May – Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

May – Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

When is hummus not really hummus? For the sake of total accuracy, when should you no longer call it hummus?

Here is the official definition in the dictionary:

noun:
Middle Eastern Cookery. a paste or dip made of chickpeas mashed with oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini and usually eaten with pita.
Origin of hummus:
From the dialectal Arabic word ḥummuṣ, ḥəmmoṣ chickpeas
 
So, technically speaking, if it doesn’t contain chickpeas, it should not be called hummus. But recipes without chickpeas and still calling themselves hummus are everywhere. And they are delicious even though they are incorrectly named. I especially adore the ones made with roasted vegetables such as the one on the Chef Mimi Blog for Roasted Carrot Hummus or the delightful variety on the blog Foodbod by Elaine. Sometimes vegetables are also added to a regular hummus (made with chickpeas) to increase the nutritional value and flavor (I guess those can be officially called hummus). Including cooked mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash is a wonderful and colorful idea during the holidays. Keep a bowl of these vegetable spreads in your fridge for snacking or adding to sandwiches. A hummus and avocado sandwich with thinly sliced onion and cucumber on whole grain bread is a quick powerhouse lunch.
So, I am going to defy technical and other accuracies and call this rendition with roasted cauliflower hummus. After all, it is a wonderful dip for pita bread or raw veggies, and it looks like hummus. It contains all the other ingredients of hummus, but no chickpeas. Instead you use one of my favorite vegetables, roasted cauliflower. I recently served this at my bookclub when it was my turn to host, no one was able to identify the secret ingredient. The guessing game was great fun.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis, the subtitle says it all, simple recipes for cooking through the seasons. This is a cookbook that will see regular use, becoming stained with grease spots and filled with notations. The book is filled with healthy and delicious recipes, simple but often with a clever twist. It is mostly vegetarian but not entirely. Ms. Bemis and her husband own and run tumblewood farm in Oregon and the book features seasonal produce from their fields. I found this book inspirational even for a “farm” that consists of a few raised beds. I wish I lived close enough to Portland to join their CSA group.

Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

Here is the recipe for the mystery ingredient.
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower head, broken into small florets
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peels left on
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin, toasted if you have time (the recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon but I love cumin)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C)
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or baking paper. Toss the cauliflower and garlic cloves with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread out in one layer on the sheet.
  3. Roast until the cauliflower is tender and brown on the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Let the vegetables cool slightly, then gently squeeze the garlic from their skins into the bowl of a food processor.
  5. Into the same bowl, combine the cauliflower, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne and the garlic cloves squeezed from the skin.
  6. Process until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and push the mixture back down as needed. Add warm tap water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin for a creamier texture.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper. Repulse to mix.

This will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. It is nice to give it a few hours of chilling time for the flavors to mellow.

When I make it next time I will probably add a little more garlic and olive oil to the processor.

When chilled spread on crisp crackers or pita bread,

or my favorite, sliced cucumber.

May – Sous vide asparagus

May – Sous vide asparagus

Yes, you can use your sous vide machine for vegetables. It isn’t the answer for all vegetables though, you do need to be selective. So far I have cooked carrots and asparagus with wonderful success. We usually grill or roast asparagus, and it is delicious that way. Asparagus cooked by sous vide is similar to steamed but with a wonderful crunch and intense asparagus flavor. All the vitamins are intact and that green grassy taste jumps into your mouth with every bite. And sous vide timing is very forgiving, you don’t have to worry if you are distracted for a few minutes. Roasted or steamed asparagus will overcook in 30 seconds; turning drab, mushy and unappealing. Limp asparagus is not attractive. Sous vide asparagus stays bright green and crisp, the stem just as tender at the tips.

Sous Vide Asparagus

Method:

  • Preheat the water with your sous vide machine to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
  • Encase the asparagus in a vacuum bag or large zip lock bag (you may want to put a teaspoon in the bottom of the bag first). Try to get the asparagus in one layer. If you need to use two bags, separate the asparagus by size.
  • Season as desired. For example lemon salt, butter, coconut oil, mint, slices of lemon, etc.

    Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt

  • If using vacuum, seal on the moist setting.

    Asparagus in Vacuum Bag

    • Once your water bath has heated to the appropriate temperature, add the asparagus to the hot water and set your timer for 10 minutes. Thicker spears may need to cook for longer, maybe 12 minutes. That is the reason for two bags if the spears in your bunch are different sizes. Squeeze the bottom of a spear to see if they are done to your liking.
    • Cut open the bag and slide the asparagus onto a plate. Or, cool in an ice bag for using cold or reheating later.

You may note that this bag does not have a teaspoon, big error. As the contents of the bag heat, the air expands, causing it to float. I had to put a weight on top to keep the asparagus under water. Next time I will add that teaspoon. Don’t make my mistake.

Sous Vide Asparagus

The photo is fuzzy because of the steam rising. We couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating. Yum!

May – Wild Rice and Black Bean Salad

May – Wild Rice and Black Bean Salad

Black bean and wild rice salad is a flexible dish, it even doesn’t have to be a salad. You could serve it warm as well. Modify this very versatile recipe for the occasion and your taste. Add some shredded cheddar or crumbled goat cheese and it could be the center of a vegetarian feast. It is a perfect side dish for a BBQ or pot luck. Best of all it can be made a few hours ahead, it doesn’t require any last minute attention other than a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. The flavors will improve by sitting for a few hours. If made ahead, refrigerate the salad and bring it up to cool room temperature, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

I know that wild rice can be pricy. Modify by using leftover cooked brown rice, it would work as a substitute. When I cook any kind of rice I always prepare more than I will use. Day old rice makes the best fried rice, and cooked rice freezes well in heavy duty freezer bags. Portion as much as you will need for a meal. label it, and pop it in the freezer. When you want to use it, add a few drops of water to the bag and reheat in the microwave.

Wild Rice and Black Bean Salad

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups of cooked and drained black beans)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup uncooked)
  • 1 bunch of spring onions or scallions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 English or thin skinned cucumber, chopped into cubes (if using a regular cuke, peel and seed it first)
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper (depending on desired heat)
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon and/or lime juice, about 1/4 cup
  • Olive oil, about 1/4-1/2 cup
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

METHOD

  1. Prepare the wild rice according to package directions, drain and cool.
  2. In a large bowl mix the black beans, onions, garlic, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red pepper together.
  3. Add the chili powder, cumin, red pepper and salt. Taste and see if it needs any additional seasoning.
  4. Toss with the juice of a lemon or 2 limes, then add the olive oil. I start with the smallest amount and taste, adding more if needed.
  5. Serve, or chill until serving time. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

    Wild Rice and Black Bean Salad

 

I am taking this salad to Fiesta Friday #171. It will be a perfect balance to the array of dishes brought by other bloggers. Click here to read the posts, please add your own to the party.

 

 

May – Sous vide pork tenderloin

May – Sous vide pork tenderloin

Pork, like chicken breasts, is not something I cook very frequently. In my opinion, commercial pork has had the flavor bred out out of it with the fat. The campaign “the other white meat” did not make it popular in my kitchen.

From Wikipedia I found the following history and thought it was interesting.

“Pork. The Other White Meat.” was an advertising slogan developed by advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987 for the National Pork Board. The campaign was paid for using a checkoff fee (tax) collected from the initial sale of all pigs and pork products, including imports. In traditional culinary terminology, pork is considered a white meat, but the nutritional studies comparing white and red meat treat pork as red, as does the United States Department of Agriculture.

With a program promoting pork using the slogan as a lean meat to health-conscious consumers, pork sales in the United States rose 20%, reaching $30 billion annually by 1991.

Well, it didn’t work for our household. In fact, we mostly swore off pork as tasteless and dry. Until I discovered sous vide pork tenderloin and chops. Something magical happens in that water bath, a whole new world of cooking opened up. The pork was tender and juicy all the way through.

This chart came from the site Serious Eats, you can click here to see the original recipe.

Recommended Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Temperatures

Temp and Time Doneness Result
130°F/54°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium-rare Buttery-tender; very juicy
140°F/60°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium Firm but still tender; moderately juicy
150°F/66°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium-well Fully firm; moderately juicy
160°F/71°C for 1 to 4 hours Well-done Dry, with a firm, tacky texture

I used 140 degrees F and cooked the tenderloins for 2 hours. To finish I have both browned them in a cast iron skillet on high heat, and used a hot BBQ. Both were delicious.

Pork Tenderloin finished in a cast iron skillet

And done the browning on a very hot BBG grill.

Pork Tenderloin finished on the BBQ

In all cases the pork was tender and juicy.

Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin

I served the pork with a fruit salsa on the side. You could also brush it with your favorite BBQ sauce while on the BBQ to further caramelize the outside.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 -2  pork tenderloins
  • Favorite rub

EQUIPMENT

  • Vacuum sealer or good quality ziplock freezer bags
  • Sous Vide machine
  • Cast iron skillet or BBQ

METHOD

  1. Preheat the water in your pot (I use a large stockpot) to the desired temperature with the sour vide machine
  2. Rub the pork with your desired seasoning. I used my home made fennel spice rub once and a purchased rub the second time.

    Mustard Mistress Rub

  3. Seal in a vacuum bag on the moist setting. Or place in a large freezer zip log bag.

    Pork Tenderloin

    Pork Tenderloin with Rub

  4. Once your water has heated to the desired temperature, place the pork in the water. If using a freezer bag, slowly lower the bag into the water, as you go you will displace the air in the top of the bag (be careful not to let any water get into the bag), once the air has been displaced, seal the bag.
  5. When cooked for the desired length of time, remove the bag from the water bath. If not using immediately, cool the sealed bag with the pork tenderloin in a cold water bath for an hour before refrigerating.
  6. If cooking immediately, heat your BBQ or a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add a little oil (grape seed recommended) to the pan and brown the pork before serving. Don’t worry, it will brown up nicely, it doesn’t look very appetizing when you first remove it from the bag.

    Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

Who doesn’t love chicken breasts? Me, that is who. Until I tried them sous vide. Oh my! They are an entirely different experience. If you have ever had a chicken breast in a good restaurant and were shocked at the perfect texture and delicious flavor (did you ask yourself “How did they do that?”), chances are that it was prepared sous vide. Sous Vide has been a standard technique in restaurant kitchens for years but the machines were far too expensive for most home cooks, costing in the thousands of dollars. Not any more. You can pick one up on sale for under $200 and even closer to $100 if you keep a sharp eye out. You will find my first post describing the sous vide wand here. I notice that Amazon carries a well respected brand, the Anova.

If you are watching your weight or health, here is the good part. You don’t need to add any additional fat or oil to take advantage of that wonderful flavor. Plus you can cook the breasts ahead of time (a couple of days), then finish them just before dinner. That makes them almost easier than a rotisserie chicken and better for you as they don’t have all those “additives” the grocery store or deli uses to keep their chickens moist. You will save money because you purchase the bone in, skin on breasts. Buy them when on sale, season as described below, put in individual vacuum sealed or freezer bags, and pop in the freezer. No need to defrost, cook them frozen, adding an additional 30 minutes to the time.

Once they are cooked, it is easy to strip the breast off the bone. Chicken cooked on the bone will have far more flavor than those you buy already boned and skinned. And they are much less expensive.

We just returned from two amazing holidays, two weeks in France and a cruise in the Caribbean. I had to celebrate my retirement, right? The result is that I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen, and am anxious to concentrate on healthy food before summer gets going in full swing. Too much delicious food and wine has added a few pounds and my clothes are tight…uncomfortably tight. Sigh. It sure was fun.

But, with this kind of food you don’t need to feel deprived.

I pre-seasoned the breasts (curry powder, 5-spice, fennel spice, chili, BBQ, slice of lemon, sprig of fresh herbs, etc.), vacuum sealed them in labeled bags (a good quality freezer zip lock bag also works), and cooked them while I was busy doing something else in the kitchen. They don’t need any attention. It only takes an hour but is forgiving enough to be left for two if something distracts you.

A few minutes before you want to serve dinner, preheat a skillet on high (cast iron works well). Cut open the bag with the chicken and peel the breast off the bone, it should come off easily. You may want to add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, use something that can tolerate high heat (such as grape seed) without burning. Add the chicken to the hot skillet, skin side down to brown. I press it gently with the side of a spatula. A good trick is to place the thicker edge against the side of the skillet so it will brown as well. Leave it for a few minutes to caramelize. Turn it over to briefly to brown and heat the other (bone, but now boneless) side. That’s all. Serve with a fresh vegetable and starch of your choice. Mashed potatoes would be excellent; double sigh, not for me.Sous vide chicken

This recipe is for 4 breasts, serving 4 – 6 (easily multiplied)

Sous vide chicken breast – basic method

  • 4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • seasoning of choice. For example BBQ rub, fresh herbs, lemon slices, curry powder, etc.
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. Preheat your sous vide water to 150 degrees F for moist chicken, still slightly soft. You will finish them in a hot pan.
  2. Season and seal each chicken breast in either a vacuum bag (seal on moist setting) or in a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag (you will use the water displacement method to remove most of the air).

    Fennel Spice Rub

  3. Once hot, place the bags in the heated water. The vacuum bags should sink below the water level. For zip lock bags, gently push the bottom of the bag into the water displacing the air (without getting any water into the opening). Once near the top, seal the bag. Trick: if the bags don’t sink to the bottom, you can put a teaspoon into the bag with the food.
  4. Cook the chicken for at least an hour, as long as two is fine. My chicken breasts were quite large so I cooked them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If frozen add another 30 or 40 minutes to the time.
  5. If you are not going to finish and eat them immediately, cool the bags in an ice water bath for an hour, then refrigerate. You want them to cool quickly to avoid food poisoning. If properly refrigerated the chicken will be fine for 2 or 3 days. I cooked mine the night before.
  6. When ready to eat, remove the chicken from the bag and gently pull off the breast bone. If they are cold this might take a bit more elbow grease but the bone should release from the meat.
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once very hot, add a slick of high temperature oil like grape seed and brown the chicken on all sides.

    Sous vide chicken breasts in cast iron pan.

  8. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.

    sous vide chicken breasts

    Tender and delicious, juicy and moist without a bit of dryness, plus a crisp skin from the hot frying pan. It was a wonderful contrast of textures. Use the best quality chicken breasts you can find as the flavor really comes through. 

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #170 hosted by Angie.  The co-hosts this week are Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to see all the yummy food other bloggers are bringing to the party.