a vaguely israeli inspired dinner party
Hummus is one of those foods that I think of as a staple of the single-girl-in-an-apartment throw-a-meal-together era that most of us have lived through (or are living through). A tub of hummus, a pile of eggs, a whole bunch of spinach: and really you can live quite delightfully for some time.
Perhaps because of this I've never previously had an urge to make my own hummus. I'd had it homemade, and delicious it was -- pillowy and yet sustaining, a meal unto itself. But the idea of blending it all up seemed overwhelming, when it's just so easy to buy and doctor (a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of this or that) and be done with it.
But then I fell in love with the beautiful colors of summer carrots, and had to have a pile of pretty eggplant, and homemade hummus was determined to be the missing cog. And so: we made hummus (and a few other things) and you know what? Totally worth it.
Incredibly smooth hummus
Fair warning: this hummus will fill you with air. Skip serving it to those not in your inner circle, unless you'd like to use it as a potential test of comparability (“friends who toot together...”). It is (mostly) taken from the Zahav cookbook from Michael Solomonov of Philly fame.
Prep the chickpeas:
Chickpeas. So we were crazypants a few months ago and in deciding to feed a troop of 15 Indian-style chola, we ended up purchasing enormous sacks of dried chickpeas... and then discovering we needed about 1/20th of what we had. So, if you are feeling ambitious or have just been hoarding beans: soak your beans overnight with a tablespoon of baking soda. Note that they will absorb way more than you think, and they will take up much more room than you think. I recommend a very large pot.
Once rehydrated, rinse them off, add more water and another tablespoon baking soda, then pop on the stove to boil. Bring em to a boil, then turn down the heat slightly simmer, simmer, simmer for over an hour. You basically want to overcook them so they start to go slightly to mush at this point. While doing this, it'll start to foam up and form an ugly looking pool-top style draping... skim that off as often as possible.
Make tehina sauce (taken straight from Zahav):
- 1 head garlic
- 3/4 c lemon juice (roughly 3 lemons)
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups of tehina (easily found in most supermarkets)
- .5 teaspoon cumin
Add unpeeled garlic cloves (really!), lemon juice, and .5 teaspoon salt to a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds, then let sit 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture, then add tehina, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt to the liquid. Whisk adding a few tablespoons of ice water as you go to thin it out. Whisk more and more. Add more salt and cumin to taste.
Note: we chose to double this recipe and just do a ton of chickpeas, and were very glad we did.
Bring it all together:
Food process chickpeas, tehina sauce, salt, and cumin. Adjust proportions as needed. When it looks done, keeping going a little longer (those tiny lumps go a long way.)
When serving, drizzle with olive oil and the topping of your choice: freshly chopped cucumber, tomato, and onion; marash peppers; more cumin; grilled chicken; za'atar - really the choice is yours.
Roasted eggplant with yogurt and pomegranate
There's a rather lovely looking Ottolengthi receipe that floats around as the companion to the cover of Plenty and I had always had illusions of making it... but then sometimes it's so much easier to vaguely remember the cover, and do what you can with what's in the fridge. This is not that recipe.
- Plain yogurt (greek will do in a pinch)
- Za'atar, a common mixed spice blend, or cumin powder if unavailable
- Pomegranate seeds (on the seed is fine)
Get a bunch of eggplant, really any size or shape. We used fairly small non-fairytale for this, but honestly anything will do. Slice or chop it down so that it's roughly a few inches wide (pending your original shape) and loosely half an inch thick. Preheat your oven.
Toss the eggplant lightly in olive oil. Note that it will soak up anything you give it, so go light and place on baking trays as quickly as possible. Roast until fairly crisp, arguably charrted, but keep an eye on them -- you can end up with mush quite quickly.
In the meantime, mix together plain yogurt, a little water if needed, salt, and za'atar if you have it. If not, sub in powdered cumin.
Once the eggplant is out of the oven, drizzle with yogurt, and top with pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley.
Charred carrots with nuts & honey
My mother-in-law had raved about this recipe from the V is for Vegetables cookbook (from the chef behind Gramercy Tavern) and while not really Israeli in the least, we thought it would round things out with a salty-sweet bite. This is the toned-down version we did, though I imagine starting by sauteeing carrots before roasting, as recommended, would add a little something, as would finishing the dish with olives or husk cherries.
- Lots of carrots, in different colors if you get so lucky (but really: bodega carrots would be ok here)
- Chopped almonds
- Sherry vinegar
- Sesame seeds - ideally both black & white, but do what you've got to do
- Cumin seeds
- Mustard seeds
Scrub carrots and trim off any funny bits. If they seem enormous or too fat, slice them in half. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper then roast at at least 375. They'll likely go for 45 or so minutes, but check them every 10-15, and give them a shake or flip as needed. You want them to get nice and blackened and just a little shriveled.
Towards the end of the roasting, combine all your seeds and nuts (honestly if you don't have all, don't stress it -- this is a case of anything crunchy is good). Toast in a dry pan on medium for about 2 minutes. Watch them closely and keep tossing -- they burn quickly.
Add honey, bring to boil, then add vinegar. Pour over roasted carrots.
Macerated strawberries with rosewater cream and pistachios
inspired by Root to Leaf, currently my favorite cookbook
Get yourself some strawberries -- you're about to sweeten them, so don't go crazy. Driscolls will do today. Hull them and slice them, then sprinkle with sugar and lemon. Let sit for up to two hours, in the fridge, or not, pending weather.
Whip cream as you normally would. As it starts to form peaks, add a teaspoon or two of rosewater, and just a touch of sugar (I'd recommend under sweetening, given what the strawberries are up to.)
Smash up raw pistachios.
Assemble a bowl of strawberries, heap of cream, and sprinkle of pistachios.