Friday, May 7, 2010

Hummus & tahini: or how to fail at cooking without really trying

I decided to try to make hummus from scratch, including homemade tahini (sesame paste). Now, usually I reserve my blogs for finished recipes, but I thought this time it might be more fun to tell you about my 'tahini fail'. After all, learning is in the mistakes... and there are plenty of mistakes that go into the recipes in this blog.

Some of the most epic include an indian mint chutney that had no mint, was atomically hot, and tasted terrible.

The recipe I recently shared, a yellow curry- involves cooking with cream of coconut instead of coconut milk. The first time I tried to make it, not realizing the difference, I put in the entire can, as I might with coconut milk- creating a disgustingly sweet curry-thing that was inedible.

Ryan made a tomato sauce when we were first dating that suffered from far too much salt- and sugar, which he had hoped would even out the flavor balance. And a recent attempt at thai red curry- ry wanted twice as much, so he simply doubled up on everything... and ended up with slimy coconut milk with some soggy vegetables.


Usually I pass along this wisdom through warnings (careful with this... add that to taste....etc). If only cookbooks came with such tips....

Which brings us to tahini paste. This is a base ingredient for many middle eastern recipes, including hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel. All of which are fabulous, so I thought... sure, I can try this.

My first reaction to most recipes was that the quantity was waaaay too much for my needs. 4 cups of sesame seeds?? Insane. Those bad boys are TINY. I then found one that made a tiny amount- and included water as an ingredient. This sounded easy.
But as I used my food processor to grind the seeds... it turned into runny, watery soup instead. So, now I'm live blogging take two, with yet another recipe, which revealed the ratio of seeds to oil. Here goes nothing.

Step 1: Determine quantity based on 1 cup seeds: 1/4 cup oil ratio

I went with 1/4 cup of seeds to 1/16 cup oil, which is 1 tablespoon. (Yay, math!)

Step 2: toast in oven @ 350 degrees. Do not brown.

I put them in for about ten minutes, and gave a stir halfway. I think they are on the lighter side of toasted, but they are aromatic, and I erred on the side of un-burnt.

Step 3: let cool. check.

Step 4: Place seeds in food processor with half the oil, grind for 1 minute. check

OK! Now this is starting to look like paste- it has the consistency of peanut butter- success!!

Step 5: Add other half of oil. Blend until mixture is evenly smooth when pressed.
This took another minute or two of grinding. Definitely reminds me of peanut butter in texture.

I am claiming victory on take two! This yielded just under a 1/4 cup of paste, the amount my hummus recipe calls for. I'm told this is fine, as the flavor of homemade tahini is stronger than store-bought. Having learned my lessons in the past, I think I'm adding it to taste, anyway, lol.

Part 2:

Hummus!! Adapted from Dean & Deluca:

1 3/4 cup chickpeas - I used dried, follow prep instructions, start a day ahead!
1-2 tblsp tahini paste * (see above...) to taste
2-3 tblsp lemon juice, to taste
3-4 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Much like the tahini, my first stab at this was not perfect. Luckily, it was not disastrous, but I hope my mistakes might help me- and my dear readers, in future attempts. The D&D recipe called for a meager one clove of garlic which stuck me as outrageously little. I like garlic, so I doubled it to start, and added the other 2 cloves to taste. They were small cloves, I should note- 4 large ones might be overkill.

The original recipe also called for 5 tblsp of lemon, I put in 4, waaaaay too much. Next time I will start with 2 and build from there.

I drizzled the olive oil on the hummus and gave a fresh sprinkle of paprika just before serving!

Final note of warning: I overzapped the hummus in my food processor when trying to adjust the flavors. The goal is a middle-thick, slightly chunky hummus, and mine is considerably smoother. Go slow with the sharp, spinny blades!

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