Creamiest Hummous

Hummus 1

Drizzle the finished hummus with your best olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika.  A few toasted sesame seeds would be a great addition also. (I just didn’t think of it until I looked at my photos!)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water
  • Dash ground paprika, for serving

 

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.

Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.

peeled chickpeas

I know, you are thinking “what goof peels chickpeas?”  Me.  Especially after Stella raved about the creamiest hummus she’d ever had.  At 5 years old, this girl knows food.  After that, how could I not peel my hummus.  After all, even if it takes you 20 min to peel that can of chickpeas, haven’t you ever wasted 20 min on something less interesting??

Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Hummus 2

We served the hummus today with fresh vegetables as well as                                                            lightly seasoned and toasted pita wedges.

 

I heard a rumour that hummus made at home could be creamy, dreamy & simple, but every time I tried it I was less than satisfied.  Sure, it was tasty …. but dreamy?  No.  So I hit the blogs looking for a trick, and “inspired taste” provided it.  Look up the blog – Adam and Joanne have some amazing photos and descriptions, plus tips for cooking your own chickpeas and many other great ideas.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now, exactly as written (except that I am that weirdo that doesn’t mind a 10 minute mindless activity like skinning chickpeas).

Hummus 3

A few days later, my grand daughters Sloan and Stella were here, asking for a snack …. when I produced the vegetables I got a look ….. “Well Nana ……..do you have any of that amazing peeled chickpea hummus left?  Could we please have some of that too?”                                                       That, my friends, is how foodies are born.

Grilled Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu

Grilling the shrimp in the shell protects them from the searing heat of the barbecue, and is definitely worth doing.  Serve this as an appetizer and nobody minds getting in with their hands!

 

romescu

Go ahead and make a big batch of this, it goes really well with any cooked fish or chicken dish.

Romesco Sauce:

  • 1 jar (300 mL) roasted red peppers , including juices
  • 1/4 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter or 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Romesco Sauce: In blender, purée together red peppers including juices, tomato sauce, almond butter, vinegar, paprika and cayenne pepper until smooth. Season to taste with salt, if needed.  Transfer to small saucepan, and set aside.

  • 1 head cauliflower , cut in large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 450 g unpeeled jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 count)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch green onions

Shrimp and Vegetables: Plunge cauliflower pieces into boiling salted water for just about 2-3 minutes, and then immediately drop into ice water bath.

This can easily be turned into a vegetarian dish by omitting the shrimp, just use an assortment of vegetables.

In bowl, toss together shrimp, oil and remaining salt.

Thread shrimp onto metal or soaked wooden skewers. Place shrimp and cauliflower on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning once, until shrimp are pink and cauliflower is charred, about 8 minutes. Add green onions during last 3 minutes of grilling.

Heat Romesco Sauce, stirring frequently until warm, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve cauliflower, shrimp and green onions on large platter with sauce on the side for dipping.  Add some crusty fresh French bread and you’ve got a great appetizer!

Roasted Marinated Sweet Red Peppers

It’s true, going through all the steps to grill and prepare these peppers does take a little bit of time.  Pick a sunny day and the sweet smell of them grilling will be enough payback.  Do enough for a dinner side dish also!  In the middle of winter when you open a jar you will immediately be transported back to that summer day.  I love using these in so many different appetizers, slivered in a salad or pasta or just served with a grilled steak.

Red pepper 4

These sweet peppers are an amazing way of capturing the tastes and smells of summer in a jar.

4 pounds firm, fresh and cleaned red bell peppers

Lightly oil peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until charred in spots and softened.  Put in bowl, cover tightly and allow to sit for 15 minutes until you can easily slip the skins off.   If you don’t have a barbecue you can also do this over an open flame or in your oven with the broiler unit.

Red pepper 1

MARINADE

  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Bring all marinade ingredients to boil in a saucepan.

Red pepper marinade 2

In most cases I would suggest squeezing fresh lemon juice, but in this instance the consistency and acidic content of bottled lemon juice is what you need.

If you want to use these within a few weeks, just fill the jars with peppers and pour the boiling marinade over.

Red pepper 3

Seal and keep in the fridge.

SEALING AND PRESERVING

Scald jars in boiling water and heat canning lids and sealers in boiling water.  Fill jars with peppers, immediately fill to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Quickly close the jars with lids and sealers and boil in canner for 15 minutes.

 

 

The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

Crab Artichoke Dip 3

If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

Crab Artichoke Dip 1

Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crab Artichoke dip 2

 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Indian Vegetable Pakoras

Don’t even think twice about giving these a try – super easy and more flavour in every bite than you can imagine.

Pakoras 1

Look at the bits of craggy onion strips, potato shreds, broccoli bits and moist zucchini – how can you not love this?

I’ve been wanting to try making pakoras for some time now, they are one of my top five Indian dishes to order in a restaurant.  These hit it out of the park on my first try!!  So delicious, full of intense flavour, you can use as much or little of the spice as you like.  Crispy, craggy and loaded with fresh vegetables, you can make it just the way you like.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpea flour or besan
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

 

  • potatoes, cut into thin, small fingers/chips/cubes and washed
  • cauliflower, or broccoli, broken into small florets or chopped (or other vegetables)
  • onion, peeled and chopped
  • spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh fenugreek or methi leaves, chopped (or use 1/2 tbsp. dry methi leaves)
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped finely. Omit if you like the pakoras to be mild

Use your imagination for the vegetables, these are only suggestions.  For this amount of spice, and the chickpea flour you will need a total of 4 cups vegetables.

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp  chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder or the spice blend, Chat Masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Oil for deep frying
IMG_5513 2

Todays mixture included broccoli, zucchini, potato and onion – use whatever is fresh (or you need to use up). :o)

Instructions

  1. Place all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle salt, as well as all the spices over the vegetables, and toss to combine.  Allow to sit for about 30 min so the water drains out of the vegetables.
  2. Add sifted (sift to remove lumps) chickpea flour/besan & baking powder slowly and make a slightly stiff mix of vegetables and besan, just enough to hold the vegetables together.  Usually, no additional water is required, as there is enough water released from vegetables. If the mix is too stiff, sprinkle a little water, so that all vegetables are bound lightly by besan.
  3. Heat oil in a wok. The oil is correct temperature, when a test pakora dropped in it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil quickly. The oil should not be smoking hot. Pakoras are crisper when cooked in medium hot oil.
  4. Drop small blobs of this mix into the hot oil gently, about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp. at a time. Wait until they sizzle to the surface and then turn them over. Continue turning intermittently, until all Pakoras are evenly golden brown and crisp on all sides.
  5. Rest to drain on an absorbent kitchen paper.
  6. Continue this way until all pakora mix is used up.
  7. If you need to keep them warm, put them in your oven at 200, perfect temp to keep them crispy and not overcook them.
  8. Serve immediately with chutney.
IMG_5530 2

Served tonight with chicken korma over rice, homemade naan bread (surprisingly easy) and these intensely flavoured pakoras.

Garden Fritters

IMG_5383

Make enough of these and it is a total meal, or use as an appetizer or side dish, either way, you are going to love these intense vegetable fritters.

 

I’m having a fritter moment.  It seems like a magical way of getting pounds of vegetables eaten up in record time, just when it is all at the peak of freshness, and who doesn’t love that?  I had to call these garden fritters, due to the tangle of grated zucchini, the wilted swiss chard, the crunchy pop of corn kernels fresh off the cob ….  Now just add to that a bunch of herbs, some garlic and a bit of cheese.  In today’s version I used feta and a bit of cumin.

If you make fritters just a few times you will quickly realize you don’t really need a recipe, but here is my general guideline:

  • 4 cups of vegetables
  • 1 clove of garlic (completely variable depending on your garlic love)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Now – once you’ve got  this far, just use your imagination with seasonings, and/or any cheese you decide to add.  Cheese certainly isn’t necessary, just adds another level of tasty goodness.

IMG_5380

These fritters have grated zucchini, lightly wilted swiss chard, corn kernels cut off a fresh cob, and herbs of parsley and chives.  One garlic clove and a bit of cumin with some feta cheese crumbled in created an intensely mouthwatering fritter.

A cast iron frying pan works best but any non stick pan will work well.  Lightly coat with oil, and on medium heat drop in dollops of the mixture.  Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 min per side.

IMG_5381

HEAD’S UP – these delicious little kernels of corn will actually pop and sizzle like crazy in the oil – be prepared for the splatter.

I served these with a dip resembling tsatsiki:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Zucchini Fritters

This recipe came directly from Smitten Kitchen (another wordpress site) and strangely enough (for me) I didn’t change it!

Zucchini Fritters 2

Crispy craggy bits of zucchini are a great contrast to the creamy aioli dip.

 

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as I’m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.

Zucchini fritters 3

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. You’ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet — cast iron is dreamy here — heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

Zucchini Fritters 1

Creamy Lemon Aioli

  • 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp minced basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend it all together, and allow to sit in the fridge until fritters are ready.