Saturday, December 12, 2009

Erica's Recession Hummus

It's the most wonderful, and shocking, time of the year where Erica posts one of her own recipes: Recession Hummus.

The Great Recession has made a big impact on the way I purchase and consume hummus. Sabra is my personal grocery store pre-made hummus favorite, with their offbeat but delicious flavor combos. But, at $4+ per container, it's just not worth it. I'm going to tell you how I sucked it up, bought a $6 jar of tahini (which will, no joke, probably last you 50+ batches of hummus!), and rocked my own hummus flavors at a deep discount.

This is one of those recipes where you can use whatever is in your refrigerator that you feel would be delicious in hummus. Rather than give you exact quantities, you should just use the quantity of each ingredient that:

1) Makes the hummus taste good
2) Creates the typical consistency of hummus

You can be creative here, but I chose to use the following:

1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes (if you don't use sundried tomatoes, you can use olives, hot peppers, roasted red peppers, etc. If the ingredient that you add is not inherently salty, add salt to taste)
1 small can of chick peas ($.99)
1 tablespoon of tahini (or more if you like the taste)
1 garlic clove
Lemon juice to taste
Water to the appropriate consistency (add small pours at a time!)
Black pepper to taste
About 1 tbsp olive oil (trying to keep it light, but you can add more if you aren't concerned about fat content...)

Throw all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. If the hummus is too thick, add a tiny bit of water (but not too much - no one likes runny hummus!)

The total cost of this hummus is waaaaay less than $4 -- especially if you have most of this stuff already in your house. A small lemon juice is about a dollar and will last for many, many batches!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving: The Holy Grail of Leftovers

We'd be a big fat failure if we didn't blog about the no.1 holiday that results in leftovers: Thanksgiving. This year we had five people over and cooked for around 10. Whoops! Instead of painstakingly listing out every single thing we cooked (although it was delicious, and if you want to know, just ask) we'll only list the things we reused in a creative way. And reusing in a creative way doesn't count mixing everything together in a bowl and microwaving it at midnight. (Check.)

13.5 lb. Turkey brined in water, 3 cups sugar, 6 bay leafs, peppercorns, sprigs of thyme, 1 cup honey, 2 tbsp. allspice. Soak for 4 days. Cook at 375 for 3 hours, basting with chicken broth and pan drippings the whole time. If it looks like it's getting burned, cover it with foil. (Cook to 160. When you take the turkey out of the oven, it continues to cook. By the time it stops cooking, it should be at 165. The secret to a non-dry bird!)

Mashed potatoes with white balsamic caramelized shallots:
Six medium yukon gold potatoes - peel and boil, then whip.
Sautee 2 large shallots
3 Tbsp fresh sage
Add 1/4 cup balsamic (white or brown)
Melt 1/4 cup butter and 2 cups half and half, add to potatoes with shallot mixture, salt and pepper

Roasted acorn squash:
Peel and half the acorn squash, and sprinkle with the following to coat:
Butter - melt and drizzle
Cook at 375 for 30 minutes or until tender.

Now for the good stuff, the leftover ideas. First, let me confess something. I HATE THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS. There, I said it. I unloaded most of them on John's parents and prayed I wouldn't be eating the stuff for days to come. While I'm confessing deep, dark secrets, here's another one. I HATE TURKEY! How un-American! I know! I will say that John's turkey was the best I've ever eaten. [My grandfather used to make Thanksgiving lasagna. I'm bringing that tradition back next year.] Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Leftover idea 1: Mashed Potato Pancakes

The potato pancake (or latke) purist will have to take a chill pill when reading this. Heat up some oil in a skillet, make pancake-shaped discs out of the mashed potatoes, and just fry it until there's a nice crust. Serve with eggs for breakfast the day after.

Leftover idea 2: Turkey Stock

Take the carcass of the turkey (eew) and submerge it in water in a stock pot. Chop up and add to the pot 1 onion, 1 carrot and 3 stalks celery. Add thyme springs, peppercorns, bay leafs, whole peeled garlic. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for a few hours. Strain and discard all the gross stuff, but make sure to take the good meat off of the bone and set it aside.

Leftover idea 3: Turkey Soup

Depending on how much turkey you have left over, and stock you have, you can add more or less of the following ingredients, all diced up:

1 onion
2 medium carrots
3 stalks celery
1 celery root
2 potatoes
1 summer squash

(You can interchange whatever vegetables you may have laying around, and add the following)

Leftover turkey
Turkey stock
2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Leftover idea 4: Turkey hash

Dice the following:
1/4 onion (sweet vidalia)
Leftover acorn squash
Small potato
The last of the turkey

Sautee potato and onion together until onion is translucent and potato is cooked through. Add squash and turkey with some fresh thyme, cracked black pepper, and bacon fat. Serve with poached eggs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Excuse me, Miss, is that meat in your purse?

I've been a bit remiss at posting lately, but I'll have you know we've been demolishing our bathroom and dressing up like 80s rockstars, which requires a lot of energy.

I did get a short burst of motivation this past weekend, and cooked up a couple of recipes out of Cooking Light, which I'll share here.

1) Spicy Turkey Meatloaf, which I had in my purse for a brief stint this morning on my commute into work. And, which I used in scrambled eggs with some provolone tonight.
2) Whole wheat and flax banana bread, which I made into muffins since I don't have a loaf pan. At least I didn't use the Wok, people.

This is a quick one, but we'll be back soon with something more creative!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Asian-Italian Fusion Dumplings

After a few months of staring at each other, going to bed at 8:30, spending too much money at bars, actually going to the gym, whittling our own furniture, and (gasp!) reading, John and I broke down and ordered basic cable from Comcast. Trust me, if Rabbit Ears still worked for the TV, we'd use them. You know how they said that the over-75 set was throwing a fit at the digital switch? Well... let's just say we weren't too happy about it either.

So, when you only have 13 channels in English (I won't count Telemundo unless I go out and get some Berlitz Tapes, but I do love me some Rai every one and a while since I can actually understand it) PBS becomes more of a choice thing to watch. Ming Tsai the friggin' genius owner of Blue Ginger (The. Best. Restaurant. Ever. GO THERE!) has a show on PBS called Simply Ming, where he cooks with a guest and serves up some delish East Meets West cuisine. A few episodes ago he had the most important guest of all -- his mom -- and they made some amazing looking shaomai and other Asian dumplings.

In an East Meets West moment, John and I cooked up some Italian sausage-stuffed dumplings for some guests that came over this weekend. Here's how:

Round won-ton wrappers (makes little more than 1 package- we froze the rest)
4 Hot Italian sausages (take casing off)
Red Pepper (1/2)
Taiwan cabbage (1 head)
Carrots (1 medium)
Scallions (1 bunch - white part only)
Celery (1-2 stalks)
Ginger (fresh, 2 tbsp. diced)
3 Cloves garlic (diced)
Chicken stock (1/4 cup)
Soy sauce (1/4 cup)
Sesame oil (drizzle)

Dipping Sauce
Soy sauce (1/2 cup)
Rice wine vinegar (1/2 cup)
Sesame oil (drizzle)
Sriracha sauce (a few drops depending on how much you like spice)

Cook the sausage first and drain it (break it up into little pieces). Then add the vegetables (sliced and diced into very small pieces) and sauces and cook it down until everything's soft.

The hard part is stuffing these things - it takes forever. Of course, I did this part. If you have a round Won Ton wrapper, dip your finger in a bowl of water and trace the edge of the dumpling with your finger so it creates an adhesive. Put the stuffing in the middle (not too much) and fold in half. Then stick the two ends together if you're feeling saucy. We steamed these dumplings in a bamboo steamer, but you can pan-fry them as well in a little oil.

Speaking of sauce, in a small bowl mix the ingredients for the dipping sauce. It's the best part!

These things disappeared faster than a Masshole when he hits your parked car (No, that's never happened to me.)

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Zucchini

We found ourselves in a situation where we were out of almost anything it would take to make an acceptable meal, and finally went to the store earlier last week. We've been pretty busy this week (John's birthday!) so haven't had a ton of time or motivation to blog. But don't worry, we're still here. 

In San Francisco, John worked at Scala's Bistro, a restaurant in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square (If Tara is reading this she remembers the free dinners we used to get. The girlfriend of a chef doesn't get to actually hang out with her significant other, instead she gets appeased with free food. I guess the mentality is that chewing prevents one from bitching?)

Anyway, one of the best dishes at Scala's is the orecchiette pasta (pasta from my family's region of Italy, which means "little ears" in Italian - love or leave that visual when you actually eat this dish.) Here's a loose interpretation of it:

Red pepper (1/2)
Zucchini (1/2)
Balsamic vinegar (3 tbsp)
Olive Oil (2 tbsp)
Garlic (2 clove)
Spicy italian sausage (4)
White wine (enough to deglaze pan)
Chicken Stock 1 cup
Spicy red pepper flakes (pinch)
Butter (2 tbsp)
Flat-leaf parsley (1/4 cup diced)
Parmegiano Reggiano (grated)
Orecchiette (dry, 1 lb.)

Sauce: Dice the red pepper and zucchini and toss them in a pan with the balsamic vinegar until they're almost fully cooked. Then add the garlic, olive oil, and sausage (removed from casing and broken up into small pieces) and cook until the sausage is done. Add enough white wine to deglaze the pan (just to get the crispy bits off the bottom of the pan). Then add chicken stock and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and allow it to simmer down a bit. Once it's cooked down, add a few tablespoons of butter to make the sauce nice and creamy. Stir in the parsley (always add fresh herbs at the end!) Toss in the pasta and finish with some Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta: Also, you should have been boiling the pasta while this was going on... Man, I bet you're kicking yourself now!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The rest of the apples had been sitting in the fridge for days, and I felt powerless against them. But, not one to roll over and die like that, today I decided to battle the rest of the apples like Steven Segal in that movie where he goes into a coma for nine years, but emerges to kick ass and take names. 

John and I and some of our friends spent the morning running a 5k in the freezing rain, which made me feel motivated to be a little healthier. Then I took down a diner breakfast at Uncommon Ground in Watertown that three people could probably split. (It was worth it.)

Anyway, the point of my story is that I searched the internet for a (at least quasi) healthy apple recipe that would use up the rest of our crop. I found this Low Fat Apple Bread recipe online, and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand. (I made a cup of fresh, unsweetened apple sauce by cooking down about 3 apples with some water). Instead of making a single loaf, I decided to portion them out into muffins. My coworkers will hopefully help me eat these this week.

Remember how I said John refused to let me throw away the apple cores? (Or peels, for that matter?) Today, I have to say he took a page from Alton Brown's book and decided to make apple pectin (which can be used to thicken the filling for apple pies, make jelly, or create fruit-based sauces for meat dishes). He basically boiled all the cores and peels in a giant pot for an hour or so, and I'm assuming he'll strain out the solids. We'll freeze the remnants and probably use it around Thanksgiving. Here's a bit more about pectin. It's also pictured in the first photo of this post. If you can't tell that the second photo is the muffins, I have no words.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy Pancake Batman! (Starring: apples)

There are many things in this life I've never done. Among those things, I'd count jumping out of a plane, actually cleaning vertical blinds, and making pancakes without the presence of Bisquick. Luckily John's there to change that. 

This could be breakfast. This could be dinner. It's how us poor people (and not the "New Poor" for those who watch Always Sunny) have always disguised using low-cost pantry ingredients as a fun activity called "Breakfast For Dinner." Tonight we made a souflee-inspired pancake with caramelized apples. 

Mix the following in a large mixing bowl. In our case the Joyce Chen wok made another appearance.

1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 milk
Pinch of salt

Then, sear the following ingredients in a large frying pan until the apples become caramelized:

1-2 Apples, sliced thin
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Butter

Place the pancake batter over the sizzling apples and just flip it (flip it good!)

Warning: Split this with someone because it's massive!