Monthly Archives: June 2012

A New Dish a Week: Homemade Hummus

This is another backlog post… on HUMMUS! I think I probably first tried hummus post-college. The idea of it just wasn’t appealing to me. Most likely, I tried it at a work party (we have a bunch of vegetarians). I think I probably tried it on accident and I am SO glad that I did; just delicious. Since that first time, I have had a lot of hummus- some not as good as others, but generally, if it has been made with garlic or olive oil or roasted red peppers, I have loved it. Andrew, on the other hand, doesn’t love hummus. One day, he suggested that we make our own and that perhaps he would like that more. So, off to the store we went, having no idea what we’re doing other than purchasing garbanzo beans and tahini (which I’ll admit, I had no idea what it was until we picked it up off the shelf).

I don’t remember what we put in our first batch but it was awesome. I pretty much ate the whole thing. Andrew said he liked it more than the store-bought kind, so I’ll chalk it up as a success. So, the other week, I was craving hummus… so we went out and got a can of garbanzo beans and set off to make a delicious concoction. And we succeeded! Andrew may not be eating it by the spoonful, but I’ve had it every day this week with breakfast and lunch and I just can’t get enough! I can’t wait to try new varieties of hummus!

Ingredients
1 Can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 Garlic scapes (had in our farm share, you could use 2 cloves of garlic instead)
3 Teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 Teaspoons black pepper (we used a grinder, not necessary)
2-3 Shakes of a red chili pepper flake bottle
1 Tablespoon tahini
Salt to taste

Directions
1. Dump the garbanzo beans and garlic scapes (or garlic) into a food processor and process until relatively smooth (we make sure the garlic is chopped up as best as possible- with scapes, you’ll have little chunks).
2. Add in the tahini, cayenne, pepper, and red chili flakes. Pulse to combine.
3. Add salt to taste.
4. IMPORTANT: If you let the hummus sit a few hours (overnight is best!) in the refrigerator, the flavors will really mix well and you’ll have a tastier product!

Side Note: for a tasty tasty sandwich, use 2 slices of sourdough bread, a Tablespoon of hummus (or two!) spread on the bread, add a few leaves of fresh basil, and a slice of turkey– DELICIOUS!

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A New Dish a Week: Pickles!

 

Clearly, I’m trying to deal with some of my back-log, thus back-to-back “A New Dish a Week” episodes. This week in our share, we got about 3 pounds of small cucumbers– I saw them and thought, PICKLES! Rather than waiting like we normally do, we went straight home to work on them. The result is 4 pint sized mason jars of sandwich stacker style pickles! YUM!

 

 

Ingredients:
12-16 Small Cucumbers (our farm has pickling cucumbers they’re not the waxy smooth kind you get at the store)
1 Tablespoon Sugar2 Cups Vinegar
2 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons Pickling Salt (We bought our’s at ACE Hardware)
Additional Salt
Fresh Dill (or dried if that’s all you have)
Garlic Cloves (we used 1 large clove per jar)
Black Peppercorns
Mustard Seed
Small Sweet or Spicy Peppers (mini sweet or jalapeno depending on your choice/availability)
Anything else you’d like to try out in your pickle jars!

Other Materials:
4 Pint-Sized Mason Jars
4 Flat Lids and Screw Tops for Mason Jars
Canning Clamp (used to pick up the hot jars)
1 Large Canning Pot (you can typically buy one for canning at ACE or other hardware stores as well as online)
Canning Funnel
Kitchen or Other Hand Towel

Steps:
1. If you have a mandolin slicer and want to slice your pickles sandwich stacker style, I suggest using the mandolin slicer (WITH GLOVES ON PLEASE!) Mandolin slicers are awesome but soooo sharp!!! We have a pair of heavy duty gloves that you can wear to take things out of the oven too… seriously don’t mess around with a mandolin! We used the medium straight slice for our pickles. Slice a small sliver off of each end of the cucumbers before slicing into strips.
2. Place a small layer of cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle well with salt. Add another layer of cucumbers, followed by salt. Continue until all are layered. The sale will help suck out some of the liquid. We usually drain ours a few times (over about 15 minutes).


3. You can follow whatever canning method you’d like. I’m not saying mine is the best, it’s just what works for us! We placed the four jars (clean of course) into the canning pot and filled with water (The jars and the pot to about the lip of the jars). Heat to medium heat (boil is not necessary here).
4. While the pickles are “salt soaking” prep your herbs, peppers, garlic, and any other add ins. We simply pealed our big garlic bulbs and separated the cloves (they are seriously HUGE). We then took the tops off of the herbs/seeds/peppercorns that we’re using just to be ready. We also had two small sweet peppers that we cored and thinly sliced (these are more for color than flavor).
5. Once everything is ready, your jars are in a warm bath and your cucumbers have been drained a few times, place the vinegar, water, pickling salt, and sugar in a sauce pan and heat on the stove until boiling.


6. While the vinegar mix is cooking, it is also good to place the flat lids into a pan of water and put it over medium heat- this helps with soften them up for better canning.
7. While the vinegar mix is cooking, carefully remove your jars from the water bath and place whatever “mix ins” you want in the bottom of the jars. Pile it all in there- be generous! Next, do a quick water rinse of your pickles to get rid of any excess chunks of salt and then pack those suckers into the jars. Pack them as tightly as you can and fill the jar as much as possible.


8. Once the vinegar mix is boiling, use the canning funnel and slowly pour the vinegar mix into each jar (leaving about 1/2 inch room from the top of the jars.
9. Using a spatula, remove any air bubbles from the pickle jars- it works well to slide a small spatula down the sides and press against the cucumbers. You may end up needing to add some more liquid to the jars.


10. Next, place the flat lids onto the jars (they shouldn’t be toooo hot if you kept them warm but not boiling).
11. Next, put the screw tops on the jars, tightening only to fingertip tightness. The point of this is to secure the flat lids while allowing air and what not to escape.
12. Place the jars back into the canning pot. Pour in enough water to cover the jars about an inch or so.
13. Cover the pot and turn the heat up. You want to bring the bath up to a boil. Side note- I realize that you can’t see through the pot, so you will have to pick up the lid to see if it’s a rolling constant boil yet a few times.
14. Once the boil is constant, set your timer for 10 minutes (this will be different depending on what size jars and which canning directions you are following).
15. When time is up, carefully remove the jars and place on a kitchen towel to cool off. Let them sit for about 24 hours. If they have canned properly, the seals will be firm and the “poppy” part in the center of the lid will not “pop.” If you’re lucky, you may even hear the jars sealing (sounds sort of like opening a snapple bottle).
ENJOY!

*Disclaimer: If you have a good canning book, follow the canning directions inside. We used Ball– well known and good results. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients/spices! Part of the joy of these projects is trying new things. They’re not all winners, but they’re always fun 🙂

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A New Dish a Week: Pesto Pasta Salad

One of the things that I love about spring, our garden, and our CSA starting up is the BASIL!!! I looove pesto and what I love even more than pesto is making my own pesto. So, when we decided to have an impromptu bbq/get together a couple weekends ago, of course pesto was going on the menu. After taking a look at what other ingredients we had in the kitchen to work with, I decided to try and make a pesto pasta salad. I’m not a huge pasta salad fan, but I figured with pesto, you just can’t go wrong!

Pesto Ingredients:
2 Cups Basil (I eye-balled it)
3 Cloves Garlic (More if you love garlic)
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts (you can use other nuts, or no nuts and get the same tastiness)
1/2-3/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan (it really doesn’t have to be fresh grated but it tastes better!)
1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Pesto Pasta Ingredients:
1 Recipe Pesto
3/4 pound of Whole Wheat Pasta (you could use a whole pound, regular pasta, etc..)
8oz container Fresh Mozzarella (doesn’t have to be 8oz. that’s what we had!)
3/4 container cherry tomatoes (you could use a whole container, half container, grape tomatoes, roma tomatoes, whatever you want!)
6-7 Fresh Basil Leaves (unnecessary, I just love basil!)

Directions for Pesto:
1. Place rinsed basil leaves (the 2 cups, not the 6-7 extra leaves) and garlic cloves (peeled) into a food processor and process until basil and garlic are minced up and combined (about a minute or so).
2. Add in Pine Nuts and process until chopped up and mixed in.
3. Turn food processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil. Stop food processor.
4. Mix in the grated cheese with a spatula or wooden spoon. Put pesto aside.

Directions for Pesto Pasta:
1. Place a pasta pot filled with water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package (al dente is good here!).
2. While the water is cooking, diced up the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces (I went for about marble sized). If you’re using the small fresh mozzarella balls, I cut the in halves or quarters. If you’re using the cherry or grape tomatoes, I cut them in half.
3. Cut the 6-7 fresh basil leaves into thin strips.
4. When the pasta is done, drain well in a strainer and then place in a large bowl (easiest to place it into your serving bowl- fewer dishes).
5. Add the pesto to the pasta and mix well. Allow this mix to cool (you can place in the refrigerator to speed this process up). I usually make the pasta/pesto mix the night before and let sit overnight or the morning of so it has 2 hours or so to cool.
6. Prior to serving, add the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves to the pesto-pasta mix and toss gently just to mix.
ENJOY! Disclaimer: I don’t have a finished product picture— we were too hungry! I promise it’s beautiful! Especially if you use a small heirloom tomato variety pack (yellow, orange, purple, red, green…)

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Grown Up Projects Edition: Building a Garden Potato Box

Last year, we lived on the fourth floor of medium-sized apartment building. We had a decent sized balcony with decent sun. Naturally, we really wanted to try and grow some veggies! My brother had a lot of luck with container growing in Indiana, so I figured we’d give it a try too. We bought a garden box (one of those large 3.5-4foot by 3.5-4foot squares. We placed it on a tarp and bought a bunch of dirt and planted a few different plants. The cilantro and the strawberries did pretty well and we even got some hot peppers. The tomatoes grew and grew and grew and then we ended up with one plant that had a lot of little orange tomatoes but that was it. Not a huge success, but still fun to try out. We also bought a large pot (think one for a fruit tree) and planted some seed potatoes from our CSA in it. I’ll be the first to admit that we hadn’t really done the proper research on the potatoes (we tend to be wing-it people on our first try with things). So, I read somewhere briefly while skimming that you should let the greens grow and grow and then die. When they die, it’s time to harvest. So, we followed those plans. Guess how many potatoes we harvested last year?

Zero! Not even the seed potatoes were left! 

Oh well. Try again. So this year, I read a bit more about potatoes and spoke with some coworkers about potato boxes. The idea is that you plant potatoes and then you build a box around them with walls that “grow” as the plants grow. The end result is that the potatoes grow up rather than down, so it’s much easier to harvest (and you’ll get potatoes :)). Here’s some more information on potato boxes if you’re interested. So, I was determined. A few weeks ago, we took a side trip to Lowe’s and bought two long 2×2’s each cut in half and then a bunch of 2×6’s cut in 32″ lengths (the measure worked around my plants). We ended up with 24- 32″ 2×6’s. I then grabbed some a wood screws and a more powerful drill (it was a grown up day) and headed home.

This is where I’ll admit, Andrew took over. I was pumped about the project and even more pumped when he seemed interested in helping out… which meant taking over, which I completely appreciate! What we did was take a 2×6 and screw them into the bottom portion of the 2×2 polls. You then screw the other side of this 2×6 into another 2×2. You repeat this process to make a square with one 2×2 post in each corner. It’s hard to explain, so here are some pictures:

Once we created the first, bottom square we realized the plants were taller, so we added a second square of 2x6s. We then added a third. Next, you dump in enough soil to cover the majority of the potato plants (leave enough of the plant above so they keep growing). As they grow above the frame, you add additional square layers and dirt– right now we have enough for 6 squares.. if we need more, we’ll do so! As you can see in the above picture, we need to add another layer of 2x6s this weekend as the plants are all above the third layer.

Apparently, if you are interested in new potatoes, you can actually remove the bottom layer of the box as the potatoes are continuing to grow up and harvest the smaller new potatoes– it won’t harm the plants. We haven’t decided if we want to try that just yet– but we’ll keep you posted. Just another fun project to keep us busy 🙂

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Restaurant Review: Chadwicks

A couple of Andrew’s undergrad friends came into town a few weekends ago for another friend’s wedding in Georgetown. Naturally, guests in town = an excuse to try out restaurants in the area. The morning of the wedding, we headed to Chadwicks, a great place with locations in Georgetown and Old Town. Chadwicks serves American and Americanized food. We went for brunch which turned out to be quite delicious. Andrew ended up with Eggs Idaho which basically means scrambled eggs , bacon, and cheese stuffed into crispy potato skins. Delicious. After waffling (breakfast pun intended) I decided on the huevos rancheros with scrambled eggs by suggestion of the waiter. I was beyond happy with my choice. Eggs, tortillas, refried beans, cheese, guacamole. Heaven.

The prices were good, the staff was friendly, and the restaurant itself was pretty cool. It definitely seemed a lot smaller from the outside- but to our surprise, had a large upstairs in addition to its downstairs and bar seating. Definitely a must try if you’re ever in Old Town Alexandria or Georgetown!

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