Blushing Hummus bi tahinah


The Arabic word hummusحمّص means chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s the main player in the popular Middle Eastern dip of the same name. Add some tahini (sesame butter),  lemon juice, red pepper for a nice blush, and a garlic clove, a bit of olive oil and water, sprinkle in salt and a dash or two of cayenne pepper for a bit of zing, top with a small handful of pine nuts, and you have an easy and tasty dip for a crudite plate or pita bread spread.

I got my beans from a local Middle Eastern market (Indus Foods in Berkeley) for 33 cents; the whole dip cost about $1, much cheaper and fresher than shelling out $4 for the commercial version.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

1 clove garlic

1/4 fresh  red bell pepper. Roasted red peppers work well also – use one.

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice (one medium lemon)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tb to pour on top.

1 Tb water

shake of cayenne to taste

¼ tsp salt, to taste

2-3 Tb toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Peel garlic and mince in food processor using blade. Add rest of ingredients except pine nuts, and run processor for at least a minute until hummus is smooth. Sprinkle pine nuts on top. If desired, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with carrot or celery  sticks, cucumber, jicama and red bell pepper spears, pita chips, or wedges of toasted pita bread.

Makes a great sandwich spread on pita or olive bread with cucumber slices.

Chayote Salad



This spiny chayote reminds me of an old man who needs a shave! I bought the chayotes from an elderly Chinese woman selling them in her front yard on Fruitvale Avenue in East Oakland. They were so prickly that I had to use oven mitts to handle them at home and use a fork to steady it while I peeled it with a knife.

Chayote squash was grown by the Aztecs who named it chayotli in their Nahuatl language. I combined ingredients of Mexican and Spanish origin to make this salad. I drew inspiration for this recipe from Ensalada de chayote written by my friends and gourmet role models, Victor M. Valle and Mary Lau Valle, in their fascinating book, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine

Chayotes come in smooth skinned varieties as well, but Victor and I agree that the spiny ones are more flavorful. I suppose I could make some sort of analogy to life or raising kids who are hard to handle but, well I’ll let you finish that sentence.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 medium chayotes

about 10 Kalamata olives

15-oz  can drained garbanzo beans

1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp dried oregano.

1 cucumber, peeled

1 small avocado

two radishes

¼ cup cilantro leaves

handful of fresh lettuce leaves for each bowl

Dressing:

2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 Tb fresh lime juice,

½ tsp salt

pinch of chipotle chili powder

Boil whole chayote with 2 cloves smashed garlic and a tsp salt for 30 minutes until tender. Let cool in refrigerator, then peel, remove pit, and slice. Add  kalamata olives, garbanzo beans, and oregano.

Dressing : Whisk 2 Tb garlic olive oil, 2 Tb lime juice, ½ tsp salt, with a pinch of chipotle powder. Pour over salad. Let sit for several hours.

Cut a peeled cucumber and a small avocado into bite sized chunks. Gently toss in salad with  two sliced and quartered radishes and ¼ cup sliced cilantro leaves.

How ugly are your cucumbers?



I bought some cucumber plants from a grade school fundraiser last spring. I had no idea what kind they were. Now in September I’m finding these ugly little treasures hiding behind the leaves. They have got to be the funniest looking veggies around! And they have prickly little bodies, so they’re not even ugly and cuddly, (unlike those cabbage patch dolls). But peel them and bite into their crisp insides and yes! That is why I faithfully watered these babies! They add crunch to sandwiches and salads including the Quinoa Tabouli salad I made today for a lovely late summer meal.

quinoa tabouli

 

No Mayo Tarragon Chicken Salad with Yogurt

This chicken salad sings with flavor from anise-like fresh tarragon and fennel, balanced by thyme, lemon, and a bit of scallion.

I do NOT like mayonnaise,  plus it is loaded with calories (10 grams of fat in one tablespoon!), so I usually avoid chicken salads in delis and restaurants.  I use Mediterranean-style nonfat plain yogurt such as Karoun, which I find in Middle Eastern or South Asian markets. It is very thick like Greek yogurt, and has only 70 calories in a half-cup.

You can make the peas ahead of time. I suppose you could cook  frozen peas, but they won’t have the same crunch as parboiled fresh ones.

You can use a mix of light and dark meat, or just white meat, depending on what you want or have on hand. For the first batch I made, I used leftover roast chicken.

For the next batch, I poached boneless chicken breasts.  I salted them and browned them in olive oil. I then poured boiling water over it, and added a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, several sprigs of tarragon and thyme and a spoonful of salt, and covered the pan, and boiled it for 10 minutes. I then turned off the flame and let it sit for  10 minutes. You can make the chicken ahead of time.

When making a large quantity for a crowd, I shredded the chicken by pulsing in the food processor. Then I transferred it to a large bowl to stir in the yogurt and other ingredients.

This recipe is pretty versatile for substituting vegetables. I added 2 Tb chopped pecans since my  South Texan husband loves pecans in almost anything.

1 cup shelled English peas

1 cup shredded cold chicken.

1 cup diced celery and/or jicama

2 Persian cucumbers, chopped.  (If you can’t find those, use 3/4 cup regular cucumbers.)

1/4  cup diced fennel root

½ cup plain nonfat Mediterranean or Greek yogurt

1 tsp minced fresh tarragon

½ tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced shallot or red onion

1 Tb. minced green onion (scallion) about 1 stalk.

¼ salt or to taste

3 grinds pepper

1 Tb lemon juice (juice of 1 small lemon or ½ large lemon) preferably Meyer lemon

Shell about 1 pound English peas to make 1 cup, then parboil them for 2 minutes. Immediately cool them in ice water. I pour them through a strainer, then place the strainer in a bowl of ice water.

cooling peas in ice water

Dice chicken, cucumber and jicama, mix with cooled peas, and yogurt. Mince tarragon, thyme, shallot and green onion, add to chicken. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well.

I bought some pita bread when I picked up the yogurt, so I tucked my chicken salad into  it.