Hummus that will make you happy, everytime.

Dried garbanzo, or chickpeas..

Buying hummus at the store used to be good enough for me…until I had the hummus at Azar’s – the local Middle Eastern restaurant – and a darn good one at that. But then sometimes you are driving by and thinking “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to swing by and have a nice plate of hummus and hot pita?” only to find that they are closed on a Saturday morning!!! Not that I necessarily expected them to be open on a Saturday morning, but when you want hummus, you WANT hummus. Luckily, my hubby found an amazing recipe on smittenkitchen.com and did a little tinkering so that now, anytime, anyhow, we have delicious hummus on hand.

One of the things that makes the biggest difference, and this was confirmed by the woman behind all the good food at Azar’s, is soaking and cooking your own beans. Luckily, while they are soaking, the beans don’t need a lot of attention. Just give them something good to read.

What you will need for the only recipe for hummus you will ever have to use for ever more:

4 cups dried garbanzo, or chickpeas

7-8 garlic cloves

1 cup fresh lemon juice (keep a few lemons around in case you want to add more juice to taste)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 15-ounce can of tahini (we prefer Joyva, but there are perfectly good other brands out there!)

Your first step is just to place about three cups of dried beans into a large bowl and fill with water, almost to the top. You want the beans to have lots of moisture to suck up!

Then set them aside, preferably in a cool place, and let them soak overnight.Or you could start them early in the morning and cook them that evening. Whatever works for your schedule. Soaking them for 12-24 hours (we usually soak for around 12 hours) reduces your cooking time by about a half an hour.

You’ll want to rinse the beans completely before putting them in a pot for cooking. Add enough water to cover the beans with an inch or two of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt (we like to air on the less-salty side, you can always add more when you are getting ready to serve it!) and simmer for an hour or two. You can check on the beans by removing one and cutting it in half – you won’t want to see any white chalkiness, that is an indication that they aren’t cooked through!

NOTE: When the beans are done cooking, DON’T FORGET TO SAVE SOME OF THE LIQUID! I forget about half the time, and I assure you, it’s always annoying!! The extra garbanzo liquid really adds some richness and garbanzo-y flavor, which is one thing I really love about this recipe.

Pretty Beans!

The beans will now be shiny and hydrated, and once they are cooled, it’s time to prep your other ingredients.

One of the other key methods to this hummus recipe is the garlic mash. We have a mortar and pestle, which works great for this, but you could probably use the end of a large knife (carefully and at your own discretion..no injuries on  my watch!) or the handle end of a ice cream scoop.

Mash it up!

Put your garlic cloves into a bowl, or the mortar and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt. This helps to break down the garlic and makes for a nice blending in once you add it to the other ingredients.

Such a cute little mash..

Once you have it nicely blended, set next to your cuisinart. Next, move on to your lemons. Depending on their size, you will need anywhere from six to ten lemons – the fresher the better. You will need about a cup. You might want some extra to adjust the flavor, but we generally use 1 cup.

Give the lemon a roll with some pressure to maximize juice-age.

The Great Lemon Massacre of 2011...

We have a great lemon juicer, yellow and with a hinge. However, if you don’t, you can always squeeze them over your fingers to catch the seeds, or pour through a strainer, which we usually do anyhow, when you are done.

Now you are just about ready. I would recommend giving your tahini a few swirls with a spatula so you aren’t stuck trying to free it from the container when you are mixing everything together.

Tahini! We love you!

Now that you’ve got your beans, tahini, lemon juice and garlic paste, it’s time to begin! I have tried to think of alternatives to the cuisinart, but it really helps if you have one. I haven’t ever tried it in a different appliance, but you might be able to make something happen with a blender..although you might have to mix it in batches…

First you want to combine the garlic paste and lemon juice. Make sure they are mixed completely and that you don’t have any globs of the garlic paste trying to escape the container. Scrape in the whole container of tahini, blend until smooth and combined. Here you can either add 1/2 cup of water or 1/2 cup of the preserved bean liquid, we use the bean liquid for a more potent flavor.

Next, add about four cups of the cooked beans and blend, adding more bean liquid and lemon juice to adjust the consistency and flavor to your liking. And blend, blend, blend. Let that baby blend. Seriously. Blend longer than you think you have to.

Smooooooooth...

To serve, spread hummus onto a plate, sprinkle with paprika and drizzle olive oil and chopped parsley on top. We are still working on a good pita recipe, but you can usually find something to suffice at the grocery store. And hey, if pita isn’t your thing, carrots are great, bell peppers are great, tomatoes are great, pretty much anything is great dipped in this hummus. Which is why it is a staple in our fridge!!

 

Attack of the parsley!

You can certainly go a little more easy on the parsley than I did here, but hey it’s good for you! Since you will likely have left-over beans, they go great on salads, as a snack all by themselves or toasted or fried up in any number of dishes. Garbanzo beans are a great way to add some nutrition and flavor to your meals!

Happy Hummus Eating!

 

Hummus!

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Posted in Beans, Side dishes | 3 Comments

Beans, beans the magical fruit…

Beans of every color!

Let me start with a quick revision of the popular bean-song: (feel free to sing along!)

“Beans, beans the magical fruit, if you soak them properly, then you won’t toot! But your body will thank you for how you feel, so eat your beans at every meal!!”

Ok, so you don’t have to REALLY eat your beans for every meal. But we are. At least for this month. It is our attempt at frugality aimed at saving some money to send to the relief effort in Japan. For us, the food budget is a place we can cut down in order to put some aside. Not to mention the nutritional benefits from eating beans, when properly soaked!

This first recipe is beyond easy and literally has four or five ingredients, depending on how you choose to approach it.

For the soup:

Bob’s Red Mill 13-bean soup (that’s right 13 kinds of beans and lentils! YES!) hopefully you can find this in the bulk section, but they also come in individual packets.

Bacon or a ham-hock (which they don’t sell at our local grocery, hence the bacon)

One or two of the following greens: collards, kale or cabbage

olive oil, salt and pepper

Ok, ok, with the last three, I think that brings the total # of ingredients to five! But hey, math was never my strong suit.

Next, you will want to throw 2 cups of the bean/lentil mix into a medium or large mixing bowl and fill with a generous amount of water.

Beans like a bath, don't you?

The soaking step is definitely an important one – not only does it reduce cooking time significantly, but it helps to remove the complex sugars (aka oligosaccharides) from the beans outer coating. These pesky sugars are what put the ‘toot’ in the magical bean song, if you know what I mean. Also, reducing the cooking time helps the beans retain their greatest percentage of nutritional benefit!

Put the beans off to the side, where they won’t get in the way and let them soak overnight.

When it is time to cook ’em up, throw 5 or 6 slices of bacon into your soup pot and render those babies. I’ve tried this without rendering, and it’s just not as good. If you are using the hock, just toss ‘er in right before you add the beans.

Take a moment to give the beans a good rinse. Unless you like eating dirt and god knows what else was on those shells….After your bacon is looking a little browned around the edges and some of its fat is now in the pan – toss in the beans and give them a mix around in those delicious bacon juices.

Add 2 and a half quarts – or six cups – of water and bring everything to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for a couple hours. See, I TOLD you it was easy! You can check the beans, if you aren’t sure about their doneness, by taking one of the biggest ones out and slicing it in half – you want no whitish chalkiness…

I LOVE putting some kind of sauteed greens on top of this soup. You will be surprised how flavorful all those beans, and ahem, bacon, tastes alone, but a nice topping of greens seems to balance it out just right.

This last time I used a combo of green cabbage and lacianato Kale – the dark, flatter leaves – first I remove the spines, then I chop them into thin strips (thinn-ISH, remember who you are talking to here) but roughly bite sized, since this makes it easier to eat. And I am all about that. I generally prefer collared greens, but they were out at the grocery store (what kind of place is this??). SO I improvised.

Heat up a medium sized pan – preferably stainless steel – with a layer of olive oil on the bottom. Medium heat should do it, you want to hear a nice sizzle when you drop them in.

Toss the chopped greens into the pan once the oil is hot, sprinkle salt over the top and start mixing them around.

I usually only give them a minute or two, just softened but not over cooked. I like my greens with a little crunch left in them.

At this point, you can probably get your bowls ready, toss the bacon strips into the garbage (I know, I know, this is the ONLY painful part about this process…) and get ready for eatin’ time.

I'm feelin' the magic already...

Toss a nice pile of those greens on top and you are ready for a cost effective and nutritionally bursting meal. This will leave you feeling truly satisfied, with yourself and your body will say ‘Thanks!’ And not ‘Toot!’

Place in tupperware containers. You might need a couple because this makes enough soup to last a couple days. And now you have made many meals for very little money and effort! Bon appetit!

Posted in Beans, Soups | Leave a comment

Just finished a Finnish coffee braid…

This recipe is from a fellow (though far superior) food blog that I adore: http://desertcandy.blogspot.com/ She explores and explains her love of Middle Eastern cooking, one of my personal favs. I love how much thought and care she puts into the background of each recipe – you can certainly learn a lot from visiting her site.

My rounds don’t look as pretty as hers, but my nickname around the kitchen is “rough chop” so it’s ok with me! Besides, you really can’t go wrong with the flavor, so get creative with your shapes and add your own personal touch!

This recipe is easy, easy, easy. And when you are done, looking at your browned braids, you feel like a professional baker..even if only for as long as the bread lasts! Which usually isn’t long. I also like that the recipe is made for two loaves, so you can make one for yourself and give one away! One for me, one for you! I’ve added a quick and easy honey butter recipe that pairs deliciously with the orangy – cardamon-y flavors in the bread.

So, on to the recipe:

What you will need:

For the bread:

2 and 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) of active dry yeast

3 tablespoons warm water

1 cup milk  (I used whole)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamon

Grated peel of 1 orange

appx. five cups of all-purpose flour

For the glaze:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon milk (again, I used whole)

For the honey-butter:

You guess it!

4 tablespoons butter (you’ll want to take this out of the fridge when you start, so it’s nice and soft for mixing)

1-2 tablespoons honey

First, you want to get those yeast activated. Since I’ve had some frustrating experiences with yeast and temperature fluctuations, I pre-warm the metal bowl in my mixer, just to be extra-encouraging to those little yeast. I do this by turning the metal mixing bowl upside down in the sink and running some warm water over it. While this is happening, I measure out the yeast and since I need some warm water anyhow – it’ll be ready!

Give them a warm little bath, and they WILL reward you!

Next, you want to melt the butter into the whole milk. For easier melting, slice the butter into tablespoons. Pour the cup of whole milk into a pot on the stove and warm, with butter pieces, until the butter is melted – but be careful not to let the milk boil.

The Sea of Butter and Milk...

You’ll want to keep an eye on this and remove it from the heat as soon as the butter melts. Otherwise you will be waiting a long while for it to cool back down to a temperature that won’t end the lives of your yeast prematurely!

I had to spend a little time whisking and cooling my milk in the fridge before it was an appropriate temperature.

While it’s cooling, measure out your sugar, salt and cardamon. You can probably get cardamon pre-grounded, but we buy the pods and they require smashing. Angry at anyone? Another great opportunity to take it out!

Whisk a couple eggs in a small bowl or measuring cup.

For the zesting, we have a microplane – they aren’t too expensive, maybe ten bucks at target, but they are a great tool in the kitchen. They are good for all sorts of spices, like whole nutmeg, and orange zest, also it makes a nice grate for cheese. I’m sure there are tons of other uses, but those are the ones off the top of my head.

Watch your fingers!

Next step is to add the milk mix, the sugar-spice mix, and the zest to the yeast – being sure to test the milk thoroughly for temperature.

Mix together with a wooden spoon, and attach your dough hook, if you are using an electric mixer. Next, you’ll want to add the flour, one cup at a time, until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. I used all five cups of flour, but just watch the dough’s consistency as you go along.

Not ready yet!

dough ball!

Once the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl – it’s time for kneading! Either by hand or with the machine, knead until the dough is smooth and cohesive.

Now it’s time for a break! Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap until it is doubled. Again, in our frigid kitchen, I give my doughs a little extra support by turning on the oven to 200-250 degrees (F) and placing the bowl above a burner.

So, while you’re waiting for the dough to rise, which may take up to two hours, it’s a great time to throw together the honey-butter. If you forgot to take the butter out, just do it now and wait until the second rest to mix it together – not one needs the uphill battle of hard butter!

I just throw half a stick or a whole stick of butter into a small tupperware container, and pour the honey on top. Let your taste buds guide you here, some like it sweeter, like me! and some more buttery – like me! Ok, you caught me, I like it both ways..and I’m always looking for an excuse to spread thicker layers of butter on whatever it is that I’m eating..so it’s your call!

Squish ’em together – very technical cooking terms here. I use the back of a metal spoon.

..not particularly photogenic...but delicoius nonetheless!

Then cover that little container up and allow the flavors to mind meld!

Ok, back to the bread…a couple hours later..Punch your dough down and divide into two equal parts. In some cases I refer to “serious” measuring, but this isn’t one of these times! yay! So, just do you best to eye it. Unless you are a perfectionist..in which case, to the scale! I only use the scale when either (a) my husband is in the kitchen with me, or (b) I’ve tried the recipe a few times without measuring only to fail miserably. So I am happy to report that the rules are not so stringent here!

Take each portion and divide it into three equal (ish) parts:

Looks about right, RIGHT?

 

Form each ball into a ropes that are of about equal length, aiming for 18-24 inches long..although mine have sort of consistently been a bit shorter than that!

Roll out! Roll out!

Next you want to connect the ends – like when you made friendship bracelets! If you were a dork like me…I’ll say it, I had a box of organized threads by color! Pretty awesome when you are 29, I mean, 12…

Get ready to braid!

As you braid the pieces together, pull the dough slightly for a tighter braid and be sure to adjust the pieces so they stay about the same thickness along the way.

Mine isn’t all that perfectly even, but I said TRY, right? 🙂

Next, you want to shape it into a round, pinching the ends together to form a full circle.

The ends might not be perfect, but kind of like how tanning evens out the skins imperfections, the browning on this loaf will distract from any irregularities in the shape!

Place onto a greased baking sheet, or in my case, a greased piece of parchment paper. I like the parchment because it keeps the baking sheet clean when you brush on the egg mixture and makes them really easy to slide off the sheet when done.

Cover with a dishtowel and let rest/rise for another 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled.

When they are getting close, preheat the oven, or in my case, turn the oven UP, to 350 degrees (F). Mix together the egg yolk and milk for your glaze. When the oven is ready, brush on your mixture.

Brush....brush, brush it on..

Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside. Pull out of oven and let cool on wire racks. After completely cooled, place into a large plastic bag for keeping. It’s sort of a squishy bread, but if it gets too squishy in the bag, just open it up for a couple hours.

Next, you’ll need to “test” your bread, with a healthy serving of honey-butter. Hey, if it’s only HALF butter, why hold back? I like to call it a butter ‘spread’ so I feel better about just how MUCH I put on there.

Mmmm yummy honey-butter, with hints of orange and cardamon..

Bon appetit! And be sure to check out the desert candy blog, there are tons of yummy and new things to try out there and lots to learn!

 

Posted in Bread | Leave a comment

The “No Turning Back” Brown Rice…

I say this because, well, we rarely make rice any other way..it’s just too easy…and too yummy to be inspired to do it other ways. And we even own a rice maker!!

MMmm tiny bits of toasted nuts and browned sweet onion..does it get any better?

This is one of those recipes of mystical origin. I believe it may have started with my grandmother on my dad’s side. She was fluent in Spanish and traveled to Spain and Mexico a lot. This recipe is sort of like the beginning of something called “Spanish” or “Mexican” rice, but you don’t add the tomatoes or cumin. So that may have been the original inspiration.

My dad just remembers the rice always being cooked this way. My grandmother also had a wonderful Spanish cook later on named Pepita. My dad talks about how they used to chat and switch between Spanish and English with lightening speed. I wish I could have been around THAT more!

What you’ll need:

1 whole or 1 half of a yellow or red onion

1 cup of brown rice, short grain or long grain

2 cups chicken stock

dash of salt

(Ten minutes prep time, 45-1hr cook time)

Most of the recipes I use have a little leeway and this one is no exception. Sometimes when we make it we use a whole sweet onion, other times just a half and sometimes a purple one just to mix it up. I haven’t tried with a white onion, but it would probably work, too. Traditionally, though, we use a sweet onion. They are just so darn good browned up!

So give your whole or half an onion a nice “rough” chop – or fine if that’s how you like it!

The hubby chopped these...it's why they look a little more "refined" in their chop...

Heat up some olive oil in a pot – if you have a ceramic one all the better for browning the onion, but metal works too! Non-stick won’t really get you there. You’ll have transparent onion bits, but maybe not as browned. You may also have to add a bit more olive oil if the onions start to look a little dry. Just keep an eye and trust your instincts!

This is our FAVORITE pot. Can't go wrong with a ceramic pot.

Add your chopped onions, and generously salt them. The salt helps to release the moisture in the onions and boosts their flavor. Sautee your onions until they turn yellow. Then let them get a little brown.

You won't regret waiting for a couple browned bits!

Next, you want to add your rice and mix it around in the pot with the onions and let the rice kernels get coated in olive oil. After about a minute of mixing around, add your two cups of chicken stock.

Pour it in!

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Sim-Sim-sim-sim...Simmer down now!

Put the lid on and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Keep an eye on it towards the end.

Starting to get there!

During this time, if you want to add nuts, you’ll want to get them toasted or ready in whatever way you choose. In the picture at the top, I toasted up some pine nuts (soooo flavorful and nutty!) and some almond slices in a small pan on the stove. Once they are browned, set aside to mix in at the end.

When your rice is ready, give it a few fluffs with a fork and toss in your nuts or other additions, perhaps yellow raisens, if you are wanting a little brighter sweetness in there. Mix ’em up and you are ready to go!

Bon Appetit!

Posted in Rice, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do you want THIS for breakfast?

YES!

I’ve tried a few recipes to unlock the secrets of a yummy, soft on the inside bagel and I think I’ve finally found it! It’s a pretty efficient little recipe, maybe a couple hours long. No fermenting in the fridge over night like others I have tried, just a couple rises/rests and you are ready to go.

I think it all started with a delicious bagel and cup of coffee at a little coffee shop near the University of Washington called The Bean and Bagel (1410 NE 40th St Seattle, WA 98105 (206) 547-5649). They have somewhat erratic hours of operation which is why I’ve included the phone number. I don’t want others to arrive  dreaming of a delicious toasted bagel with a variety of spreads to choose from only to find a closed shop window like I have on numerous occasions! Meh!

So, my hubby ordered a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lettuce, cucumber, and sprouts.And it sounded pretty good, so l did the same. Which turned out to be a good move, as it was refreshing and satisfying.  A hearty “salad” for breakfast.

Ever since then I have been dreaming of making my own yummy bagels. Who wants grocery store bagels when you can make them at home with better ingredients and with love ? Especially when you don’t live in or near NYC…

So, after a few failed attempts in the kitchen, I desperately typed in “soft and delicious bagel recipe” into my search engine, smearing flour over my keys,  and found this delightful posting, an answer to my bagel-shaped dreams.  I have made a few amendments in the spirit of flavor, accessible measuring increments and added a recipe for a killer green onion cream cheese for a spread.

If you want to be looking at this browned horizon, keep reading!...

 

First, the list of ingredients:

Bagels:

(note: I have included the original measurements, plus conversion into cups and “spoons” in case you don’t have a scale)

630 grams (or appx. 4 cups minus 2 tablespoons) bread flour

12 grams (or 3 teaspoons) instant yeast

100 mL and then 260 mL of lukewarm water

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 egg

sunflower (or vegetable) oil

2 teaspoons baking soda (or 1 tablespoon golden syrup)

For bagel glaze:

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

For topping:

whatever floats your boat!

oats, sesame seeds, garlic bits, onions, herbs, the sky’s the limit.

And lastly, but not leastly, Green Onion and Garlic Cream cheese:

Cream Cheese (duh!)

green onions

garlic power

TO THE BAGELS!!

(First-first: take the cream cheese out of the fridge..you’ll be glad you did!)

First, we must get those little yeast bits producing! Get 100ml of lukewarm water and add it to a medium bowl. Next, and this is because I find it easier to add the powdery and light yeast to the water and not the other way round, pour in your 3 tsp. (or 12 g) of yeast.

Don't be afraid to whisk the yeast with a fork!

Set bowl aside, preferably in a warmer part of the kitchen. In our case, that means on top of an oven at 200 degrees. Our kitchen is NOT warm.

Next, you’ll want to get your dry ingredients ready. Unfortunately, this calls for “serious” measuring. I say “serious” because while there are times that it doesn’t matter if you leave a little on the top of your measuring cup, there are also times like THESE, you know, “serious” times. Somewhere, my husband is smiling..or his ears are burning. In either case, the smile is probably smug, since my reputation in the kitchen is NOT one of precision!

NOT a cup of flour...

Yeaaa THAT'S a cup...

I did some weighing..and some light calculating..both things that make my head hurt, but in the end I found that King Arthur’s Bread flour is about 168 grams/cup. My rough conversion from the 630 grams called for is 3 full cups and one with two tablespoons removed. Kinda weird, but it works, and if you don’t have a scale or time..this should work for you.

Sieve or sift (interchangeable words for separating particles of different size) your flour and granulated sugar. I should mention here that the original recipe calls for 60 grams of castor sugar, a very fine ground sugar used in mousse and sorbet. I have tried it a couple different ways, and I found that five tablespoons of granulated sugar is a good amount of sweetness and something most people have in their baking cabinet!  For sifting, I use our strainer because it works just fine (I gently bounce it from side to side inside the bowl, keeping it below the edge of the bowl so I don’t end up with flour on the counter). I add the salt separately, otherwise it just gets caught in the mesh.

If you don’t have a mixer, sift into a bowl.

After the five minutes have passed since the water was added to the yeast, add the remaining 260mL of lukewarm water. I fill the measuring cup a hair above 250mL and it has worked out fine so far!

Give the liquid another couple swirls with the fork to make sure all the yeast bits are dissolving.

Then it’s time to add them all together!

If you are working in a bowl, mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together. In both cases you want to knead for about ten minutes. You may need to add a bit more bread flour at this time. Knead until you get a soft and springy dough.

 

The dough is coming together, but not ready yet...

The edges are smoothing down, and little to no bits are sticking to the sides of the bowl. We've made it! We're ready!

Next, you’ll want to prep another mixing bowl by greasing its sides with oil. I used sunflower oil, but vegetable oil would work too. Olive oil might be interesting to try as it may impart a little more of its flavor than the others. In any case, once the dough has come together in a ball I detach my bowl from the mixer. Then I sprinkle a little oil around it’s circumference.

Oil that dough!

I have a little trick that works with the electric mixing bowl because the sides are higher and angle straight up as opposed to out. But I just shake the whole bowl in a circle until the dough lets go of the sides and rolls around the base of the bowl, getting coated in oil. This may work in metal mixing bowls, because of the stick factor, and maybe also with ceramic ones, but I would be careful to not use too much oil in this case, as I could imagine a scenario with sloshing oil and dough that won’t roll. No good.

Plop that baby into your oiled mixing bowl and cover in plastic wrap until it has doubled in size. For the original recipe the time was estimated at fifteen minutes. However, in OUR kitchen, which is sort of like the arctic tundra, it takes a little more like twenty minutes to half an hour. Just look for the doubling. Sometimes I use the oven turned to 200 degrees to give everyone a boost, including me!

Of course, if you don’t see ANY action happening with the first fifteen minutes, you may have added something closer to “hot water” instead of ” lukewarm.” It happens. Just start over! I promise it’s worth it.

You WANT this, remember?

So, now you’re dough is rising. And you’re thinking: what delicious spreads will I alight upon my delicate and scrumptious bagel? My answer? Green Onion and Garlic cream cheese.

don't they look fresh and tasty?

I’m not sure where this idea came from. It was one of those things where you just start DOING something, chopping the onions, sprinkling the garlic powder in, and a second later you wake up, and sitting before you is something that could be really good …or really bad. In this case, it turned out pretty well, although I should warn that if you don’t like an onion-y flavor, then you may want to use half the bundle instead of the whole thing. I went a little green onion crazy.

Your choice: half a bunch or a whole bunch of green onions!

Spread that garlic powder around!

Then add the chopped onions to a tupperware with 8 oz.  of cream cheese inside (1 pack). Toss 1 teaspoon of garlic powder on top. Using the back of a metal spoon, squish the mixture until it is blended. It takes a few minutes to really work it in there. But the better you work it in, the better it will taste!

That’s going to be GOOOD on a bagel:

it's basically salad inside of cream cheese

Ok, snap on the top of the tupperware and pop it into the fridge. Let those flavors marinate. Your dough should be about ready by now, and if not, hey! maybe it’s time to make another kind of cream cheese! Sauteed onion? Red bell pepper and thyme?!

Ding! I'm ready!

Ok, now comes the hard part. You’re going to have to punch it. You have to punch your pretty dough. Good news is, it’ll be pretty again! Especially when you smother it in green onion – ok, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Once you punch the dough, lift it and place onto a floured surface. Using the palm of your hand, knead until the air bubbles have released and then an additional five minutes. You want to think “soft” and “springy.” And the exterior should be smooth and whole.

"Let me rest!" Said the bread. "For five minutes."

While the dough is resting, place parchment paper onto a baking sheet and brush with oil.

After the dough has rested five minutes, there will be another session of weighing, in honor of my dear husband, whose heart skips a beat every time I use the scale!

Note: If you don’t have a kitchen scale, my word of advice is this: if you are eyeballing the segments of dough, err on the side of too many, say 11 pieces, instead of too few, 9 pieces. I’ve done this once on the side of too few and they just end up taking too long to bake all the way through. Sigh.They just won’t be the same after that. So aim for 11 and just keep an eye on them in the oven.

For those of us with scales, it’s back to the drawing books! Get your bowl positioned, “zero out,” and lay your dough inside. If I recall correctly mine weighed around 1080 grams, so divided by 10 pieces, each should weigh 108 grams. I know, I know, I’m SUCH a math whiz.

Here is another revision to the bagel shaping called for in the original recipe, via my mom. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten slightly into a small, even disc.

Take your thumb and place it in the center of the disc, and press through, pinching with your other fingers in back. Thanks, mom!:

Arrggggg!!!

You will have to do a little ripping through the dough, and a little squishing around to seal the edges. I also found that swinging the dough around my two first fingers, like a mini pizza dough tosser, helped even out the seam. While it does not a perfect bagel make, I find it to be a lot less hassle than rolling each dough ball into an even strip and then squishing the ends together. But to each his own, if you are a roll-squisher, by all means, be my guest!

feast your eyes on....RAW BAGELS!

Next, cover with a kitchen towel and let these little dough rings rest for 20-25 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Preferably a large soup pot, with a wide opening.

Turn your oven to 350F degrees (200C). Make sure the rack is in the middle.

Prepare the last baking sheet with a second sheet of parchment and a sprinkling of cornmeal. Place near the boiling water, as you will be transferring the bagels to this sheet for baking. You will also want to crack your egg into a bowl and mix it with a tablespoon of water. Get a brush out to apply the glaze. Get any toppings you have decided on nearby and ready for use! The time is nigh!

Once your bagels have rested, and your water is boiling, get your two teaspoons of baking soda. I add them one at a time, because well, it foams up a bit, kind of like those fake volcanoes you used to to make in science class. But it falls back down immediately and then you are ready!

Look at them go! Blub, blub..blub...Minute and a half on BOTH sides.

We use a clam spoon ( with the wire basket on one end?). But you can easily use a slotted spoon or a wooden spoon. Let them cook a minute and half on each side. I was surprised to see how much they grew during this part.

In our pot, three or four bagels at a time is a good fit. However, it might be different in yours! You just want the bagel to have a little “floating” room, and a bit to grow. So eyeball it!

Bagels in the Semi-Raw

Once your first set is down on the baking sheet and the next set is in the pot boiling away, get your brush and start covering the bagel tops and sides with the glaze.

Add the toppings of your choice. We usually do a combination of sesame seed bagels and oat bagels.

We're ready for the oven!

Place the bagels in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. I have generally found, in our oven, that it takes a bit longer than that to get a nice brown. You just want to keep an eye on them towards the end of the baking time. However, as we discovered last night, you can’t go too wrong!

We had about a zillion different cooking projects going on at once, good plan! My hubby was trying out his first Dashi, a Japanese soup stock. We were preparing dinner. And OF COURSE the bagels got left in the dust. What we learned, though, is that, well, they’re still great!

Even after ten EXTRA minutes. Total bake time: 35 minutes.

After 25 minutes of baking:

Both batches were delicious, and none of us had trouble scarfing them down.

When they are nicely browned, remove from oven and place onto wire rack to cool.

Then you’ll start to notice a bizarre and unrelenting pattern begin to develop.You’ll start with this:

Mmm..so soft and chewy...

Which will turn into this:

Qu'est-ce que cet ail? Qu'est-ce que cet oignon vert? Qu'est-ce que cet amour?

You may even spontaneously start speaking French. Though I’m not really sure why. But the pattern is not yet complete. You will be, sadly, left with this:

clean plate club?....Or barren desert of no-bagels?

Store in a tupperware if you can, but allow to dry a bit before sealing them in. If they aren’t dry enough and placed in a sealed container they can become chewy! Not after all that hard work! We have them out over night and then placed them into tupperware the next morning. You can also store then in a paper bag.

So this is me, signing off, hope you enjoyed the post and were inspired to give them a try. It puts a little pep in your step knowing how to make your own GOOD bagels!

Your Turn!!

 

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Delicious and Simple Roasted Tomato soup

Mmmm..homemade tomato soup...

Yummy, homemade roasted tomato soup demystified! Tomato soup, for me, has always been a mysterious concoction, usually via a can and with a list of ingredients it would take a day and half to read and longer to learn how to pronounce. But now, thanks to one half of a great recipe from epicurious.com, and a little tinkering, I don’t think I will ever want or have to buy it in the store again!

The recipe is simple, straightforward and contains all the ingredients that make sense in a tomato soup, and none that don’t! With a base of no more than 8 ingredients, and a nice creme fraiche (with three more items) to drizzle on top, you can’t go wrong.

What you need:

For the soup:

3 lbs. plum tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons shallot, dried oregano, unsalted butter, 1 and 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth, 1/4 cup heavy cream and a bit of lemon juice

For the drizzle:

creme fraiche, 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers, large garlic clove, salt

Let’s make some soup!

(preheat your oven to 350 degrees)

First, quarter the plum tomatoes lengthwise. Then prepare some baking sheets by covering them with foil. If your pan doesn’t have an edge – you might want to create one with the foil. I haven’t had a problem with this yet, but if your tomatoes are extra juicy, it could run over the edge – and believe me, my oven doesn’t need any help getting messy!

you are so pretty little tomatoes!

Arrange your tomato slices skin side down in whichever beautiful array you choose! You may need two pans if one isn’t large enough to give each little slice enough room to get good and caramelized. But that’s ok. Toss in 3 or four garlic cloves, papery skin still on. I am a fan of garlic, so I usually add a few more than the recipe calls for.

Put these little red beauties in the oven and roast for, well, the recipe says 45 minutes to an hour, but I usually have to go a little longer, more like an hour to an hour and a half. You want the underside of the skin to be browned and caramelized. Mmmm.

Oooh! Mama likes when tomatoes roast! They look wonderful and wrinkly when you pull them out and the house smells pretty darn good, too. Let them rest and cool while you get the soup base going.

Next, you want to “finely” chop 3 tablespoons of shallot. I say “finely” because as you will see from the photo below that my interpretation of the word “fine” is somewhat loose. If the idea of non-uniform and slightly detectable pieces of shallot makes you want to scream, you’ll want to take more time then I do! I don’t mind a rustic style soup, and this won’t be the only time in the recipe when you can choose a more refined method. Me?  I’m not so refined.

Put a large saucepan or soup pot on the stove and warm over medium-low heat. Toss in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and the shallots. Toss in the 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. The recipe from epicurious also tells you to add the salt and pepper here, though I’m not totally sure why. The salt could help the shallots release some moisture, but I do most of my salt and peppering to taste at the end of the process. Your choice!

After a few minutes, the shallots should be softened and fragrant. Now it’s time to add the tomatoes!

Before adding the roasted garlic, remove their papery skins and the tough little root end.

Next, pour in your 1 and 1/2 cups of either homemade or store bought low-sodium chicken broth.

Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes with a cover on the pot. While it’s working it’s soupy magic, you can move on to the delicious and a bit spicy drizzle:


Somewhere along the line, my hubby and I acquired a mini-cuisinart, for which I am eternally grateful. You probably already gleaned that I am not a “details” or “finely chopped” kind of cook – and this takes out a little grunt work in those areas. However, you still have to “finely chop” the jalapeno or serrano peppers, remove their seeds and the white stuff from their centers. BE WARNED: pepper oil in the eyes or on the face = ouchy! You can get around this by wearing gloves, as they recommend on epicurious, or you must thoroughly wash your hands. (Thoroughly = make the best and whitest lather you’ve ever seen..and don’t be shy about how much soap you use.)

Next, 0ne of my favorite new discoveries: the garlic-salt mash…it really makes a difference in the blending of the delicious garlic-ky flavor.

Mortar and pestle work wonderfully for this, but I imagine in it’s place you could use a heavy bowl and the end of a wooden spoon or something. Basically you just have to be able to smash the garlic clove repeatedly. It’s especially helpful if someone has annoyed you recently.

Also add your 1/2 teaspoon of salt, as this helps to break down the garlic fibers. And smash away! It will break into strands at first, but if you just keep going a little longer, it will miraculously turn into a smooth paste and you may never bother chopping garlic again!

Mix the chopped peppers, the garlic paste and 1/2 cup of creme fraiche in the cuisinart – or smash them together however you can. And voila! You have a yummy drizzle!

The soup should be ready for it’s final transformation. Here is another place where I and the epicurious recipe diverge. The official recipe call for you to blend the hot soup (IN BATCHES!) and then sieve it through a mesh to get rid of the chunks. Two problems I have with this are: I had a bad accident with exploding hot soup the first (AND LAST) time I tried to blend it in a blender. And I find it a little negligent when recipes don’t warn you about this little trick of physics wherever it is recommended! How should I know that it will blow the lid off, even if you are doing very small amounts?

And secondly, I sort of LIKE the little chunks…it’s a little more “rustic.” So, instead, I use an immersion blender in the pot, being sure to tip the pot so I don’t expose part of the blade and fling pipping hot soup onto myself or someone else.

Of course, if all you have is a blender, then just promise me you will proceed CAREFULLY and be sure to hold the top on with a gloved hand – and to go in very small batches, maybe a cup or two at a time. When you are finished you can just put it back in the pot, or sieve it and put it back into a cleaned pot, so you avoid whatever bits are still in there!

Note: you can also play with the consistency here and add a bit more broth.

The last and final step is whisking in the heavy cream, about 1/4 cup, a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. This creates the beautiful and creamy red color that we know and love in tomato soup!

Now you’ve done it! You’ve made your very own roasted tomato soup! As you may have noticed from the recipe on epicurious, there IS another half to this soup: the Roasted Yellow Pepper soup.  It’s also a delicious soup. But the truth is, both soups are wonderful enough to be served on their own. Learning this half can just be your first step, but I think it is certainly nice to have a simple and yummy tomato soup recipe on hand when you don’t feel like going the whole nine yards!

So get out there (or into your kitchen, more accurately), serve it up and drizzle it! Now you look like your very own gourmet chef with a soup that took about two hours to prepare!

Additional note: We found that the drizzle is more than you really need for the soup – so my husband had the inspiration to use it on some sauteed mahi – mahi. We also lightly caramelized some mango in a stainless steel pan to add a little sweetness to the fish. It turned out deliciously! And who doesn’t like using everything? I’m sure there’s lots of other things to do with the drizzle – if you do something interesting with it, send us a picture! Here is our fish:

Don't forget to sprinkle those little bits of salty crunchy fish skin on top! yum!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the soup!

Posted in Side dishes, Soups | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments