Category Archives: Essentials

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Quick, Easy and Delicious Hummus

Greetings all. I was recently enjoying a glass of wine (bottle actually) reflecting on things, life and hummus. Thinking of the old times when I lived in Dearborn, Michigan. Some if the best hummus in the world was a 5 minute drive away, to a restaurant called La Shish. In my post “Chasing the Hummus Ghost” I shared my experiences on trying to replicate the famed hummus of La Shish (complete with 15 years of failure).  I still hold to the belief that the recipe in that post gets really close to the magic of “la Shish”, however, I do realize not everyone wants to wait two full days to satisfy a hummus craving.

For years at work we have been making a “quick hummus” which has Greek yogurt in it. The yogurt adds creaminess and a tang to the hummus. Short of making the recipe from scratch with dried chickpeas this quick hummus is one of the best recipes you can find. It takes about 10 minutes to make, 5 to 8 of which is watching it puree in the food processor.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to make the hummus as smooth as possible. Put everything in a food processor and puree!! Every so often stop the food processor, grab a rubber spatula and scrape it the bowl down in case some chickpeas get stuck on the side or on the bottom. The cumin is optional. Some people are chickpea purists and would not want it, others like the extra spice. I fall directly in the middle and use it about half the time.

When I serve this I like to drizzle with some avocado oil (or extra virgin olive).  Use some nice warm flat bread or some nice crisp lettuce to scoop.

Thyme In,

Jason

Simple Quick Hummus

Ingredients

2 each 15 ounce cans of chickpeas (drained reserving ¼ cup of the liquid)

4 ounces Lebanese tahini

1 teaspoon of kosher salt (heaping)

4 teaspoons lemon juice

6 ounces Greek yogurt (2/3 cup)

1/4th cup of the drained chickpea liquid (optional)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserve ¼ cup of the liquid (adding the liquid is optional depending on the texture you like in a hummus)
  2. Place everything in a food processor except he reserved liquid.
  3. Puree very well. In my experience this can take 5 to 8 minutes. Occasionally stop the machine and scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula. While pureeing you can decide if you want the liquid in. It will help with the pureeing but will also make the final hummus a bit lighter than without. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
  4. Puree until ultra-smooth!

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Essential Cabbage Slaw

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Long considered to be the bland foodstuff of peasants and the incarcerated, cabbage is a very underappreciated vegetable. I happen to love cabbage, when prepared correctly it is not only flavorful but full of nutrition.

This is one recipe that is very easy to make and produces big results. This is my go to spicy slaw for tacos, enchiladas, and nachos. It’s also a great slaw for simple grilled meats and tastes great on hot dogs and sausages! Once you have this simple little slaw in your arsenal you will use it time and time again. Feel free to use lemon juice instead of lime, and of course you can play with the amount and variety of the chilies. Habanero chilies taste awesome in this slaw . . . if you can handle the heat!

The salt in this recipe draws moisture from the other ingredients which makes its own marinate along with the citrus. I try to make this an hour in advance if I can, it allows the salt to work its magic. This slaw is good for up to a few days in the cooler but it will “wilt down” more and more as time goes on.

Have a good thyme,

Jason

 

Cabbage, Chili and Citrus Slaw

Makes ¾ quart

Ingredients

 Slaw

1 quart shredded cabbage (packed a little tight)

1 bunch chopped cilantro

3 red cayenne peppers or 2 jalapeños sliced thin

3/4 tablespoon kosher salt (you can do ½ if you are sensitive to salt)

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

 

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl.

  1. Cover and put in the refrigerator, allow to marinate for at least a ½ hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Essential Charred Tomato Salsa

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What would the world be without salsa? Salsa is healthy, vibrant, and simple while at the same time capable of great complexity.  There was a time in our country when ketchup ruled the condiment world, a bleak time in history to be sure. Thankfully we are now in the know and have at our disposable thousands of recipes for glorious salsa.

This particular salsa is quite simple.  Not a lot of ingredients, easy and quick to make, and it allows the natural flavors of the tomatoes and peppers to shine through.  I consider it an essential recipe.  The problem with simple recipes is that when there are not a lot of ingredients the quality of technique and integrity of the ingredients are paramount.   Be sure to char the tomatoes, peppers, and onions well in the oven.  The other key is the dry pan roasting of the garlic.  The unpeeled cloves of garlic get roasted in a medium hot pan until blackened and charred.  This adds a smoky sweet element to the salsa that is really amazing.

 

Essential Charred Tomato Salsa

Makes 1 quart

 

Ingredients

2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 7 Roma tomatoes)

2 to 4  Jalapeño Chili’s

1 habanero chili (optional)

1 onion, rough chopped

8 garlic cloves, fresh and not peeled!

2/3 cup fresh cilantro (about 2 bunches)

3 fresh limes

3 teaspoons kosher salt

  1. Start the broiler on your oven on high.
  2. Begin by slicing the stem off of all the tomatoes and slicing them in half lengthwise.  Also slice the stem off all the chilies and slice them in half as well. You may want to use gloves to avoid getting any of the oils on your fingers . . .  then eventually in your eyes!
  3. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil, oil it or spray it lightly with pan spray.  Place the tomatoes on the tray with skin side up.  Scatter the jalapeños skin side up on the try as well.  Scatter the rough chopped onions as well.
  4. Place the tray in the oven under the hot broiler until the skin on the tomatoes and peppers are blisters and blackened.  In my oven this takes about 20 minutes.  While they are broiling heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.  When hot add the garlic cloves (do not peel) and cook on medium heat, with no oil, until blackened, charred, and soft (about 15 minutes).  Cool everything down in refrigerator.
  5. Once everything is cool peel the garlic and put in a blender with the tomatoes, peppers and onions.  Add the juice of two limes and two teaspoons of the salt.  Puree until roughly pureed, not too smooth.
  6. Use the remaining salt and lime to adjust the seasoning.  It should be highly seasoned!!

Thyme for some spice,

Jason

 

 

 

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Cilantro Chimichurri

 

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It was only a matter of time until I posted this recipe.  I have used it for years in multiple ways.  This is one of my “have-to-have-it-around” sauces.  Having a sauce like this on had makes it easy whip up something delicious.   It is, by its very nature, a perfect sauce for steak. But, it is also so much more!  I use it on fish, chicken, pork, I toss roasted fingerling potatoes in it, finish sauces, use it to flavor compound butter, and even add it to vinegar and oil for salad dressings.  It also make a nice dip for appetizers like crab cakes or spring rolls.  If you make it . . . you will use it!

For old thymes sake,

Jason

Cilantro Chimichurri

Ingredients

Sauce

2 bunches cilantro

1 bunch parsley

4 garlic cloves

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 small hot chili (optional)

  1. The first thing to do is get your blender out.  It is very helpful to have a blender with a plunger such as a Vita Prep.  Adjustable speed is a plus too. The mixture is very dry at first and the plunger will help.
  2. Wash the herbs under cold running water.  I break the stems at the point where there are no more leaves.  Discard the lower stems and then put the herbs (upper stems and leaves) in the blender.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients.  Add the hot chili only if you want to spice it up!
  4. Puree in the blender until smooth.  Use the plunger to push down on the herbs.  Once it starts to become a puree it will be thin enough that you won’t need to plunge.   Puree until its smooth, but don’t over puree.  The heat from friction will warm the sauce and cause it to turn a dull color if you over blend.  This sauce should be as bright green as it tastes!

 

 

Roasted Chicken Stock

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I often wonder how many people take the time to make simple stocks in there homes.  Do people even realize how much good can come out of a simple homemade stock?  Truthfully, I was wondering this after returning from the store with a whole chicken, parts of which were destined for the stock pot!   Something happens in a can (or one of those strange boxes) that store bought stock is sold in, something not good.  Regardless of what the ingredients say, it bares very little resemblance to the real thing.  You cannot trust a can.

Be sure to choose the proper pot for making stocks. Ideally they are thinner and taller to minimize evaporation.  Water for stocks should not cover the bones by more than an inch or two.

There are white stocks and brown stocks (roasted).  Brown stocks involve a roasting of the bones, and sometimes caramelizing of the vegetables.  In the case of this chicken stock I will only be roasting the bones.   In future posts we can look at some other classic stocks like brown veal stock, and shellfish stock, where I would roast or perhaps caramelize the vegetables.

It is to the production of perfect stocks that the sauce cook should devote himself – the sauce cook who is as the Marquis de Cussy Remarked, “the enlightened chemist, the creative genius, and the cornerstone of the edifice of superlative cookery.” – An excerpt from The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery by August Escoffier.

Indeed stock is everything in cooking, at least in French Cooking.  Without it nothing can be done. – The Escoffier Cookbook

My stock manifesto is as follows:

–          I believe that a stock should be flavorful but very balanced.  More than half the time I reduce the stock (to make sauces or glazes) so I never add any salt or too much of any one ingredient because it will concentrate as it reduces.   If I decide to make a soup instead (which will require minimal reduction) I can always add more onion, garlic, celery and carrots when I make that soup, but I can never take it out . . .  especially salt.

–          A stock should be started in cold water brought slowly up to a simmer and skimmed carefully to get all the foam and impurities that come to the top off.

–          A stock should not be boiled, rather it should barely simmer.

–          A stock is not a garbage can for inferior or old products, rather all ingredients must be first class.

–     The bones for a roasted stock should be golden brown only, not overly roasted or burnt.  It will make the stock bitter.  In the case of veal stocks where you want a darker color it is from the addition of very tough meat, such as shank, that the additional color will be gained, not from over roasting.

Simple Roasted Chicken Stock

Makes about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2  quarts

Ingredients

2.5 to 3 pounds chicken bones, necks and trimmings (the bones of a 5 ½ pound bird)

1 onion cut to 1 inch chunks (about 7 ½ ounces)

2 stalk of celery, cut to 1 inch chunks (about 2 ½ ounces)

2 carrots, cut to 1 inch chunks (about 2 ½ ounces)

8 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon chopped garlic (or 2 garlic cloves)

2 quarts of water (or enough to cover the bones and vegetables by 1.5 to 2 inches)

  1. In a 400f degree oven, on a sheet tray roast the bones to a golden brown.  If you over roast and let them get burnt your stock will take on a bitter flavor.  It should take about an hour depending on the oven.
  2. Remove the bones from the oven and using tongs and a spatula place in your stock pot, add the rough chopped vegetables.  If the bits and pieces baked on the sheet tray are not burned you should use your spatula and a bit of water to scrape the good stuff up and put in your stock pot (drain any excess fat and grease first).  This is called the “fond” and is very flavorful.   There is no reason to cut the vegetables too small as the extended cooking time will cause vary small cut vegetables to disintegrate and could cause the stock to be less clear.
  3. Add cold water to the pot and cover the bones and vegetables by 1.5 to 2 inches, turn on the heat and bring slowly to a simmer.  As the stock comes slowly to a simmer the proteins coagulate and rise to the top with impurities, skim these off with a ladle or a spoon.
  4. Simmer this stock for 5 hours skimming the stock each hour.  At the half way point you should add a bit of warm water to bring the stock to the level it started at.
  5. After the five hours carefully strain the stock.  It may be easier to use some tongs or slotted spoons to get the large bones out first then strain the rest.  Depending on the use you can strain once through a course strainer and then again through a fine strainer to remove any smaller bits.
  6. If you are not using the stock right away be sure to chill quickly by putting the stock in several smaller containers.  You can later combine them, but stocks are perishable and you will want to cool them down quickly.
  7. If you are going to use this for sauce you could reduce by ¾ now then chill it down.  That will cause there to be less reduction later.  You can even freeze in ice cube trays.

 

Do not let the sands of thyme find their way into your lunch,

Jason

Gravlax for the New Year

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Happy New Year let’s cure some salmon!

I for one can’t believe that 2013 is behind us. I hope all of you had an amazing year and can remember 2013 fondly.  In 2014, I wish you happiness, prosperity, friendship and great times with family, and a year of great food!

I want to start the year off with a classic.  Gravlax are a traditional Scandinavian dish that makes a fantastic treat at breakfast or an elegant appetizer later in the day.  In our family this one is a breakfast classic.  My oldest son and wife consider this to be the ultimate breakfast food – “Lox and Bagels”.

At one time, smoking and curing were among the only ways to preserve the food without refrigerators and freezers.  What caning was to preserving the harvest of vegetables and fruits, smoking and curing was to preserve the precious catch.  Some of the finest things you will have the pleasure of tasting were developed through the process of preserving meats – What would the world be without genoa salami, Iberico ham, Prosciutto de Parma, Spanish chorizo, or duck confit?

I digress, the point of this post is specifically cured salmon, perhaps the purest and cleanest tasting expression of the fish.  Smoked salmon is great, but lox are simpler, fresher tasting and luckily easier to make.  I uses the best salmon possible.  In this case I used a wild sockeye salmon which has a beautiful red color and great fresh flavor.  Do be careful of previously frozen fish because although it may still taste great, the texture will be affected.  Make sure fresh awesome fish is your priority.

Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

Gravlax

Serves 3 for breakfast or 8 to 10 for reception

 

Ingredients

1 to 1 ¼ pound fresh salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup salt

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

15 to 20 sprigs of dill

1.       Mix together the salt, sugar, coriander, and white pepper.

2.       In a non-reactive container spread approximately ¼ of the mixture out to the approximate length of the salmon fillet.  Put half the dill down as well.

3.       Lay the salmon fillet on top.  Spread the cure on top of the fish.  On thicker parts of the fish use more of the cure and a little less on thinner parts.

4.       Lay the sprigs of dill across the fish, cover and leave at room temperature for two hours.

5.       Put another dish on top to press the cure into the fish.  If you are using a glass 9 by 13 dish then another of the same dish is ideal to set on top.  It does not need to be very heavy just a light weight to press it down.  Then put in in the refrigerator.

6.       If the salmon is a inch thick or less allow to cure in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.  If the fish is over an inch thick you will need to go 36 hours.

7.       When the curing time is over rinse the fish off under cold running water and dry with a paper towel.

8.       You can now use the Gravlax!  For breakfast slice thin and put on toasted bagels with cream cheese, capers, diced tomato, and if you like paper thin slices of red onion.

 

It is worth noting that slicing paper thin perfect slices is a bit of an art.  Do not be dismayed!  A thin sharp knife works best.  There are long thin knives made for this purpose if you want to invest, however these are not necessary.  I have seen many a fine slice of gravlax done with a sharp chefs knife.

 

Have a good thyme,

 

Jason

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