Free Range on Food: Hummus, stuffed challahs and more

Whipped Hummus.
Sep 09, 2015

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! 

Hope you're enjoying this week's food stuff -- including Maureen Abood's popular call to perfect your hummus into something heavenly (I can attest that it works!), Bonnie's take on Shulie Madnick's gorgeous stuffed/braided challahs for Rosh Hashanah; Carrie Allan's tale of the resurgence of rye whiskey; and more.

We've got Maureen in the house today to take all manner of hummus (and other Lebanese cooking) questions, and of course Carrie will help with the spirited queries, Jim S. (if he's able to join us) on barbecue, and us regulars of course!

So fire away.

We'll have cookbooks to give away to our favorite chatters today, as usual: a SIGNED copy of Maureen's "Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh and Classic Recipes From My Lebanese Kitchen"  and Kathy Hester's "The Easy Vegan Cookbook," source of this week's Weeknight Veg recipe.

Oh, and for you PostPoints members, the code for you to use to get points for joining us today is FR5968. Record and enter into the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's start!

Maureen Abood, you write a wonderful Love Song to Lebanese Hummus in today's WashPost: I did not know that Michigan is home to such a vibrant and lively Lebanese community – your Aunt Hilda sounds like a joy. About Hummus - I greatly enjoyed learning so much about WHY removing the skins from chickpeas is essential to smooth hummus, HOW to purchase and store tahini, HOW to tell the age of garlic, and HOW hummus gives very fine extra-virgin olive oil “its purpose in life”! May I ask what you think about the recipes appearing recently in which other types of beans and other vegetables are used as substitutes for chickpeas to make “Hummus”?

Thank you so much! We are seeing lots of "hummus" with no chickpeas, aren't we?! I think they are delicious dips, but I don't like to see "hummus" become a description for any type of dip. That will just dilute the real meaning of hummus over time, and that would be a serious pity!

The River Cottage Veg folks talk about their collection of "hummi," which did make me laugh, and I have to confess that I have propagated this terminology (especially in recommending a beautiful carrot "hummus") -- but I've converted to Maureen's way of thinking! It reminds me of other linguistic things that drive me a little nuts, such as "shrimp scampi," which is redundant when you know that scampi MEANS shrimp; or ordering a single "panini" even though panini is plural!

Whipped Hummus

RECIPE: Whipped Hummus

Carrot Hummus

RECIPE: Carrot Hummus

Good morning, Maureen Abood and Joe! Is it possible to make something hummus-like if I have sesame seeds but no prepared tahini? Can I make my own tahini? Thanks!

Hello! Homemade tahini is really not going to come out like the tahini you buy, which is smooth and rich and luscious. Homemade tahini is more like a grainy mash of sesame than the tahini we know and love.

I love -- LOVE -- this recipe. I recommended it to my sister, who's looking for healthy-yet-hearty recipes she and her family can eat, but she hates the texture of lentils. She'll eat red lentils because of how much they break down -- do you think she could use those, instead of green or brown lentils?

Yep, this is a good one! So glad you like it. I think your sister could certainly do this with red lentils -- it'll be, indeed, a softer sauce (and since the red lentils turn golden, it won't be as dark in color). Let us know how it goes!

Lentil Quinoa Bolognese Sauce

 

RECIPE: Lentil Quinoa Bolognese Sauce

BREAKING GIVEAWAY NEWS: We'll also have two pairs of tickets to this weekend's Curbside Cookoff, a food truck extravanganza, for another favorite chatter!

as chili is to meat? I am all for keeping names of recipes pure

That's right! It is chile con carne, which I used to invoke to promote the purity of a Texas bowl o' red. Now that I don't eat meat, I have softened my position -- on that dish, anyway.

I was always told that peeling the skins off of chickpeas results in the smoothest hummus you'll ever make (I've done it; these people are not wrong. It was spectacular). However, I recently came into possession of a Vitamix, and am wondering/hoping that I can now skip the peeling step in favor of a little extra "pulverization" time in the blender to get something almost as smooth and creamy. What do you all think? (Was I insane for even peeling chickpeas in the first place?) Thanks so much - you guys are great!

Well go right ahead and make a "lazy hummus" (love that phrase!)--it'll be tasty! BUT, even in a Vitamix (which I also have and have used for hummus), you can't avoid the flavor-dampening of the skins. You were far from insane to peel...you were spot on!

So my duck breasts were indeed skin free, so not much fat. I ended up doing a yaki marinade. My sister, the picky one, said they were delicious. Thanks for your help. Wanted to let you know that here in the NW, the hunters often just pull out the breast as the rest of the bird is pretty scrawny. No use in plucking if you are not using most of it. Just a slit and the breast pops out with the thumb after snipping the tendon. No skin at all. There were 12 in that one pack!

Thanks for the update. How/how long did you cook them?

Have subscribed for over 20 years and was just wondering if they have a strong bias against VA wines? I can count on one hand the number of articles or reviews that mention VA wines. Letters to editor and Facebook posts gets no response from the pretentious Dana! She has got to go!

I can't speak to Food & Wine magazine. But as a wine appreciator, I have spoken to numerous people who say they don't like Virginia wines. This makes my teeth grind, not because I'm a homer. But because I've tasted some truly delicious Virginia wines.

 

I like California wines, too, but that state also produces it share of plonk.

Thank you, thank you, Editor Joe and Maureen Abood! Your hummus looks wonderful and I can hardly wait to make it since mine is never as good as what I've had in restaurants and I didn't know why! Joe, in your video, did you follow Maureen Abood's recipe 100% or change some proportions? Did you get hold of the "perfect skinless chickpeas" she doesn't reveal the name of, or is there a perfect-enough kind available closer to home? I also have to ask, if one day I'm in a hurry and need to use pre-soaked, canned beans, are there still husks to rub off and should I measure the chick peas differently or do anything else differently? Do you have preferred brands of canned chick peas? Thank you both very much!

Great questions, thank you! You can find the peeled chickpeas at my own Maureen Abood Market. Canned chickpeas do have the skins on them and those need to be drained and heated with baking soda and then rubbed off in lots of water (but not cooked/boiled; they're already cooked). I go for organic brands but most grocery store varieties will do.

Oh, and in my video I followed Maureen's recipe, yes! Cooked those chickpeas from dried (which is my preference with all beans, really), using baking soda, skimmed and poured off the skins (and got some stragglers with my fingers), and, boom -- lusciousness resulted.

VIDEO: How to make the best hummus ever

The other day I made oatmeal cookies and, because I needed to get something else done while baking, wanted to bake them in a pan to cut up as bars, rather than making sheet after sheet of cookies. I ended up making them the usual way because I couldn't decide what size pan to press them into to make bars. Is there a rule of thumb to use for this purpose? I made the Smitten Kitchen recipe which called for 3/4 cup flour and 1.5 cups oats. And any tips on how long to bake as bars?

You can count on Nancy Baggett for a thoughtful, complete answer, and so we did. She says:

 

Hmm, tough questions. No rule of thumb, as it would depend on the ratio of fat, sugar, flour.  With only 3/4 cup flour and 1.5 oats I would guess a 7-by-11-inch pan would work well. I'd start with 20 minutes at perhaps 375 degrees F and drop the heat to 350 if it seems they are overbrowning. At 20 minutes I'd start checking the center with a toothpick for doneness, though I think they would actually take 25 minutes or a little more, especially if the dough is rich and wet.

I think the 9-by-13-inch pan would make very thin bars--maybe drier and crunchier, but that might be okay if that's what you were actually going for. Again, I'd start with 20 minutes but maybe bake at 350 degrees to avoid any change of burning.  A 9-inch square pan might also work if you were looking for more brownie-like bars. Try baking at 350 degrees and begin testing for doneness at 20 minutes, but expect them to actually take 25 to 30 minutes.

BTW, I often find that recipes for bars and muffins call for longer baking than they really need. A standard-size muffin will usually be baked through in 17-18 minutes but most peeps say 25--which dries them out. I've checked by pulling one out at 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 minutes and even loose batters are baked through at 17 (and continue to bake even after out of the oven).

Rye whiskey never went out of favor in US folk music. "It's Beefsteak when I'm hungry, rye whiskey when I'm dry, Greenbacks when I'm hard up, heaven when I die. It's a whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry, If I don't get rye whiskey, well, I think I will die." Each performer -- and there are many! -- has a different version. Here's Pete Seeger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFSAc3E1hWc and here's an actual moonshiner singing while he tests his latest batch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5gdcJnuI4I. Don't miss the comments under the videos, such as, 'The lyrics to the version I learned as a small child (and sang in church when the minister asked if I knew any songs about god and praying) were... "Rye whiskey rye whiskey rye whiske I pray, if I can't have rye whiskey, I'll go to my grave". ;-)' If you want to find even more versions, the song is sometimes combined with Jack of Diamonds.

I love it. I see a happy hour iPod mix forming.

I have about 10 normal sized poblanos. How can I use them? My husband doesn't like stuffed peppers, so I'd appreciate another use. Thanks!

Lots! Roast them/skin them; cut into strips and add to your favorite Latino dishes, or stir them into caramelizing onions to top your favorite grilled steak (smells divine) or puree the roasted ones for a sauce. Or just roast and freeze (skin-on). If you can dehydrate (low slow oven or a proper dehydrator), you'll wind up with dried anchos.

Recipewise (and there's more in our Recipe Finder, of course!):

Grilled Corn, Peach and Poblano Salad

Poblano, Bacon and Cheddar Skillet Corn Bread

Corn Poblano Soup

Quesadillas With Onion and Poblano

I have a poblano plant that's turned into a tree! Thankfully, I LOVE THEM. One of my favorite recipes in "Eat Your Vegetables" is for Poblano Tapenade: You combine them with olives, lime juice, ancho chili powder, garlic, capers and olive oil, and pulse in the food processor until combined but still chunky. GREAT STUFF. 

The story about hummus was really great. But wow, that's definitely a recipe with the long game in mind with the soaking, boiling and cooling taking up a lot of time. Is the flavor really markedly better than if you start with canned chickpeas? I know they take a while to peel, but considering the time of the steps with the dried beans, I can have a can of chickpeas peeled in like 15-20 minutes by slipping the skins off between my fingers.

Hello! The canned chickpeas, if peeled, will result in a great hummus, just like starting with dried. Even speedier is to use my pre-peeled chickpeas (shameless plug for something that is so great! At my market.)

I got some dried goji berries from the chinese market. I used them for overnight oats mostly. I went again to the market and noticed that a different brand of the goji berries explicitly says that they need to be cooked for 30 minutes before you eat them. Im a bit concerned now as the package that I bought didnt have these instructions, at least not in English and clearly I have been eating them raw.

I'm not aware of any caveat that says you can't eat them raw. Chatters?

So we (supposedly) have a quince bush in our backyard. Is the fruit of it edible, and if so, what could I make with it? It's small, and yellow in color, and frankly, over the years, I've just let it fall to the ground without doing anything with it (husband liked the way it looked, not necessarily for the fruit it bears).

Shulie Madnick, giver of stuffed challahs, also shared her quince knots with Post Food readers a few years back.

RECIPE Quince Honey Challah Knots

But there's also this #WeeknightVegetarian dish that might speak to you.

RECIPE Quince Stuffed With Farro, Nuts and Currants

Those stuffed quince are AMAZING. I love them so much. Don't forget, too, that if you bring in the quince and put them in a bowl on your countertop or kitchen table, they will release the most heavenly aroma. Intoxicating, really.

stuffed quince

Thanks for your help. I am tasked with baking Challah for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Monday night. I must work Monday, and would like to make the dough Sunday and bake the bread Monday morning. My recipe rises twice, then is shaped and rises once more before baking. I was thinking I could rise it once, then punch it down and refrigerate overnight for a slow rise - then remove the dough from the fridge to shape, rise and bake before going to work. Do you think this will work? Can you suggest another way to have fresh bread in the morning without staying home all day? (I don't have freezer space to freeze overnight.) Appreciate any advice! Thank you.

Looks like you can, using the technique you describe. You may have to increase the time of the final rise, due to the chilled dough. I'd think, though, you could use the wrap-and-freeze method in your fridge instead (completely cooled loaf, completely and tightly wrapped in foil, then tightly in plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight; remove plastic wrap only, leaving foil on, and reheat in a 350-oven till completely warmed through) and then you'll have an easier Monday morning....

I'm a pretty accomplished home cook, but have never really known what constitutes "one" shallot when a recipe calls for that. Is it one "clove?" Multiple "cloves" that are stuck together into one skin-covered shallot?

Think of the single shallot as the standard, so one of those constitutes "1 shallot" in the recipe ingredient list. Those multi-lobe/clove ones? Think of them as generous mutants (no GMO reference intended). Editor Joe likes to use "lobe" in his recipes.

I received some concord grapes in a recent CSA box. I decided to make a pie filling to freeze for a future date. I used a recipe from Saveur. The filling seems to be all liquid with tapioca as the thickening agent. Does that seem like the right consistency? Will the final result be like a jelly pie?

Sounds like it'll be the consistency of a custard pie. Check out these  Georgian grape puddings; the juice is thickened with cornmeal. They're terrific.

I don't even remember when this was, but in your chats you have emphasized how good roasting Brussels sprouts are. I had only every eaten steamed ones that had been frozen. I happened to catch a bag of fresh Brussels sprouts at the grocery store and bought them on a whim. I then roasted them with olive oil, salt and basalmic vinegar. Wow, they were so much better than any Brussels sprouts I had eaten before.

Great to hear!

They only took 8-10 minutes. Some smaller pieces were overdone, the others medium rare. One adventurous eater made a Mcduck/beef burger, triple layer it was decadent for sure.

Hi, I hope you can help with a spice question. I keep hearing about Harissa Powder (probably on these chats) and want to get some. I have my eye on a spice duo and the other one is Ras el Hanout. Should I start slow with the Harissa or go full in on the duo? Are they so different? I don't cook ethnic frequently, though maybe this will kickstart me?

Hello! You're going to love these spices! And yes, they're different--the harissa is hot-spicy, and the ras el hanout is a flavorful spice blend that isn't typically hot like harissa. I say: go for both!

When does squash come into season? When I asked my husband for ideas of things he'd like me to make, he said "squash!" I haven't really seen them at the market yet, but I'm hoping they will be there soon.

Where are you? In the DC area, I've already seen acorn and butternut squash in some farmers markets.

Hi, wouldn't removal of skins greatly diminish the fiber content of the hummus? That is one of the main reasons I like to eat garbanzos.

You're going to keep us all nice and healthy, thank you! Yes, more fiber with the skins, but still darn healthy without them. Plenty of people go for it with the skins, never minding what others consider lesser flavor and texture!

Lately I have had difficulty locating Halloumi, which is a nice vegetarian change of pace for our grilling. Is there a cheese to sub that will behave similarly on the grill?

Are you near/around DC? If not, provolone might be your best bet, as it's widely available and not so melty. Check out this annotated list of good grilling cheeses from Serious Eats.

      Gotta tell ya, there are few cheeses I've used that aren't great for grilling. Yes, some melt better than others. But I like to mix cheeses on sandwich for a complex texture/flavor. The other day, I made a grilled cheese with mild provolone, Bulgarian feta, and Asiago. Worked great. I added, btw, a slice of tomato because it is tomato season, after all. The thing I guess I would say is to let your imagination be your guide and, just like barbecue, go low and slow with the cooking.

I have never dried tomatoes, but I have a bunch of the end of the year tomatoes in the garden that I do not need for canning. These are San marzano tomatoes. Is there enough sun energy to dry them? Should I dry them in the oven? Any other suggestions?

You can dry them either way, but the natural, sun-drying process will take considerably longer, days in fact, and you will need some screens to keep the bugs away from your tomatoes as they enjoy their sun bath.

 

Here are some links to both processes:

 

Oven-dried tomatoes.

 

Sun-dried tomatoes.

Loved the feature and I'll give the whipped hummus recipe a try. I make it fairly often and to date my favorite method is Einat Admony's - not terribly different from yours except a little less tahini and cumin added. I tend to add a little smoked paprika too. http://www.eater.com/2015/6/20/8813077/best-hummus-recipe-video

Your hummus sounds great too! Thanks for sharing!

Recently, my boyfriend and I have been trying to eat vegetarian (leaning to mainly vegan). We've made some really good vegan recipes, but they've been so time consuming to make. I was hoping for some recipe suggestions for quick meals and items that we should keep our fridge/pantry stocked with for easy dinners. I come from a meat and potatoes family, and even though I've been cooking more adventurously the last 2-3 years, this is definitely new to me. Also, any suggestions for restaurants, especially quick service, that have good vegetarian options would be very much appreciated! We've been starving and stuck a few times and ending up cheating with some meat dish (shameful I know). Thanks!

Funny! I just wrote my column this week about an easy recipe, using as a jumping-off point this idea that I've heard repeated that veg cooking is more time-consuming than meat cooking, which I don't entirely buy. But I feel your pain! I'd encourage you to make building blocks of dishes on the weekends when you have time and then use those to make quick meals during the week. (Shameless promotion alert: I have a whole chapter of such recipes and more recipes that use them in my latest cookbook, "Eat Your Vegetables.")

That is, on the weekend roast a big pan of root vegetables, blanch or saute a bunch of greens, make a big pot of brown rice or other grain of choice, cook up a pot of beans from dried. Refrigerate them -- or in the case of the beans and rice, freeze them in quart-sized zip-top bags, the beans in their cooking liquid -- and then use them along with fresh produce to make chopped salads; grain bowls; pasta sauces; quickly pureed soups; and more.

Here, by the way, is the recipe I wrote about this week -- hopefully you can find inspiration in my Weeknight Veg recipes; I try to keep them quick!

Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

RECIPE: Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

As for restaurants, have you been to Beefsteak? That's a good one. And of course Sweetgreen. And G Sandwich. Those are some favorites.

I really enjoyed Carrie's article about rye whiskey this morning. In the last year, the Manhattan has become my favorite cocktail, and I always make it with rye. Do you have favorite ryes or recipes for Manhattans? I've been doing a 3:1 Bulleit rye to Dolin sweet vermouth that I think works rather well, although sometimes I like a 2:1 Rittenhouse rye to Dolin. Also, do you know whether Bulleit is pronounced "bullet" or "boo-lay" (or maybe some other way)? I'd like to know so I don't sound foolish if I've been saying it wrong. Thanks.

ARTICLE The remarkable resurgence of a liquor Prohibition almost killed

Thank you! I really like Whistlepig (Canadian origin and all), I like Catoctin's, I like McKenzie Rye a ton but usually drink it neat. And honestly, cheaper ones like Old Overholt and Rittenhouse do great for me in Manhattans. I tend to do most of my Manhattan-messing via the other ingredients (trying new vermouths, other bitters, etc. Carpano with a dash of chocolate bitters is a fave of mine.) And I like Bulleit -- which is pronounced like "bullet", I believe -- I met some of the Bulleit family at Tales this year and they weren't correcting that pronunciation. 

I get tons from my CSA box every summer. I roast on the grill until they're evenly blackened and freeze them, unpeeled, on a cookie sheet (to keep them separated). Then double bag for storage. They keep very well and the skins are easy to slip off when they begin to defrost.

Maureen, thanks for that tip on submerging the beans to get the skins off. I have always just rubbed them while in the colander and then am trying to get the skins off my fingers, while thinking "why would anyone do this?" smiley face

Oh my gosh yes, I have been there too, such a laborious process! Couldn't stand it or myself...until we ate the hummus. Then all was right with the world again.

Agreed!

Just a thank you to Joe! I'm finally an owner of a VitaMix after years of wanting one but not splurging. I finally did, a few weeks ago, and the final clincher in my mind is that you have never steered me wrong, and I know you are a fan. I love it, and am using it at least once a day, if not 2 or even 3 times. Why didn't I get one 20 years ago (well, besides the fact that I couldn't afford one then...but why not 5 years ago?) Anyway, thanks again!

So glad to hear! Thanks!

The quesadilla recipe reminds me: For quesadillas, if I put the top corn tortilla on while the bottom cooks, it curls up and splits and generally becomes a mess. Now I press it on right before flipping. But is there something else I should be doing to prevent this? (Or am I just buying cheap tortillas?)

Interesting -- yep, that can happen with dried-out tortillas. You could microwave them quickly before you start; that would probably help. But your method works well, too!

I've got a question about Lebanese cooking. I love Kibbeh, but every time I try to make them, no matter which recipe I use, they fall apart when I fry them. Any suggestions on why that might be, and how I can better get them to stick together?

Hmmm. I think you might need to use more bulgur in your recipe. Try my recipes for kibbeh and fried (arras) kibbeh here and here.

Hi Joe, I'd like to purchase your book. Who is your preferred supplier. I'm sure I could find it on the big A but I hear they are not so generous with their authors.

Hmm. I swear this is not a plant! Buy it from wherever you'd like, and whatever venue/store you prefer to support. I'm happy with whatever you choose! "The Big A," of course, or you might also check out Indiebound -- let's you put in a zip code and find a local seller!

Agree with Joe's suggestion of beans, make them on the weekend and keep cans of your favorites available for quick meals. Also, look into indian foods as there is a strong vegetarian thread there. I like Manjula's kitchen and have raved about it here before. I am an omnivore but love vegetables and often make meatless meals.

Do you have a recipe for gluten free challah bread that doesn't use corn or potato starch, or sorghum flour?

We do not! Have to work on that for next year. So check out Levana Kirschenbaum's recipe here. She's reliable.

Joe, Bonnie, Maureen, Tim, Carrie, and EVERYONE else contributing to this Food Live Chat, I just love the ideas, the recipes, and the food-fun being shared today! just as they are every Wednesday. This is a favorite Internet activity of mine. Cheers!

You're welcome! Cheers back!

If the chatter is into making jam, there's an old-timey jelly called "Paradise" that uses quinces with apples and cranberries. There are a number of recipes online, with different proportions, so you can choose which fruit you want to emphasize. This year I'm going to play up the cranberries. Easy-peasy, and divine.

Just wanted to thank you for the hard work and awesome recipes that go into the Food section! I made the Panzanella with White Beans  for the first time in July and it has been a weekly staple ever since. My spouse enjoyed it so much that he asked me if we could make August a "meatless month" which we did relying mostly on WaPo recipes and "Eat Your Vegetables". Thanks so much for the hard work you put into the Food section, recipes and your writing.

Wow! How nice! Lots of love on the chat today -- at least for now. ;-)

We are sharing culture and geography to my kids through food. It has been a fun way to try new foods from around the world (unintended consequence now they want to travel - whoops $$$!!). What are the best introductory foods for someone unfamiliar with Lebanese food to try? They are big fans of hummus and pita.

How wonderful that you're giving your children this gift! Every child who has ever eaten Lebanese Chicken and Hushweh comes back for more (it's a rice pilaf; recipe is here). Skewers are also a favorite, lamb or chicken with delicious sauces. The breads too--divine--like sesame talami loaves that my nephew can't get enough of. You might enjoy my new cookbook with these recipes and many many more, which is Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh and Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen.

We have a neighbor who is home bound recovering from surgery and we'd like to bring a meal by to help out. She is mostly vegan (I believe) and I am at a loss for something that can be prepared/refrigerated and reheated at her leisure. I eat vegetarian, but never vegan. Or is it simpler to bring over a box of fresh farm market fruits and veggies?

Why not make her a big pot of soup or stew?

Check out this West African Peanut Soup: It's a winner!

West African Peanut Stew

but for the new vegan/vegetarian, I do highly recommend a subscription to Vegetarian Times (yes, an actual paper magazine). It does a really good job introducing you to techniques, concepts, and facts like not all cheeses are vegetarian. Its on line site has a recipe finder that is also a terrific resource, and you can search for quick and easy as search terms.

Of course! Thanks for mentioning it -- and I don't consider it diminishing in the least. Room for lots of sources here, and they're great.

Love the line, "Hummus gives finishing oil its purpose in life." I made hummus from scratch the other day after having soaked and cooked dry chickpeas. Imagine my horror when I pulled it back out of the fridge to taste and discovered I had accidentally used the sunflower butter (the kids refused to eat for school lunches) instead of tahini. So disappointing. So as not to waste, I'm using it as a sandwich spread instead of my usual carrot and cucumber dip.

Oh you poor thing--to reach for a glorious hummus only to have your expectations dashed. Sounds like you will be back at it again soon!! Check out the incredible Lebanese olive oil I'm importing from Lebanon (my dad's village!) at Maureen Abood Market.

I love the wine column despite not being able to buy (or find) most of the wines featured. But so glad when I can. I've noticed that there isn't very much talk about Maryland wines - in comparison to Virginia or California wines - any reason for that?

Dave has written about Maryland wines on numerous occasions. But the disparity between his coverage of Md. vs. Va. wines probably reflects the state of the industry in each state.

 

A few years ago, Dave wrote about how Maryland is working hard to bounce back from some of its legacy problems.

The poster did not give their location, but in humid areas, sun drying will result in moldy tomatoes (peppers, too). Definitely use the oven if not a dehydrator. They don't last as long, but I love to partially dry them (plums are great this way also). Thanks for the quince recipe--I am always looking for savory vegetarian uses for them. Hope we get a good crop in the DC area this year!

That's a good point about humidity. I also wondered about fermentation, but couldn't find anything immediately to confirm that the fruits ferment during the sun-drying process.

A recent health issue has made me have to reduce the amount of meat in my world--but I'm having trouble coming up with satisfying non meat meals. I can't eat tofu. I have been perusing the Weeknight Vegetarian column for ideas (flagged the eggplant dish from a few weeks ago that everyone was raving about) but what are ways for me to get the satisfaction of meat protein, without the meat?

For me, two of the biggest ways to get this satisfaction you mention are by adding smoke flavors, if not through actual grilling, then through the use of smoked spices like smoked paprika, smoked salt, smoked pepper, along with chilies and other hot sauces; and by thinking about texture. If you can't eat tofu, you should be looking at lots of beans and other legumes, but for protein that also adds great texture make sure you're using lots of nuts!

About 15 years ago, I was a guest in Belgium for about a week, where I offered to cook a Middle Eastern dinner for the family and friends that hosted me before I left. We invited about 25 people whom I'd met during the trip and one of the appetizers I made was hummus. Being raised in the Middle East, I only knew hummus would have to be made without skins, I spent 2 hours the night before the dinner peeling skins of one kg of cooked chick peas in bed (I didn't want to make them uncomfortable by thinking I was laboring all night in the kitchen plus it was a farm house and the heat was turned off in main areas of the house once everyone went to their bedrooms). The dinner was success (I think it had about 10-12 other dishes in total) but now when I look back all I remember was laboring over the skins in bed! It never occurred to me that I could have made them with skins!!

What I would give to have been at that dinner! Delicious food lovingly prepared. What a remarkable spirit of hospitality not to let your guests know how you labored. Truly hallmark Middle Eastern. I love that you never even considered making hummus with the skins!

I'm a proud new owner. Got it to replace an old and ailing model and I mainly use for tomatoes. I made some yellow squash chips. Any great ideas for things I *must* dehydrate?

I'll start, hope others weigh in.

Shiitake mushrooms! Asian pears! Mango!

Herbs, of course! And herb salts -- puree a couple cups of fresh herbs (start with basil and branch out) with 1/4 cup of kosher salt until it's a paste, and spread that out and dehydrate it. Then crumble it into a jar to sprinkle on, well, everything.

I've been experimenting all summer to find a riced cauliflower dish I could truly love. I may have found it. This salad is even better left over when the dressing has a chance to permeate. http://heritagefarmersmarket.blogspot.com/2015/07/mediterranean-cauliflower-salad.html

Maureen - Thanks for the great article and recipe on hummus. My SO and I have had a lot of hummus all over the middle east and never disliked any of it. However whenever I make it at home (using a recipe similar to yours) and add the tahini needed to get the smooth silky texture it seems to overwhelm the flavor of the hummus. Could it just be the brand of tahini thats causing it?

Absolutely the tahini. Bitter, no-good tahini has ruined a lot of my own hummus over the years. Try the brands I recommend in the story (and peel your chickpeas) and I think you'll be happy!

You can make a very simple and luscious dessert with them if you poach them in wine with sugar. In Turkey it's a common dessert: simply peel and cut in half, scoop out the seeds (but make sure to keep the seeds) keep in water with lemon juice until you prep all of them. Sprinkle with a good amount of sugar (and water if necessary but most of them won't need it), add the seeds (gives the dessert a gelatinous texture) and a couple of cloves, let it simmer until the fruit is soft. Serve with whipped cream or mascarpone - divine!!! You can also grate them and make a jam, also very tasty!. If you get tired of them give me a call I'll come and take them off your hands, we had quince trees while I was growing up and I miss it a lot, hard to find fresh ones and pay $3.99 for a small unripe quince when I want to swim in them!!

Divine indeed! I can practically taste it!

I have no doubt that peeling the chickpeas makes a difference in the texture of hummus. But as I read the description of how to do it, it felt a bit like trying to get a poinsettia to re-bloom: a satisfying end result, but likely more effort than it's worth. When testing the recipe, how long did it take (especially the first time)?

With the baking soda added, it went pretty quickly -- most came off by just skimming and then pouring off (and straining the liquid), and then I spent maybe another 15-20 minutes popping off the stragglers by hand. That was the first time. It went more quickly in later rounds when I realized I could vigorously stir the beans to get more of the skins to float, and skim them off. Fewer stragglers.

I have a pretty pricey bottle of cranberry liqueur that is getting on in age. Question 1: Does it go bad? There is some sticky residue on the inside of the bottle. Question 2: I have been using it as flavor in sparkling water with some gin/vodka, but do you have any recipes for cocktails that I can use it in?

I would try it as a cassis replacer in a Kir Royale, and maybe with a little orange alcohol (not necessarily liqueur, because I'm not sure how sweet it is) along with that gin. Consider some herbs as garnish, too -- thyme, rosemary would be a great fragrance to add. Might try it with tonic water and lime as well, depending on that sweetness factor? Liqueurs usually won't go bad, though they may lose some brightness over time.

I have created my own heaven by using ground turkey and adding harissa and ras el hanout. Turkey is such a great blank canvas!

At Water and Wall in Arlington, they have a beet salad composed of cooked, pickled, and dried beets that is a revelation---so I'd put some beets in that baby!

Thanks!!

Kids and I went apple picking over the weekend and you can imagine the outcome. Now I've never had the confidence to deal with a pie crust so I'm hoping you have several alternatives for me to try.

Many ways to go, but I think you should start with Dorie Greenspan's crust in her blueberry pie recipe. You can make it in a food processor and roll it out right away.

Blueberry Pie

 

Even simpler: The crust in this recipe. (Double the amount, so you can make a two-crust pie.) It's not a flaky one, but more like a shortbread. You don't have to roll it out -- just press into your pie plate and refrigerate till firm. Bake the bottom first; add your filling then top with second crust.

A friend asked about sour cherries over the weekend -- when are they available?

You missed 'em -- they're early summer.

On WTOP this morning someone posited this may be the last 90 degree day of the year. I can only hope. I am looking forward to pressure cooker curries and apple cake. What about youse guys? Any new techniques, recipes, ingredients you'd care to share?

Stay tuned! We'll have lots to share with you over the coming months, of course!

Thank you for reestablishing primacy of the chick pea in this delicious dish.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the large quince fruits that are needed for those recipes come from trees, and are not the same fruit as what you get from those small bushes.

Hmm. Throwing this back out to crowdsource!

From a Michigander of Lebanese heritage living in the South: I make a great hummus but never seem to have much success with baba ghanoush. It tastes bland without any of the great smoky notes . Any hints? By the way, I'm gifting your book to my 8 siblings, most of whom live in Michigan.

Hello my fellow Michigander! Thanks so much for sharing my book with your family--I'm honored. For the eggplant, charring over a wood fire is optimal. Then a gas grill or flame. Last but not least, broiling, which I do often even though it lacks the real smokey flavor you're wanting.

    I agree with Maureen. Which is to say, use a grill if you can. Ideally, you smoke/grill the eggplant. Do this one of two ways: on the grate over a charcoal fire with some wood chips until the eggplant collapses or directly atop the wood embers, turning frequently. The latter does not give you quite the same depth of smoke, but it crisps the skin, which, used sparingly, adds a fantastic flavor and texture to the baba ghanoush, and, believe me, compared with just using the oven, it adds plenty of great smoke flavor. Either way is great.

So...I get it, I should peel my chickpeas, but do you think that's a task that I could do in advance (like when I actually have time) and then freeze the husked/skinned/peeled chickpeas for when I actually want the hummus?

Yes, freeze away! Just be sure they're completely, TOTALLY defrosted when you use them or else they will not puree smoothly.

I would love to try to make a bit of homemade donner for the house. Such amazing food, which I can't find the real thing in DC. Can it be done at home without the spit?

      It won't be quite the same, but you can grill strips of lamb (or beef) over a charcoal fire, then pile them into a pita with tomato, pickle, onion, whatever you prefer. 

Lahmajoun. That's what we kids loved back in the day. I think it was probably my first taste of Lebanese food.

So very very delicious!

My Lebanese mother-in-law used to make these delicious small eggplants (first boiled slightly) stuffed with ground walnuts, loads of garlic, and salt, after which they were put in a jar and covered for several days with olive oil. They were exquisite sliced, and fragrant with the garlic-infused walnuts. My dear MIL is gone, and I've lost the recipe. Does this recipe sound familiar, and do you have a recipe? Thanks!

Oh my gosh--someone else asked me about these recently. I know these delightful eggplant, and now I will get going on developing a recipe for them. Stay tuned for this at Maureenabood.com!

Can I put in a quick word on the earlier critique of the wine column? It seems to me that local vendors are always included in the wine descriptions and given the unique picks i'm sure they don't stay stocked in mass quantities or for very long. Also i personally have not had a MD wine that i've found very appealing. So thanks for the good work on the wine columns!

I am usually a "from scratch" type of cook but have had a poor history making crusts. The one time I made great ones, I stashed the extras in the freezer and my spouse tossed them a month later. Anyway, Aldi's sells them in the refrigerator section , two to a box. I've been making quiches out of CSA zukes and mushrooms all summer.

This is great and really simple. Found it years ago in a Cuban-based cookbook. Just puree canned black beans (drained!) with a clove or two (or more, if you're' me) of garlic, some good olive oil, and tahini if you have it. Great with crackers, tortilla chips, pita, raw vegs, etc.

All manner of beans make a great spread. I like to cook pinto beans from dried (that cooking liquid makes them so delicious) with roasted garlic and smoked paprika and cumin. Delicious.

a good electric spice grinder?

The old blade coffee grinder that you don't need anymore because you upgraded to a much better burr grinder! Seriously, the best is just the cheapest coffee grinder you can find, IMHO.

This is in my old version of the Joy of Cooking (the one I inherited) and is truly the easiest and best pie crust ever. It is impossible to mess up. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/bernaies-flour-paste-pie-crust-50090160

My home town, but in recent years just a visitor. One that that hasn't changed is the quality of the barbecue, The BEST! My favorite is Corky's. Others are partial to several other places, particularly The Rendezvous. For an update on Memphis restaurants, I suggest reading Memphis Magazine, http://www.memphismagazine.com/Food-Wine/

    Don't miss Payne's barbecue. 

Hi, do you have any favorite "add-ins" to your hummus, using herbs? Suggestions for quantities, combinations, etc? Thanks!

I believe it's safe to say that Maureen is a purist and wants none of that in her hummus! I would agree. Save the herbs for something else! (You could certainly put fresh herbs in a wrap WITH the hummus -- or sprinkle on top. I'm thinking parsley!)

Joe, I really appreciate fast ideas such as this. I have a recipe similar to this and to save more time (in a roundabout way) I bake a sweet potato maybe a day ahead of time. It makes it seem faster if I already have a cooked potato in the fridge. http://engine2diet.com/recipe/black-bean-and-sweet-potato-quesadillas/

Absolutely -- Roast a bunch, and use them for all sorts of things. I'm a sweet potato obsessive.

actually, i DO have an old blade grinder that i retired when i bought a burr! so thank you!!!

Cool! Great.

Well, you've pureed us until super-smooth, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great questions, and thanks to Maureen, Jim and Carrie for helping answer them!

Now, for the giveaway books: The new vegetarians who worried about how much time cooking takes will get, of course, "The Easy Vegan Cookbook." The chatter whose question we posted FIRST ("Let's hear it for hummus!") will get a signed copy of Maureen's "Rose Water & Orange Blossoms." And the chatter who suggested the rye-whiskey play list sounds like the type who might appreciate tickets to the Curbside Cookoff (if he/she is local, that is!) Winners, send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, reading -- and hummus-making!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Maureen Abood
Maureen Abood is the author of "Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh and Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen" and blogs about cooking at www.maureenabood.com, where she also sells a hummus kit and peeled chickpeas.
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