Archives for posts with tag: mediterranean

For those of you not in the New York metropolitan area, Irene may have been one hell of a bitch. However, in NYC, the whole ordeal amounted to little more than a rainstorm. No, really. I stumbled home (about 5 blocks) at drunk o’clock early Sunday morning, when the “brunt” was passing through,  and managed to not only keep my umbrella over my head during “high wind gusts,” but also yell obscenities at two young kids making out up against a building. Maybe they thought the world was ending. We’ll find out in 9 months. 

ANYHOO, because of the city-wide shutdown and fear mongering, I was forced to think on my feet Friday while grabbing provisions because I knew the Saturday farmer’s market would be closed and the supermarkets would be flooded with anxious twats buying every fucking roll of toilet paper in Manhattan. I had picked up a couple of pints of figs one day earlier from my fruit stand man, all soft and ripe and delicious. One pint I ate fresh, but the other I had put a slow oven for a few hours on some aluminum foil with a bit of olive oil. The fruit came out with a deep caramel color, a rich sugary flavor, and a pleasantly chewy texture. Some of these, I ate as well. Wanting to expand on the fig’s Mediterranean provenance, I thought that some classic sandwich pairings would do well with my roasted figs. Luckily, my neighborhood is quite yuppie-licious, and the local specialty grocer was open late on Friday evening.

Your favorite bread, toasted + fresh mozzarella (unsalted) + kosher salt and fresh black pepper + roasted figs, sliced + prosciutto + arugula

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Apologies for not having any pictures of the finished product. I ate it. And it was good.

– Max.

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So you’ve made a big, fat batch of hummus. Delicious and healthful to be sure. “But Max!” you shout, “I want MORE!” Potential adult film plotlines aside, throwing together a spread of complementary dishes is not hard at all and can be executed (with a minute of planning and a modicum of talent) all at the same time. Here, in abbreviated form, is what I made to go with my chickpeas:

Salad á la Streetmeat Cart (but mo betta)

Slice some red cabbage (I used radicchio) into strips so you have about 2 cups. Take about half of a red onion and slice as thin as possible. Dice a tomato and chop up a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, the juice from two lemons, kosher salt, and some fresh black pepper. Let this sit in the refrigerator (with the hummus, which should be cooling down as well if you just made some) while you prepare the remaining dishes.

Now you don't have to wonder what they stuff your falafel sandwich with.

Note the bright colors. Those are the vitamins. Vitamins taste good.

Toasted Pita Chips

Start with regular packaged pitas. They should be cheap and the ingredient list should be short. Cut each pita into quarters and split the two halves to make 8 large quarters for each pita. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt. You will never fork over $3.99 for a 6oz bag of Stacy’s again.

flat bread = big taste

It's almost as easy as buying a bag of chips. And a quarter of the price. I'm serious. Just make them.

 Kabob Chicken, reconstructed (or not kabobbed)

Go out back and slaughter the fuck out of a chicken. Too old country? Nevermind. Start with either boneless and skinless breasts, or, if you want real flavor, boneless thighs (I only had breasts on hand at the time, so I went with those). Toss with (everyone say it with me) olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh black pepper. Next, sprinkle both sides with ground cumin and just a bit of dried oregano. You’ll be amazed how one spice and one herb can change the flavor profile of simple grilled chicken so dramatically. Cook over medium-high heat for 6-7 minutes per side.

Those are some nice looking breasts. Taste great, too!

Note: brown means flavor.

All three of these dishes can, if you’re not completely kitchen-incompetent, be prepared in about half an hour. That means if you make the salad first, by the time the chicken is cooked through and has had a minute to rest, you get to enjoy an entire meal.

It's like the Eastern Mediterranean in my mouth.

Almost as good as when you get it off of a cart. But much better for you.

 – Max.

During my formative cooking years, hummus was one of my standbys. It was the sole reason I used my family’s food processor, and boy did I spin up a whole lot of chickpeas. It was, and remains to this day, one of my favorite examples of a dish that is easy to make and superior to any packaged product on sale in the refrigerated section. However, I always found processed chickpeas to smell slightly funky and metallic, not surprising given that they are canned beans, and the texture never quite smooth enough.

One of the few things Jews and Arabs can agree on.

Meatheads, come and get your lean protein.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried chickpeas (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup tahini (or same amount of a sesame paste equivalent, explained below)
  • Juice of one large lemon (or two small)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • Reserved cooking liquid (explained below)

Procedure

  1. Soak. Put 8 ounces of chickpeas in a large container and cover with 4 – 5 cups of water and allow to soak overnight. (Note: for extra-soft skins, add 1 tsp. of baking soda). In the a.m., kiss the chickpeas good morning and make them some eggs. Also, rinse chickpeas and recover with another 4 – 5 cups of water and allow to soak for another few hours or until you are ready to cook.

    Picture can also be used as an after and before shot of Lindsay Lohan.

    Before and after shot of a sample chickpea. Note the immense and uncontrollable swelling.

  2. Simmer. Pour chickpeas and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Note: DO NOT add salt, as salted water won’t allow the beans to soften. Once rolling, lower heat and keep at an aggressive simmer (or limp boil, whichever you like) for 1 to 1.5 hours or until chickpeas are just soft and mash-able. Skim any foam and/or loose skins from the pot while cooking with a spoon, or if you’re Vin Diesel, your bare hand.

    We should probably recommend that Lohan keep away from this process.

    It's like a spa for beans. You know, a bean spa.

  3. Drain. Before draining chickpeas in a colander, reserve a cup or so of the cooking liquid to thin the hummus later. Do not drink this water, as it will taste like hot tea brewed from dried beans. Allow chickpeas to cool while you gather / prepare the other ingredients.
  4. Process.
    1. Spin garlic into rough mince.

      Note: do not insert face directly into food processor.

      Don't overspin the garlic, lest it not blend properly in the finished product

    2. Add chickpeas, run processor until relatively smooth.

      Given the steamy beans, do insert face into food processor and enjoy skin conditioning.

      They're all screaming, "YAY! Blend us into a smooth purée!" It's because they love the pain.

    3. Scrape down the bowl and process again briefly until smooth.

      When it looks like mashed potatoes, you know they're blended well enough.

      See how happy they are now? I told you they love the pain.

    4. Add tahini (clearly, i went for a substitute) and lemon juice and spin until very smooth.

      Hummus will taste a bit more roasty/nutty, which is okay be me. Also, tahini is like 8 bucks a jar in Manhattan.

      Duane Reade tahini. C'mon, they sell it everywhere! Okay, it's creamy peanut butter.

    5. With machine running, drizzle in olive oil and season hummus. If purée is thick, add some of the reserved liquid while the machine is on. Note: the hummus will thicken as it cools, so it should look a bit thin at first

      Again, not for drinking.

      Add reserved cooking liquid to the tune of at least 1/4 cup, and let the machine spin for a while to ensure an extra-smooth hummus.

  5. Chill.  Allow hummus to cool in the refrigerator (it definitely tastes better after it has a chance to cool down.)

Are dried chickpeas really better than canned? Absolutely. The texture is much finer and the taste is clean. But isn’t the long soak a total bitch, you ask? Not really, as long as you don’t stand and monitor the chickpeas every 10 minutes. Hell, i put them under water after a night of drinking, which attests to the user friendliness. The same goes for the stovetop cook — I essentially ignored the pot for an hour and a half and needed to skim the water only twice.

Stays tuned for a second installment, wherein I grill chicken breast, toast pita chips, and prepare a salad to complete my hummus odyssey. Note: it’s real good.

– Max.

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