Basic Hummus

There are very few places that serve hummus that I genuinely enjoy. Every time the hubby and I have bought it from the grocery store, we lived to regret it. It's hard to pin point what exactly is so unappealing; sometimes there's an unpleasant after taste... other times the vendor's attempt to "jazz" it up backfires.

I decided to take a stab at making it from scratch and was surprised by the simplicity of the ingredients and process. Chickpeas. Lemon juice. Tahini. Pinch of salt. Garlic. Zoom zoom zoom in the food processor. 

Creamy, dreamy hummus heaven.

The biggest debate that I have seen about hummus is the chickpea: is there a difference between canned and dried? It's a divided subject. Some swear there's none; others feverishly implore the use of dried beans. 

In my tiny brain, it only made sense that using the dried variety would optimize freshness. Granted, it requires a little more planning because the peas have to soak for several hours. Heck, I left them soaking for two nights out of negligence (woops). In the interest of quality, it's worth using dried beans.

The best part of making your own hummus is you're in control. This recipe truly is the most basic recipe possible and is the perfect canvas for modifications. Like it thick? Go easy on the water. Love garlic? Throw a few more cloves in there - you've earned it. Surprisingly, the second time that I made it, the hubby actually liked not having all the chickpeas totally crushed because it added texture. 

Personally... my indulgences included an extra splash of olive oil and lemon juice followed by a touch of smokey paprika on top. Serve with pita chips as an appetizer at a party, with cucumbers as a healthy snack, or as the base of a wrap/shwarma

For this recipe and several others, purchase, "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It's an awesome book! It's the source for sinful Chocolate Krantz Cake and an incredible Salmon with Chraimeh Sauce. If your curiosity stops at the hummus, you can find the recipe here

Mariscada { Seafood }

My mother is a magician in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure she was born wielding a colher de pau (wooden spoon) or, as we lovingly knew it as children, "o colher POW!" The pow part was aimed at your bottom but we did a good job of staying away from those types of situations. Ahem!

Like I was saying, she's an amazing cook thanks to a lifetime of practice. She's the second eldest daughter from a family of ten surviving children. That's a lot of responsibility and hungry mouths to help feed. They didn't grow up eating anything fancy on the farm in Portugal - mostly rice, beans, bread, and boiled vegetables. A lot of things that I take for granted at the grocery store had to be grown or butchered. She can peel a potato in 20 seconds with a blade. Bad @$$.

It wasn't until she married and things settled down that she began cooking the more iconic meals of her country, like carne de porco à Alentejana, bolos bacalhau, and paella.  I was lucky enough to be raised enjoying these dishes for special occasions and holidays. If there was shrimp in the fridge, you knew people were coming over. Thanks mom!

That being said, this post centers around my brother's birthday! Mom and I pulled out all the stops with mariscada (mix of seafood- what did I say about that shrimp!) and her version of fried chicken. I was able to find some frozen pasteis de nata at the European Foods Import store and whipped up a tasty Rum-Kissed Banana Butterscotch Cream Tart.

In this post, I'm going to focus on the mariscada but don't sleep on the chicken- Mike's infatuated with mom's recipe. The bird is seasoned with salt, red pepper, and black pepper, coated in flour, dipped in egg, then coated tempura. Fry that bad boy slow and slow. That's it. It's really simple and keeps the meat tender and juicy. 

In this version of mariscada, we kept the rice and seafood separate because it's not paella or arroz con marisco. In those recipes, the rice is cooked with the water used to boil the clams and mussels then everything is mixed together in one big pot. I prefer keeping the seafood separate because it's nice to control the ratio. Plus, it's awesome to grab a big hunk of bread and scoop up all of the olive oil at the bottom of the pot. 

The following are general guidelines as cooking is less of a science and more of a "pinch here" and a "dash there" in our house. 

serves 4

Cooked long-grain rice of your choosing, enough to serve 4
2 (5 ounce each) lobster tails, shell on
1 pound large shrimp
1 pound sea scallops
olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, add more if you like it hot
sea salt
1-2 bay leaves
pinch of yellow saffron (optional)
1/2 cup chicken bouillon cube mix preferably, but chicken broth could work (optional)

Per the directions for the rice of your choosing, make the rice first since it takes the longest to cook. 

Make the sofrtio: coat the bottom of a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven in olive oil on medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion until it beings to very lightly brown, then add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the garlic starts to golden. 

Add 1/4 cup water. Split each lobster tail in half and place with the meat-side down into the olive oil and cook through, 4-5 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat turns white and the shell turns a vibrant shade of red (see the last photo of this post as a reference). 

Add the shrimp and sea scallops. Season with white pepper, about 1/2 a teaspoon. Cook evenly so that both side of the shrimp are a nice shade of pink. Add a pinch of saffron if you crave that beautiful yellow color; season with salt to your liking.

If you want the base to be more saucy, heat enough water to cook a chicken boullion cube. Pour 1/2 cup to the seafood mix as a starting point. Don't add too much or it's going to become a bowl of soup!

Serve with rice, crispy bread, and salad. 

Quick and Dirty Chocolate Espresso Cinnamon Rolls

Whenever there is a short-cut recipe for bread, I am very skeptical. It's like one of those old timey grifter scams. The recipe proclaims amazing results and tantalizes you with tempting photos. An accomplice comments on the wonder of the bread to provoke enthusiasm. Then, just like a grifter, it leaves you with half-baked results and you realize that you have been cheated. I've made "quick and dirty" cinnamon rolls in the past and was burnt. Within the hour, they had turned into hockey pucks that could break a window.

For these reasons, I make it a rule not to use quick yeast breads and unreliable sources. It may be limiting, but I am often reluctant to step away from my go-to books and bloggers (all hail Smitten Kitchen and America's Test Kitchen). That's how I knew that I was in safe hands when I saw these Quick and Dirty Chocolate Espresso Cinnamon Rolls from Joy the Baker. I decided not to live in the past (insert Buddhist "Om") and give these kids another shot.

Oh Joy, you never lead me astray!

What makes them "quick and dirty?" The rising time. Generally speaking, cinnamon rolls need two round of rising, each at least an hour. These are done in half that time with only ten minutes to rise the first round and then an additional 30. By the time you're done cleaning up the kitchen, they're ready to go in the oven. What black magic is this?

Sure. Chocolate and Espresso are an overpowering combination of delicious. You could slather the two on a brick and I would probably still try to eat it... well at least lick of what I could. It goes without saying that the filling of this cinnamon roll is delicious. I used extra dark chocolate chips and added just a touch more espresso. The dry mix alone had the entire kitchen smelling lovely.

The real test was going to be how the rolls stood the test of time.
Would they be soft and luscious?
Or would I be able to skip them over a lake?

These cinnamon buns could be used as a pillow up to three days out of the oven. That's right- THREE whole days (per storage in an air-tight container). They pulled apart smoothly and warmed in the oven beautifully the next day. Served with a cup of a coffee, these chocolate espresso cinnamon buns had the husband and I on cloud 9.

What I really love about this recipe is the quantity. Most rolls make two pans worth of bread - way too much for our simple home and too heavy to serve as a side at brunch with friends. This is makes six large buns in a 8x8 pan - a solid amount for two over the weekend and enough to share with others on a Saturday night.

The glaze is optional - we didn't feel it was necessary! Yes, that's how good they are - they don't need glaze. The filling is sweet enough as it is.

PS. Mike is over here cracking up because I used the word "grifter" in this post. Apparently this makes me a literary nerd. 

The recipe for these awesome Quick and Dirty Chocolate Espresso Cinnamon Rolls can be found on Joy The Baker!