Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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Thinking About Food…Outside the Box

Two weeks ago, I ordered what I’m sure will be in my top 5 “go to” books about food.  My first introduction to its author, Samin Nosrat, was on Food52 last month.  The name of her book?  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat:  Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.  Her basic premise is that you can cook almost anything without a recipe, if you understand the four elements- salt, fat, acid and heat.  I love Food52, and their recent {April 2017} series called “Samin Nosrat’s 12 Must-Know Lessons That’ve Changed How We Cook” has me excited about thinking about food in a whole new way.   I highly recommend you click the link and check it out.  It will give you a different perspective on how to cook, season and enjoy food.  There are lessons, including videos, for each element.  Let’s take salt for example-when you taste food for seasoning, you may find it to be bland.  Many of us reach for salt as the cure for food that is flat.  Nope, not so fast, according to Nosrat.  Step away from the salt and think about the many ingredients that can add more saltiness and flavor to food…Parmesan, anchovies, olives, kimchi, capers, fish sauce, shoyu, raw sauerkraut, preserved lemons and more.  Before you toss in some sodium chloride in its crystalline form, take a moment to consider some other flavorful options; you will be glad you did!

A new food discovery for me, which contributes both salt and acid to a dish, is preserved lemons.  I first tasted them in California earlier this year, when I visited my aunt, who has a Meyer lemon tree in her front yard.

Debbie's Meyer Lemon Tree

Southern California Meyer Lemon Tree

She has a freezer full of frozen lemon juice {as do I}, and sought out other recipes for using up the many gorgeous lemons begging to be enjoyed in ways more interesting than juice.  She found a recipe for preserved lemons, and had some ready to eat when I was visiting;  I fell in love with them!  Breakfast was sangak {Iranian flatbread} topped with with homemade hummus, cooked spinach and diced pieces of preserved lemon.  Many, if not most, recipes for preserved lemons say to discard the pulp and eat only the rind;  after a quick rinse, I eat the whole lemon, including the viscous tart/salty liquid, all of which get better and better with time.

Sangak with Hummus and Preserved Lemon

Sangak with Hummus, Preserved Lemon, Olive Oil, Sesame Seeds & Sumac

Delicious! Preserved lemons are similar to capers, but I think they are better, and quite addictive.  What prevents me from inhaling my preserved lemons is that I only made 3 pints, so I am rationing them out until my sources of local Meyer lemons have more ripe lemons.  The next time I get my hands on another bag of lemons, I will then make many pints of these delectable lemons, and eat them with abandon…I highly recommend that you do too!  I made the recipe exactly as written on the Daring Gourmet blog, but next time I may slice the lemons instead of quartering them, to fit more into the jars.

Once your preserved lemons are ready to eat, enjoy them with hummus {this is my former recipe, which is excellent, but here is my new favorite Israeli hummus recipe}, fish, chicken, salad dressings, salads & more.  Use your imagination & enjoy your jars of sunny deliciousness!

Preserved Lemons in Jar

Preserved Lemons in Jar

 

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“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”  James Beard

Hummus

If you think you don’t like hummus, perhaps you have only had store bought varieties, too stiff and poorly seasoned.  I must admit, I haven’t tasted much packaged hummus; there probably are some good ones, however, I  prefer to make my own hummus from freshly cooked garbanzo beans.  Of course, you can use canned beans, but I have found them to be a little more al dente than I like.  They are best when they are nice and soft, ready for a whirl in the food processor with garlic, olive oil, lemon, tahini and seasonings. The beans take awhile to cook, but it isn’t hands-on time, so you can be doing whatever you like while they simmer away on the stove. For me, cooking a pot of beans is kind of therapeutic, like making risotto, kneading bread or watering plants.  Homemade hummus isn’t difficult to prepare and the results are worth any effort required. People are favorably impressed if you show up at a potluck with a gorgeous platter of hummus with tasty garnishes {especially if you make homemade pita bread!}.  As promised in my last post, here is my hummus recipe.

Hummus 

1 ½ c cooked garbanzo beans {I always cook my own, because they are much better, but you can use canned.}
3 cloves garlic, minced
Scant ¼ c tahini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil {I use quite a bit more, for a smooth & silky texture.}
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt

 Puree all ingredients in the blender or food processor until really smooth.  I like to spread it out on a platter and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it.  Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, kalamata olives and cilantro {any or all are good}.  Eat with pita bread, or whole wheat flour tortillas that you brush with olive oil, cut into eights and then bake at 350 until semi-crisp.  Also good with fresh fennel Fennel Bulb or sliced cucumbers.


Freshly Cooked Garbanzo Beans

1 cup garbanzo beans, cleaned & soaked {you don’t have to soak them, but they will take longer to cook}
Aromatics: 1 onion, quartered, 2 parsley sprigs, 4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6” piece of kombu, or a few pinches asafetida, optional {I love to eat the cooked kombu}
1 ½ tsp salt

Cover garbanzo beans with 2 quarts fresh water & add remaining ingredients.  Simmer until completely tender, but not mushy.  I start checking at around 45”.  Let the beans cool in the broth.

Wilted Dandelion & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

We enjoyed the plate of hummus with homemade pita bread and this salad of Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets.  Dandelion greens and arugula are supposed to very good for you, so we are eating them regularly.  They are kind of bitter, which is what makes them good for you.  When you eat them with something sweet like beets, it somewhat neutralizes the bitterness, and they are quite tasty prepared this way.  This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone {I love this book!}

Wilted Dandelion Greens & Arugula with Walnuts & Beets

Dandelion greens and/or arugula, about 1/2 pound
1 large garlic clove, mashed into a paste with 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
4 tsp sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the garlic paste, shallot, vinegar & olive oil.  Heat the vinaigrette in a small skillet until it sizzles.  Pour over the greens & toss with plenty of freshly ground pepper.  Top with toasted walnuts, cooked beets & a grating of Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese.  It’s delicious with just the cheese, but the walnuts & beets add a bit of crunch & sweetness.

The first time I made this, we were too full to eat it all at dinner.  I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, not knowing how delicious they would be cold the next day.  I think I probably like them leftover as much, if not more, than freshly made.  Who would have thought?

Aloha & Happy Cooking!