Talk to people from the Middle East about hummus, and the first thing you hear is that this dip in the U.S. is nothing like the one they enjoy at home. According to my Israeli friend, the right variety of chickpeas play the leading role. Latin American chickpeas are better for soups and salads because they are larger, firmer, and stay whole when cooked. The best for hummus are pea-size chickpeas known as Baladi in Israel. They become soft and easily smashed between fingers when cooked. Unfortunately, in the United States, all chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are labeled the same, unless you shop for them at ethnic stores. And even if you make a trip to an ethnic grocery store, Indian for example, the chickpea names will be specific to Indian cuisine — larger Kabuli and smaller Desi aka chana dhal. Choosing the right chickpeas variety is not really an option for an average grocery shopper who craves for amazing hummus. What is the option then?
For me, the most inspiring part of the Modernist Bread pita section is the recipes with vegetable purees. I can’t describe how marvelously appetizing ramps flavored pita smells while baking! Ramps season is coming, and I have to share the recipe. This version is for the same-day pita, but feel free to slow down the bulk fermentation in the fridge and develop pita flavors even better.
Have you ever been served a dish with food so beautiful you felt it was a crime to eat it? Imagine a cook, who is so charmed by the natural beauty of raw ingredients and hesitates to cook them. That’s what I feel when I see Romanesco Broccoli. What is the best way to put it on a pedestal of our dinner plate? How to protect its color and shape? How to bring out its nutty flavor and crunchy texture?
I divide all Harissa recipes into three groups: basic, variable, and exquisite ones. For basic harissas, the list of ingredients is shorter — dried chiles bring heat and fruity flavors, cumin and coriander represent spices, garlic (often sun-dried) adds pungence, salt, and olive oil. Variable harissas may include sun-dried tomatoes and fire roasted sweet peppers, onion, and herbs. Extra fancy harissas have an extensive list of spices and herbs and even include Damask rosebuds. My recipe belongs to the second category.
Last year, out of curiosity I experimented with traditionally red Middle Eastern recipes — Zhoug, Harissa, Dukkah, Shakshuka — replacing red ingredients with locally available green and featuring Hatch green chile peppers. Everyone liked green harissa and green dukkah, but their combination in shakshuka was a hit.
Last year I finally discovered dukkah and it found its honorable place in my kitchen. I served many vegetable spreads, salads, casseroles, appetizers turning basic recipes into flavorful Middle Eastern delicacies with one simple step — sprinkling dukkah on top. Besides Ottolenghi’s recipe, I created a few my variations. The one with dry powdered Hatch is one of them.
Harissa is the basic flavoring agent in Tunisian cuisine. This recipe is based on Yotam Ottolenghi’s harissa recipe, which uses red hot chiles, tomato paste, red onion, and lemon juice. We are replacing all red with all green — green tomatoes, local green chiles, and key lime juice. This recipe is used for making Shakshuka with Hatch and Dukkah.
This recipe is an adaptation of southern Turkish style kebab, prepared in the oven. Eggplants are cooked twice — either grilled or fried first, and then baked with meat in a tomato and pepper sauce — to concentrate flavor. My version of Patlican Kebabi doesn’t look the same as Turkish, but the idea of vertical rolls allows to use large Italian eggplants we mostly have available in Central Texas.
Smoking grains with Camerons stovetop smoker is a no-brainer. Cook them to 80-90% of doneness, season, add some fat, and finish by smoking with wood chips of your choice. But if the introduction to smoked grains made you curious, you might want to try this recipe with Middle Eastern flavors. You can start without the Mandi spice mix or replace it with another Arabian mix you like and have handy.
Just reading the list of ingredients convinced me I have to make it: roasted hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, fennel and cumin seeds, dried green peppercorns, coriander seeds, sesame, nigella, sea salt, and sweet paprika. Ottolenghi suggests sprinkling this mix over leafy salads, roasted vegetables, bean pastes, and rice and legume dishes. “It adds an exotic charm,” — he says. And it’s true to the letter!