REALLY CREAMY HUMMUS
Makes 4 cups or so
Chickpeas have a hard skin that needs to be broken down to achieve an ethereal creamy result. A common issue is that when the beans are soaked in water the environment is too acidic for their cellulose-based skins. Baking soda raises the pH levels of the water, making the chickpeas and their shells more soluble and cook more quickly and separate more easily from the pea.
6 ounces dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/4 cups toasted tahini
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peppery extra-virgin olive oil plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For garnish (any or all):
Sumac or smoked paprika
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sliced cornichon pickles
Toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts
Pita or corn chips for serving
Place chickpeas in a pot or bowl, in water that covers them by at least two inches. Add the baking soda and let them soak at room temperature for at least 8-10 hours (overnight is better).
Transfer to a 2-qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover and cook until very tender, 40 – 50 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Drain chickpeas, reserving cooking liquid. Rinse to remove skins. If they aren’t behaving, roll them in a cloth towel or your hands to loosen and then discard skins.
In a food processor, add chickpeas, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid along with tahini, lemon juice, paprika, soy sauce and olive oil and process for 3 minutes. Add a little more cooking liquid if needed. Season to your taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if desired. Continue to process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until flavors have blended, about 4 hours. Can be made a day ahead.
To serve, place hummus in a flat bowl and make an indentation in the middle using the back of a spoon. Add olive oil and garnishes into the indentation.
WINTER SQUASH SOUP
A simple-to-make warming soup for cold weather. I have called for kabocha squash, but you can use whatever sweet variety that is in the market like butternut, sugar pie, Hubbard, red kuri, etc.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons high quality curry powder such as Madras
5 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups roasted kabocha squash*
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
2 cups well stirred coconut milk
2 tablespoons dry sherry, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Chopped chives and a fruity olive or toasted nut oil to garnish
In a deep saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft but not brown. Add the curry and sauté for a minute or two longer or until fragrant. Add the stock and the squash and transfer to a blender or food processor and puree, in batches if necessary. Strain through a medium mesh strainer if desired.
Return mixture to the saucepan and add the nutmeg, honey, and coconut milk. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir in sherry and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
To serve: Ladle soup into warm soup bowls and top with chives and fragrant oil.
*To roast the squash, cut a 2-pound squash in half, scoop out seeds, season with salt and pepper and roast cut side up in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until flesh is soft. Scoop flesh out of shell and discard shell.
MY GRANDMOTHER’S APPLE CHEESE TART
Makes one 9-inch tart serving 8
My Grandmother made great pies. One of my favorites was one in which she did a twist on the classic Midwest concoction of warm apple pie topped with a generous slice of good cheddar cheese (this supposedly originated in that great cheese state, Wisconsin!). Instead of simply putting a slice of cheese on top, she made a streusel topping that incorporated freshly grated cheese. Two other interesting twists she added were to barely sweeten the crust and add either lemon zest or apple cider vinegar to give it a contrast to the sweet filling.
She also added a little white pepper to the filling to give it interest. In this recipe I haven’t blind baked the shell, but you could especially if you were going to make the tart ahead to serve later. Prebaking of the shell would help keep it from getting too soggy. If you don’t have time to make the crust, this works equally well as a crisp without the crust, baked in an 8-inch square baking dish.
Makes two 9-inch tart shells or one double crust pie
6 oz. (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch bits and well chilled or frozen
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (or 2 tablespoons cider vinegar)
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water or as needed
Place the butter, flour, sugar, salt zest and egg in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal. Add water a tablespoon or two at a time and pulse until dough holds together when pressed in your hand. If not, add more water sparingly. Gather and gently press dough together into two cakes, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour before using. Roll out one of the dough cakes on a lightly floured surface and line a lightly buttered and floured 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick crust well. Remaining dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
6 cups tart green apples such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste)
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup golden raisins (optional), soaked in brandy or Grand Marnier if desired
Mix all ingredients together well and fill the tart shell evenly.
Note: You’ll sometimes be instructed in recipes to place the apples in acidulated water to keep them from browning while you’re cutting them up. Do not do this! They absorb water, dilute the flavor of the apples, and make the crust soggy when the water leaks out during baking.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 oz. cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into small bits
3/4 cup Dry Jack, Asiago, Parmesan or Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times until it forms a coarse crumbly mixture. It should be loose. Scatter topping evenly over the filled tart.
Bake in pre-heated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender.
Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired.
John Ash © 2020