk-  I took these to a gathering of friends and managed to have quite a few leftover (I think the batch I made up gave me around 30 s'mores on a STICK), so I threw them in a large storage bag with a paper towel and tossed them in the freezer. They're not the best to eat straight out of the icebox, but they thaw out and taste just fine.  The paper towel soaked up any incidental moisture that would've turned the graham crackers soggy.

So a friend once linked me...

My good buddy, Mr. Chapman over at The Chappy Wagon linked this fascinating website over Facebook once.  I probably check it daily, if not every other day to see what new things are being added.  This is probably the majority of what this blog will be about.


Food from TasteSpotting, specifically.

What I've tried, what's worked, what didn't, etc.  I've tried a few of the recipes now, and I'll probably start off talking about them, what I did right, what I think I did wrong, or what I think could improve.  I'll probably post little tidbits of my own feelings on cooking because if you're still reading this, maybe you care to know.

This is probably all I have to type right now, seeing as it's almost 6:30pm and I need to start on dinner-  macaroni and cheese, yum.