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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Pretzelmaker

Mike made a special treat for us yesterday - homemade soft pretzels.  In general, he likes to make things that involve yeast:  wine, beer, bread.  Those are his specialties.

Pretzels are not that difficult to make, but involve a few more steps than your average bread product.  First you mix the dough:

pretzel dough

Then you roll it:

pretzel rolling

Then you form it:

formed pretzel

Then you boil it:

boiling pretzels

Then you drip it:

hot boiled pretzels

Then you dress it:

ready to bake pretzels

Then you bake it:

toasty pretzel

Then you dip it in jalapeno cheese sauce and honey dijon mustard and enjoy it so much you forget to take a picture.

Mmm, pretzels!  Here is a link to the recipe if you want to try it at home.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Make your own hummous

It was my several-year stint of living in Halifax that introduced me to hummous.  A large Lebanese population and restaurants such as Venus Pizza (one of my favorites for Lebanese food!) meant that hummous was relatively ubiquitous in the Halifax community.  That was also when I noticed that all major grocery store chains were carrying multiple brands of the stuff.  A staple in middle-eastern cuisine, it's a garlicky chickpea spread usually served with pita bread.  Aside from that basic description, there are endless variations of hummous that can be created. 

I started making my own probably four years ago.  I've had to tweak the recipe since then, but as of now, I'm very happy with my own version.  Once you are happy with your own recipe, you'll find it hard to pay $2.99 at the grocery store for something you can make at home for about half that price!

Here are most of the ingredients I usually use:

Hummous supplies

My hummous tends to be on the lemony side.  I think lemon is an absolutely necessary ingredient.


Now for the recipe.  This is one of those recipes where exact measurements are not that important.  But here is a rough guide: 


1 can chickpeas, very well rinsed and drained
~ 2 tbsp tahini
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder if you happen to be out of fresh!)
juice of two lemons
Sriracha (Rooster) hot sauce to taste
water as required to smooth texture


lemon zest
olive oil
sesame seeds
fresh parsley
... etc., etc.

Combine all main ingredients into a blender.  I use a hand blender with a food-processing attachment.  Blend until smooth.  I will often add water to thin out the texture if the lemon juice wasn't enough.  Isn't that easy??  Yeah.  I know. 

Now for the fun part of garnishing.  I like to spread the hummous over a plate or shallow bowl, then drizzle it with a nice fruity extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with paprika.  Fresh parsley or lemon zest makes a nice finishing touch.  Today, we had roasted sesame seeds so I threw some of those on, too.

Ready to eat!

We had our hummous with toasted whole-wheat pita points.  It's also great with nachos, crackers, or fresh veggies.

Time to eat!

First bite

Five minutes later...

Disappearing fast

A little note on the serving dish:  it was a wedding present from my Aunt Sharon and family - thanks guys!  It's the perfect dish, a handmade pottery plate with a very high edge.  It's my official hummous-serving platter.

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I just enjoyed my lunch.  Let me know in the comments if you have any favorite flavour variations or garnish ideas for your own hummous.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


When I cook, I am always compelled to photograph the spices, once measured out into a prep bowl. Once the dish is made, the spices blend into a new flavour, and a new colour; I guess I like to document their distinct identities before that happens, to remind me of their individual contributions.

Apparently, I am not alone in my love of spice. Seems there are many Flickr members enamoured by the colours and textures of spice and their juxtaposition, as seen in my little gallery, above.  Following that link can connect you to the photographers responsible for the beautiful photographs above.  For more on Flickr galleries, see here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Black bean soup

Back to life, back to cooking!

For Christmas, my brother Evan gave Mike and I soup bowls and a soup cookbook.  The photography in the book is amazing (and I can attest that soup is not the most picturesque subject!).  The recipes are straightforward but still include 'chef's touches' like including flavour sachets and great tips on garnishing.  I salivated over the book throughout the holiday (literally) and finally christened it yesterday.

It took a while to select the inaugural recipe, but I finally settled on a black bean soup.  The main ingredients include onions, leeks and of course, black beans. 

black beans

This soup was my first experience with a 'sachet'.  I felt like a real chef making this thing!  The idea is to flavour the soup without overpowering it with your spices.  The little bundle simmers with the soup but is removed prior to serving.  My sachet included peppercorns, a dried cayenne pepper, a hunk of ginger root, and cumin seeds.


 tied sachet

The soup turned out very well.  I would definitely make it again, perhaps to start off a Mexican-themed meal.  Recipe is below.  I might recommend using slightly less broth if you'd like a thicker soup.  Also, do not omit the lemon juice and zest!  You might think it would go unnoticed in a huge pot of soup but it really shows up.  

black bean soup

Black Bean Soup

1 lb dried black beans
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 large leeks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
8 cups vegetable broth (more or less if desired)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

5-6 peppercorns
1 dried hot chili
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch of ginger root

2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 cup sour cream

Rinse beans.  Cover with at least three inches of water and bring to a boil; remove from heat and let stand, covered, for one hour.  Rinse with cold water and drain.

Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add leeks, onion, and garlic and saute until translucent (approx. ten minutes).  Add beans, broth, and sachet.  Simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour and a half, or until beans are soft.

Remove soup from heat and let stand for ten minutes.  Remove sachet.  Puree with immersion blender.  Add lemon zest and juice and add salt or pepper to taste.

Serve, garnished with sour cream (as above; a dollop of sour cream may sink in the soup), tomato, and green onion, accompanied by a buttered slice of hearty bread.

Recipe slightly modified, but credited to The New Book of Soups by the Culinary Institute of America.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A great track for you

Well, how stoked was I when I saw this link, sent out by Mighty Pop (the best music booking duo in Newfoundland, maybe the world!).  One of my favorite songstresses, Jenn Grant, teamed up with the Maritime rock staple In-Flight Safety to cover a Christmas classic.

Fairytale of New York has long been a favorite Christmas tune of mine.  Originally recorded by the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, it's become a classic. 

I know this post is link-heavy but there is just so much goodness here, I had to share!

Jenn Grant