Mediterranean

Hummus


We have made a temporary move to Dallas, Texas! My husband is working on a show here called Misfit Garage. We will be here until July. Dallas is full of really tasty food, I have a new pant size to prove it:-) I’m still cooking at him when I’m not tempted to eat out. I’m sharing one of my favorite snacks today.

Everybody needs a good hummus recipe they can make. I love making homemade hummus. It’s easy, cheap, and it really is much better than what you can get at the store.  I think that is because store-bought brands skimp on the tahini and olive oil. Perhaps both for cost and so that nutrition facts fat content isn’t so scary.  My favorite hummus to make is the kind without any extra flavors. I want these things to be the stars: garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice.  To make a tasty plain hummus, you really need to be heavy handed with the tahini and lemon juice. And also the olive oil. This is what you’ll need:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup tahini (at least)
  • ½ cup e.v. olive oil (or more)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Small bunch fresh parsley (optional)
  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt- I like sheep’s milk yogurt like this brand
  • A little water if it needs to be thinner or use lemon juice if you have some.

The yogurt is totally optional. I add it if I have it.  Keep all these ingredients on hand at all times.  They’re all very versatile.  I think one of the best and easiest ways to make your cooking stand out is to buy a microplane zester and use it to add lemon zest and grated fresh garlic to your dishes. Makes a big difference!

  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Except the olive oil!
  2. Whirl around the ingredients. 
  3. Slowly pulse in the olive oil and then pulse steadily until very very smooth.
  4. Add a little more lemon juice or water and adjust the seasonings
I was very happy about the taste, but I think I added a little too much parsley. It had a green hue. I think I’ll add it towards the end next time.

Below you can see my Instagram story that I posted. You can follow me @travellovecook on Instagram.

 

 


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Mexico, North America

simple summer salsa

This recipe is not some new discovery. I’ve been making this since high school when I ordered my “Kitchen Quick” off of t.v. Saying “off of t.v.” feels really weird. But it wasn’t online. I had my mom call to order this kitchen quick for me and it came with a recipe for salsa. This Kitchen Quick really catapulted my cooking love.  It was basically a hand-powered food processor. My friends would tease me that I would never come and hang out on the weekends anymore because I wanted to stay home and make “sals” (right, Min). The salsa recipe called for fresh cilantro, but this was ’98 in Iowa and we only had dried. By about 2000, you could easily find fresh cilantro in the stores.  The first time I used the fresh I about croaked. Disgusting! Now I love it. I can’t get enough.

I realize that this is the most basic salsa, but I think that’s what makes it so good! This is so easy, and there are so many GOOD tomatoes out there right now. So take advantage! You only really need a chef’s knife and a cutting board, but if you like a more blended salsa, use a food processor (I’ve had this one for 11 years) or blender.

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 jalapenõ
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  1. chop the onion
  2. rinse the onion (rick bayless trick)
  3. chop all the veggies OR cut the veggies into large pieces and then put into the food processor or blender- including cilantro so skip step 5
  4. juice the lime and add it to the veggies
  5. chop and add the cilantro
  6. season with salt.

*besides fresh cilantro, I think that having a fresh salsa with enough lime and salt is key. It’s so important that it can make up for the fact that you have bad tomatoes.  Speaking of which, make this salsa even if you DON’T have tomatoes. Still good!

*I searched and searched for the Kitchen Quick infomercial youtube but I couldn’t find it.   I did find this creepy one though.

Anywhere and Everywhere

easter feast part two: spring pea salad

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine.  I’ve adapted it slightly. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it, probably at my friend Jamie’s house because she always has Food Network Magazine.  I’m surprised I even tried it because I’m not always wild about peas of any variety and my husband certainly is not.  It’s strange, Dirk is a pretty open guy when it comes to food.  He actually prides himself on it.  But he has this strange prejudice when it comes to springtime veggies.  That being said, we both love this recipe.  Can you believe it?  I will definitely admit that these ingredients sound a little suspect but the combination is really beautiful. Cook the peas to just tender. Don’t overcook!  The shallots are salty and sweet, the walnuts roasted and crunchy and the dates add even more sweetness to round the salad out perfectly.  What better addition to your Easter dinner than a recipe that is all about the renewing of the growing season? And dates? That’s totally a biblical food. Right?

One note: Unless you are a die-hard pea fan, only use the English peas if you can find fresh.  If you’re like me and you’re quite suspicious of peas you won’t want to use frozen. And I can’t even talk about canned.  Fresh peas that you shell yourself are an entirely different story.  If you find those at the store, definitely add them. I typically can’t find fresh peas, so I leave the English peas out.  I usually increase the amount of snow peas but 1/2-1 cup.

Kosher or coarse sea salt

2 cups shelled fresh English peas or thawed frozen peas (about 10 ounces)

2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 2-3 pieces 

1 cup snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced 

2 tablespoon walnut oil

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped pitted dates

⅛- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

 

snap peas
Thinly sliced snow peas. I used more than a cup because I didn’t use any English Peas.

 

About the walnut oil…you can definitely sub extra virgin olive oil and it will taste great.  But really, it’s worth looking for the walnut oil. It adds amazing flavor and it an oil that can stand up to some heat so you can use the rest of the bottle for cooking or in salads, no problem.  I used this brand:

I found it at Marczyk’s Fine Foods in Denver and I’m sure they would have it at Whole Foods too. Or order it here.

method:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add the snap peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain the peas and plunge into the ice water to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the walnut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts, dates, and cayenne and cook until the nuts are slightly toasted, about 1 more minute.

Drain the peas, shaking off the excess water, then add to the skillet (if using frozen peas, add them here). Add some salt and cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the walnut oil and toss. Add more salt and some freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Catalonia, Spain

Calçots

I’ve been having the good fortune of people giving bunches of large vegetables.  Not only are the bunches large, but the vegetables themselves…they’re large! Most of those carrots from Pachamama Farm were big daddies! Then, the very next day my husband and I were coming home from a walk and I see my elderly neighbor, Kim, with a large knife cutting away at these giant green onions.  Kim sees me and holds out half of her bunch and says they’re for me! Quite exciting!  I ran to her and accepted my gift.  Kim is always giving me vegetables and I do return the favor when my garden is producing in the summer.  In fact, we had a silly thing going on last summer where I gave her a zucchini plant and she insisted on giving me half of all it’s produce.  I also had two zucchini plants so I decided I would give her zucchini too. We just kept trading zucchini like that all summer.  

img_4215 So I had all these giant green onions and I knew I had to do right by them.  I decided to throw it out on instagram (follow me @travellovecook)…give me some ideas for these onions! My sister suggested the ever popular retro midwest card club appeteaser: wrap them in cream cheese and dried beef! Ok, first of all YUM. But oh yeah, that was a joke… My mom suggested slice them in salads. Ok, but I wanted something exciting Mom! As you can see I have quite the instagram following.  Finally, someone suggested grilling. Yes! I do a little internet search and I find that there’s this thing in Barcelona called Calçotada . A type of festival every spring where they grill a type of green onion that grows in Spain called “calçot”.  Click on that link, and you’ll learn more. So, they char grill these giant green onions and peel away the tough charred outer skin and eat the tender innard.  They dip them in romesco sauce a type of sauce with a pepper and almond base.  Finally, I had found something worthy of these giant green onion gifts.

Calcots

Large Spring or Green onions- If you’re in the states, try going to a

Course Salt

Olive Oil

Romesco Sauce:

1 Tablespoon higher heat oil such as avocado

5 garlic cloves in the skin

¼ onion cut into chunks

¼ cup raw almonds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

1 14 oz can tomatoes

3 dried chiles, I used guajillo, rehydrated in a bowl of hot water for about 20 minutes

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Make the Romesco sauce first. Heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium heat and then add the whole garlic cloves, still in their skin. I did this because I wanted them to have a roasted taste and not browned at all.

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Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the onion and some salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat stirring frequently.  You don’t want the almonds to burn at all! Next, add the breadcrumbs and the smoked paprika.  Cook for about another 1-2 minutes.  

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Take out the garlic cloves and remove the garlic from the skin. Transfer the garlic and the rest of the ingredients in the pan to a food processor.  Also add to the food processor the tomatoes, the chile peppers, red wine vinegar and about a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.  Blend all the ingredients.  It will take a while with those whole almonds. Then start slowly pulsing in your olive oil. The sauce should be blended but small chunks of almonds are fine and even quite pleasant. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper and even add a little more vinegar if you want.  I heard once that sometimes when you think that certain something is missing and you don’t know what it is, a splash of vinegar is what you need! You will have lots of leftover Romesco sauce.  That’s ok because you can use it for whatever! I tossed it with penne and that was good but I think some linguini would have been even better!

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Back to the calçots. Heat Your grill. You want the final temperature to be around 450-500 degrees.  Wash and dry your green onions.  Lay the on the hot grill. Leave the grill open. Just stand there now and don’t go do anything else because you may get distracted. Once one side is quite brown, use tongs to flip them over.  Don’t try to use those giant, awkward grill tongs.  Use tongs that you use inside and you’ll be much more dexterous with them. You’re going to get pretty mad if you drop one through the grates.  That’s why you want to use very large green onions.  Once, the other side is very brown too, almost black, they are done.  Put them on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with course salt. Serve the calçots with the romesco sauce.  Drizzle the romesco sauce with more olive oil and a sprinkling of course salt. Now peel away that outer layer, dip in the romesco, and enjoy all that delicious mess. 


Europe, France

pachamama farm carrots with cilantro pesto

My husband was given some carrots from Pachamama Farm, in Longmont, Colorado. These carrots had grown all winter and were delicious and sweet.  I love roasted carrots, but since these carrots were so fresh and flavorful on their own, I wanted to create a dish using them raw.  Growing up, we always had grated carrot in our salads.  I enjoyed this much more than chunks.  It was a way to give their flavor in a more delicate package. In French cuisine, shredded carrot salad is a classic and I always love to refer to it to make good use out of my carrots. For this recipe, I’m using long ribbons of carrots that are created using your vegetable peeler.  It’s like you’re peeling the skin and then you just keep on peeling! If you’re using organic carrots, just scrub them clean and use the whole carrot.  If not, then peel away the outer skin and then start saving the rest.  I mixed the carrot ribbons with cilantro pesto. Cilantro pesto is very easy to make and makes good use of the rest of your cilantro after you bought a bunch for a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons.

carrot ribbons with cilantro pesto


serves 8 small servings

ingredients:

6-8 carrots peeled or scrubbed clean if organic

pesto:

1/2 of a bunch of cilantro- very roughly chopped

1/2 cup cashews (other nuts like almonds or walnuts would be good)

1 garlic clove

1 lemon, juiced

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Using a vegetable peeler, peel long ribbons off of the carrot into a bowl. Put the cashews in a pan over medium heat. Shake them up quite a bit in the pan and heat until they are fragrant. Put the cilantro into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes if using, and some salt and pepper to the food processor.  Pulse until well combined. Now, start pulsing in the olive oil very slowly until everything is mixed together. Taste it.  Probably needs more salt! Add more and pulse, pulse, pulse. Add as much of the pesto as you like to the bowl of carrot ribbons and mix together. Bon appétite!

 

Africa, Tanzania

Tazanian peanut soup

I’ve said before that African food is my heart food. My travels to Tanzania began my love of East African cuisine. It was exciting and flavorful and familiar all at the same time. Most recipes use things that someone in a small town could find at the grocery store. Many dishes are naturally gluten free, dairy free, and vegan. This soup is dairy free and gluten free. It uses plenty of veggies and gets its smooth and creamy flavor from peanut butter and coconut milk. Tanzanian peanut soup can be ready in as little as a half hour. You could serve it with fruit and bread if you like, but I promise you, it’s filling all on its own!

Tanzanian peanut soup

serves 4-6

ingredients:

1 tablespoon organic red palm oil

1 onion chopped

3 tomatoes cut into quarters

2 cloves garlic chopped

1 average eggplant, peeled, sliced about an inch thick, each slice cut again into 4 quarters

1/4 cup smooth, unsweetened, unsalted peanut butter (I use Justin’s)

1 can coconut milk

1 quart chicken broth

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon base (I like Better than Bouillon)

a couple dashes of Maggi (optional)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder (I used Penzy’s Spices “sweet curry“)

salt and pepper

*red pepper flakes I went a little off course and used Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) because I have so much and I used a full teaspoon. It was excellent in this dish. You can Aleppo use pepper or cayenne pepper. The authentic pepper flake would be crushed African birdseye pepper. A good starting point would be 1/4 teaspoon and increase as you wish.

optional add-ins and ons:

2 cups greens such as spinach, chard, or collard

avocado slices

chopped cilantro

sliced hot pepper

1.Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and some salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for about another 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, Maggi (if using), bouillon, curry powder, hot pepper flakes or powder, turmeric, and a little more salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute.

2.Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, and peanut butter. Stir and heat to a simmer. Add the eggplant and bring it back to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the eggplant is really tender.

3.Now get out that immersion blender and blend it all up! You want it to be silky smooth.  If you’re using greens, you can add them now and simmer for maybe around 5 minutes.  Don’t make my mistake and add long ribbons of chard.  While tasty, it conflicted with the texture of the soup. Chop those greens up real good before you add them. Top with the avocado, hot pepper, cilantro too if you please.  Usually I’m all about the soup toppings but honestly, this soup is absolutely delicious without.

 

Italy

oven roasted tomatoes

I’ll admit that I’m a little late to the oven roasted tomato scene. I’m sure this has been popular for a while but I didn’t try it until about 2 months ago. I had some kumato tomatoes and decided to try oven roasting. Fantastic. It’s that umami flavor that I love. They were so good that I couldn’t wait to get home when I was away from them. Slow roasting takes away the excess water and intensifies the flavor. Intensely tomato.  Oven roasted tomatoes are amazing spread on toast, in pasta, salads, and just on their own.  Kumato tomatoes are already quite an intense tomato flavor and sometimes the best choice when all other tomato varieties are flavorless in February.  Oven roasting tomatoes is really best in the summer if you have a garden with an excess of tomatoes.  Keep them in a jar covered in olive oil and they will keep for a couple of week in the fridge. My recipe is simple and with limited ingredients.  You can add chopped garlic if you like or fresh herbs such as thyme or oregano.

oven roasted tomatoes

ingredients:

12 medium sized tomatoes such as kumatos or plums

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

course salt for sprinkling such as kosher or course ground Himalayan salt.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and slice in half the long way.  This helps to keep the flavorful seeds and juice inside the tomato halves. Spread wax paper on a baking sheet and lay out the tomato halves, cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for 4-5 hours. Store in a container with a little more olive oil to help preserve them.

 

I tossed them with bucatini and fresh basil. How do you use them? 

Let me know if you make these, or have made these! Comment below and let me know what you think or share your favorite way to use oven roasted tomatoes.

 

Asia

umami rice noodles

Umami.  This is how you say it: ooo-mommy. Umami is that perfect flavor of salty and savory.  But it’s more than that.  No one talked about umami when I was growing up in Iowa.  We didn’t know about it.  All I knew was that when I discovered soy sauce I was in love.  I doused it on every chance I could get.  It’s the reason I stopped finally stopped crying when my mom would tell us stir-fry was for dinner.  Soy sauce was definitely overused and abused by me.  Umami is also that flavor of slow roasted tomatoes, roasted so long that every flavor is intensified until it tastes like a tomato in heaven.  Umami is that flavor that is left in the pan after you sear meat, or make gravy, chicken piccata with lots of salt and lemon, and it has been sitting in the pan the entire length of dinner.  Then, you act like you’re going to go do the dishes but instead quickly touch for a taste with your finger and hope no one saw you. THAT flavor.

This recipe combines ingredients to create an umami noodle with lots of credit to Southeast Asian flavors.  I’m using rice noodles but you could use linguini if you want to.  I’m also topping the dish with watermelon radish. Watermelon radish looks like a watermelon on the inside and tastes like a radish.  See:

 

Gorgeous isn’t it? But now look how pretty this one is.

 

umami rice noodles

serves 2 over eaters (me) or 4 sensible eaters

  • 12 oz. rice noodles
  • high heat oil such as avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons-1 tablespoon hot chili oil (This is spicy and you can find it in the Asian section)
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce ( I like San-J brand, organic, gluten-free, 100% whole soy)
  • 2 Tablespoon natural smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 green onions (thinly sliced, white and green parts seperated)
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and finely minced) You can also use 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger instead.
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Sichuan peppercorns plus more for garnish (use white pepper or even black pepper instead)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (chopped)
  • 1 big handful of cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 lime (quartered)
  • 1 watermelon radish (sliced into thin matchsticks)
  • 1 thai chile pepper or serrano pepper for garnishing  (but only if you like things extra spicy)
  • Course sea salt

 

  1. Wash, dry, and prep your ingredients.
  2. Get a medium-large pot of water on the stove over high heat.
  3. Slice and separate the green onions
  4. peel and mince the ginger if you’re using fresh
  5. chop up the peanuts and cilantro
  6. quarter your lime
  7. peel and slice your watermelon radish into matchsticks. Put them all in separate little bowls and feel organized.
  8. When your water comes to a boil, add some salt and the rice noodles.
  9. Boil for the amount of time indicated on the package.
  10. While those are cooking, combine the sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, chili oil, and rice vinegar in a bowl.  Mix until combined.
  11. Drain the rice noodles, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking and to stop the cooking process.
  12. In the same pot used to cook the noodles, put a little high heat oil in the bottom. I like coconut or avocado oil. Heat it up but don’t let it start smoking.
  13. Add the white parts of the green onion, ginger and ground pepper, season with salt. Cook for only about 1 minute.
  14. Then add your sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced.  Reducing helps the umami factor. You want things to intesify!
  15. Add the rice noodles to the pot and toss, toss, toss to combine.  After everything is thoroughly combined, and heated through, it’s time to serve it up.  I like to serve it in a deep, wide bowl.
  16.  Garnish your noodles with the watermelon radish, cilantro, peanuts, a wedge of lime, green parts on the green onion, thai chili pepper and or hot chili oil (if using), more ground pepper, and just a pinch of extra course sea salt.

 

I love how spicy Asian style noodles are now widely excepted as comfort food all over. This turned out beautifully but next time I would slice my radish matchsticks even thinner.

 

Africa

The best eggplant salad. Ever. It’s so good!

I did my first ever cooking pilot last year and featured this recipe.  This silly video shows what a natural I was in front of the camera.  I swear I warmed up! And that is my kitchen and the bearded man is my husband.

I bought my first African cookbook, Tastes of Africa, at our local bookstore, The Tattered Cover.  I was so excited to go home and read it from cover to cover as any obsessed foodie would.  Starting out, I made some of the more traditional stews and they were delicious and wonderful.  After tackling the somewhat familiar, I branched out to trying some of the salads.  And there it was “Aubergine” salad.  What was an aubergine?  I had a feeling it was eggplant (it is).  Growing up in Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s, we never had eggplant.  My mom cooked with plenty of vegetables and my grandmother had a large garden, but somehow, no eggplant.  As an adult cook, I would dabble a bit with eggplant but it always seemed like a flavorless sponge.  Well, it’s kind of true! It is a bit flavorless and it is a sponge. But! there was a secret I learned from the cookbook’s author, Justice Kamanga.  You have to dehydrate the eggplant with salt and soak up all the bitter juice and then RE-hydrate the eggplant with olive oil.  I later acted really cool about this technique, bragging about it wherever I went.  It turns out, many “in the know” cooks already knew about this technique.  I was just behind on my eggplant game. Okay, let’s get to it!  If you’re like me you often scroll through all these words to get to the RECIPE! One more thing.  Tastes of Africa, by Justice Kamanga remain my favorite multi-country African cookbook.  It really started my enthusiasm for the cuisine that remains today.

eggplant salad

serves up to 8 people as a side dish

  • 4 large eggplants
  • 4Tbsp. sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • ciabatta bread for serving (optional)
  • Greek yogurt for serving (optional)
  • cayenne pepper
  • dressing:
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • a pinch of sugar
  • (good)salt and pepper

 

  1. Slice the eggplant into about 1/2 inch rounds.
  2. Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and then leave to stand for 30-60 min.  
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Take a clean dish cloth and press onto each of the eggplant slices getting up all the brown liquid.
  5.  Transfer them to a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil then toss. Let the olive oil really be absorbed by the spongy eggplant.  
  6. Ensure that they’re lying in a single layer then place them in the 400 degree oven until soft, but still firm. You want them to be golden brown, still soft, not crispy!
  7. After they are cool enough to handle, slice the eggplant into bite-sized pieces.  
  8. Transfer the eggplant pieces to a bowl and add the tomatoes, onion, and capers.  
  9. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and pour over the eggplant salad.  Toss gently.  
  10. Serve on thick slices of toasted ciabatta bread topped with 1 Tbsp. of yogurt each.  
  11. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper and serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.
The director, Chris, getting way too excited about eating eggplant salad. Although, it really is that good!