Well, here it is... After much soul searching, a whole notebook worth of torn papers, a serious amount of head scratching, a deep long look at my life, and a draft that has been edited over 10 times so far with "inspirational" music playing in the background, my first post.
After gazing into the abyss, I had a moment of scintillating clarity: while I am passionate about many things, the one thing I can assure you I am the most passionate about is food.
I love food. I eat it everyday. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before going to bed.
I cook pretty often, though not nearly as much as I'd like to. Like anyone with a passion for food and a full-time job, I like to think that I will go home after a long day at work, grab the freshest ingredients, and cook something magical... While the truth is that at least 3 nights a week I'm eating labneh straight out of the box.
I don't have much of a plan here, I simply want to share the little know how that I have in the kitchen so maybe some of you might put it into good use. So, right off the bat: there won't be super elaborate recipes where you let your food meddle in a pot for hours, or where you need to make your pâte feuilletée from scratch. I mean, these are wonderful, terrific things, and I long for the day when I can make such recipes, but the reality of the situation is that when I get home, I need to be eating sooner than later.
Last night, while making dinner with a friend, we talked about the meals we sort of come up with in the spur of the moment. The problem with these is no one will accept to call them recipes, because they're more of a happenstance, and you're not likely to make them again with the exact same combination of ingredients. It's just something you made one day when you were hungry and happened to have a couple of things you could use on hand.
This is mostly the kind of cooking that I advocate for and live by, and I think, that if people were encouraged to cook this way it would mean they just might try cooking more often.
I love pumpkin, and over the past few years I have become incredibly annoyed with how little we use it here... so, over the past year I have been trying things with it, and this hummus is just perfect (especially if you're not sure if you like pumpkin). The flavor is mild enough and doesn't overpower the creamy hummus flavor. It's more of an aftertaste that adds a bit of a spark at the end of each bite. But, If you are not a fan of pumpkin in any way, you can replace the pumpkin with sweet potatoes, or if you are allergic to chickpeas (in which case, I am sorry), you can omit them and just use the pumpkin or sweet potato puree (it would be a good idea to throw in some chili and roasted garlic to shake things up a little). It's a very versatile recipe, and it's almost impossible to get it wrong. You just need play with the proportions to get to the right texture and flavor.
Serves 4 (or 2 really hungry people)
1 cup of pumpkin puree*
1 can of chickpeas (or glass jar), 400g
3 tablespoons of tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
A few tablespoons of water, just in case the hummus is still thick after adding the lemon and the tahini.
Drain the chickpeas into a strainer and rinse under cool running water. Combine the chickpeas, with the pumpkin (or sweet potato) puree and tahini in the food processor and blend until smooth. Depending on your food processor this might take a minute or two. Add lemon juice and salt and pulse again. If your lemon is large, then add the lemon juice in batches and taste until you get the right flavor.
Once the mixture is smooth and fully combined, tip it in a serving bowl and top with whatever you like (or have): black pepper, red pepper flakes, chili powder, bits of green onions, chives, you get the idea... Then drizzle with olive oil and you're good to go!
I like to serve this with bread obviously, but also some chopped vegetables; whatever I have on hand, carrots and colored peppers are great, but I also find it a great opportunity to use up the kohlrabi I buy every time I decide I want to eat healthier, but then forget about once the epiphany wears off.
* You can find canned pumpkin puree or in super markets, or you can make your own by either steaming, boiling, or roasting pumpkin in the oven. Roasted pumpkin will add a nice charred smoky flavor, but if you don't have enough time, steaming/boiling will work just fine.
SPINACH SALAD WITH FALL VEGETABLES AND POMEGRANATE MOLASSES DRESSING
1 bunch of bright green spinach
1 apple (and a pinch of lemon juice)
1 cup of sliced pumpkins
2 zucchinis sliced lengthwise
Pinch of salt
Pick the spinach, and discard any wilted or yellowish leaves. Cut off the stems, and wash thoroughly. Run through a salad spinner and transfer to a serving bowl.
Slice apple and toss with a little bit of lemon juice so it doesn't turn brown. Sprinkle on top of the spinach.
Take out a non-stick pan, drizzle it with olive oil (one turn around the pan), take a paper towel and wipe the pan to make sure the oil covers the entire surface. Turn on the heat to medium low, and wait for the pan to heat evenly, this should not take more than 2 minutes. Once the oil gets bubbly you're good to go.
Place the sliced zucchinis in the pan, salt and pepper to taste, and leave for 2 minutes on each side, or until they look done and are soft when pierced with a fork. I like my zucchinis slightly crunchy, so I take them off the heat a little sooner, but you know, whichever way you like it.
Transfer the grilled zucchinis to a plate to cool down a little. Then place the pumpkin on the grill. sprinkle with salt and pepper and let them sit there for a good 10 minutes (flipping halfway through). If you're really in a hurry, you can cover the pan with aluminum foil. This will allow the pumpkins to cook much faster. The pumpkins I used were quite large, but you can simply dice them into small cubes and they'll be done in half the time.
For the dressing. In a small bowl, pour about 1/3 of a cup of pomegranate molasses. Then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix until combined. Pomegranate molasses my vary in sweetness/sourness, and some brands might require more oil, so just go with your taste buds on this one. Add a pinch of salt, and congratulations, you just cooked yourself dinner!