Hummus

Hummus: more serious than peanut butter, less fickle than baba ganoush.  Heartier than mayonnaise, less startling than mustard.

Let’s make some hummus.  Since I learned how to make it myself, I have stopped buying it from stores.  Ok, except that one time, but that was only because I was about to move and I needed my hummus fix but I’d already packed away my cooking utensils, look, it wasn’t my fault, and the stuff I bought was so mediocre that if anything it was a good thing, because now I know never to buy it from the store again, ok?

Another recipe that is neither original nor representative of a complete meal (unless you just eat hummus for a meal, which, I mean, I guess I can’t blame you), but good to have and easy to incorporate elsewhere.

For about one and a half cups of hummus, you’ll need:

  • A can of chickpeas
  • Tahini
  • Olive oil
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Other spices (I like to use cumin, coriander, cayenne, and a little smoked paprika)

A note on equipment: a blender or food processor is, I think, the typical way to go, but I don’t own a blender or a food processor.  I do, however, have a stick blender (aka an immersion blender, aka a handheld blender) and a tall cup made to fit it, so that’s what I use for making hummus.  Use whatever you’ve got.  Sorry, a fork and a never-give-up attitude probably won’t be enough.

  1. Drain and rinse your chickpeas, reserving the liquid from the can.
  2. Combine a quarter cup of tahini, a quarter cup of olive oil, the garlic, the lemon juice, a large pinch of salt, a healthy sprinkling of pepper, and the chickpeas in whatever blending vessel you’re using.
  3. Blend.  If you’re using a stick blender, you may need to stop a few times to scrape the thick goop off the sides of the blade.
  4. Keep blending until it looks like it’s all mixed evenly.
  5. It’s probably a little thicker than you want it to be.  Add about a tablespoon of the reserved chickpea liquid (you didn’t throw it away, did you?) and blend until mixed.  If it’s still thicker than you want, add a little more liquid and blend again; repeat until it’s the consistency you want.
  6. Taste and add salt as needed.  Add your other spices and stir around to mix those in.  I like to go heavy on the cumin and coriander, lighter on the smoked paprika (a little goes a long way here), and as always just a dash or two of cayenne.

Go nuts!  Spread it on things, dip things in it, eat it by the spoonful, etc.  Just don’t put it on mushrooms.  They don’t deserve it.

LEFTOVER TIPS

Tupperware works, or if you’re like me and you made it in a tall cup with a stick blender, you can leave it in the cup and cover it with plastic wrap.  It’ll keep for several days, but why would you let it last that long?

Damn Good Tacos

As promised: tacos!

Now that you’ve made a fleet of corn tortillas, it’s time to put something in them, fold them up halfway-ish, and shove them into your face.

This is a pretty basic recipe, nothing special, but it’s satisfying, dammit.  I’ll get to the fancy fillings and sauces and shit later on.  For now, we’re gonna just have simple tacos.

What goes in a simple taco?

  • Beans
  • Avocado
  • Cheese

Let’s do it.

For the beans, you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • A can of vegetable broth (or water, if you’re bland)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices (I use cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne, and chili powder)

For the avocado topping (I wouldn’t call it guacamole), you’ll need:

  • 4 avocados, ready for mashing
  • 1 lime
  • A clove of garlic
  • A few scallions
  • Salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne

For the cheese, you’ll need:

  • A bag of shredded cheese.  What, did you think I make my own cheese?  I like to think I’m an ambitious home cook, but I’m not about to store sour milk in sheep intestines or whatever the fuck you have to do to make cheese.

These amounts will make enough fixings for 16-20 tacos, depending on how hefty you like your tacos.

First, the beans:

  1. Mince your garlic and slice your onion (for the onion, I just leave it in long thin strips, rather than dicing or mincing).
  2. Set a pan to medium-high heat and put in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. When the oil’s hot, throw in the garlic and onion.  Season with salt and pepper and let them cook until translucent and starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Throw in the beans and season again with salt and pepper.  Stir it all around, and don’t be gentle with the beans.  Ideally you’ll want to smash them as you stir, but don’t worry about being too thorough.
  5. Pour in some of the vegetable broth and stir everything around.  At this point you may want to turn the heat down to medium.
  6. Stir the beans periodically, smashing them with your spoon as you stir (again, don’t worry about being thorough; it’s nice if it doesn’t have a completely uniform texture).  Keep an eye out for the broth — as the liquid evaporates and runs low, pour in some more broth.  Keep doing that until the can of broth is gone.
  7. Towards the end, the broth may start puddling due to saturation and/or spite; if need be, skim the excess liquid as it continues cooking (this is what culinary school students call depouillage, and it is fancy as fuck).
  8. The beans are done when you’re out of broth and the mixture is neither wet nor dry.  If you’re worried that putting a scoop of the beans onto a tortilla will make the tortilla soggy, then let them keep cooking until a little more moisture has evaporated.

Next, the avocado topping:

  1. Cut all your avocados in half, scooping their innards into a bowl.  Include the pits.
  2. Add the juice of one lime.
  3. Chop up a few scallions and add.
  4. Mince the garlic and add.  I like to grate my garlic through a microplane zester for this, since it pretty much liquefies the garlic, but a garlic press or fancy knifework will suffice.
  5. Throw in as much salt and pepper as you want, and throw in a dash of cayenne.
  6. Using a fork or spoon, mash everything up until it’s mixed and the avocado is broken up into a chunky spreadable goop.

Now the cheese:

  1. Open the bag of cheese.

Now, the assembly!  Beans first, then avocado, then cheese.  If you deviate at all from this order, a man in a black suit and a fedora will come to your house to deliver the bad news you’ve been dreading this whole time.  You know exactly the news I’m talking about.  About Martha.

But you forgot the sour cream!  And what about lettuce!  And what about tomatoes!

Sure, add them if you want, I don’t care.  Do you need a recipe to tell you to do that?

Well, no, but… I mean, you included storebought shredded cheese in your recipe…

Shut up.  Eat your damn tacos.

LEFTOVER TIPS

Tupperware, fridge.  Reheat the beans on the stove — should only take a couple minutes in a pan on medium-high heat — or in the microwave, if you’re a coward.  Reopen the bag of cheese.

Ratatouille

I think most people (at least, in America) who know that ratatouille is a dish only know it because of the movie.  You know, the one with the rat.

Well, ratatouille should be a staple of any vegetarian’s repertoire, because

  • it’s easy
  • it’s filling (so all those “but you need MEAT with your dinner!” people can suck it)
  • if — God forbid — you actually do like mushrooms, then I GUESS you can add them.  I’ll give you a weird look for sure though.

Just a heads up: this ratatouille will look nothing like the one in the movie.  Who’s got the time?

Here’s what you’ll need for a ratatouille that serves 4-5 people (or 1 very selfish person for a couple days):

  • Half a medium-large onion (Vidalia or yellow)
  • One large eggplant, or two medium eggplants
  • Two large zucchinis, or three medium zucchinis
  • Several cloves of garlic (about 10)
  • Three or four tomatoes (beefsteak or plum, or heirloom if you’re feeling fancy)
  • One or two bell peppers, if you’re so inclined (I usually skip them)
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs and spices (including, but not limited to: salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, sage, Herbes de Provence, coriander, and cayenne)
  • If you want to have some nice garlic bread with your ratatouille (and I assure you, you do), you’ll also want to have a loaf of bread (I prefer ciabatta; I just buy my bread already baked, although if you also have the time to bake a loaf of bread, bless your heart) and parmesan cheese

It’s worth noting that it doesn’t really matter what vegetables you use.  Eggplant and zucchini are pretty standard, but you can use pretty much any vegetable that you would conceivably roast.  But don’t use mushrooms, ’cause… come on.

  1. Cut up your eggplant.  You’ll want big chunks, the size of your finger or bigger.  Throw those chunks of eggplant in a colander and salt them.  Let those sit somewhere else while you proceed with the next steps.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375-400 degrees.  Get out the pan(s) of your choosing — I use cast-iron skillets, but a baking dish will do.  Just don’t use a cookie sheet.  Not that you would…?
  3. Cut up the rest of your veggies into big chunks, throwing them in the pan as you chop them up.  You may need two pans to hold it all.  It’s worth noting — unlike roasting vegetables outright, you don’t need to leave space between the veggies, and in fact you shouldn’t.  It just might take up two pans anyway.
  4. Throw in the cloves of garlic whole or, at the smallest, cut in half.
  5. Where’d you put the eggplant?  Well, bring it back!  Okay, you’ll need to squeeze out the eggplant before you throw it in the pan with the rest of the veggies.  I like to take paper towels and squeeze a handful of eggplant chunks at a time.  Maybe you feel like that’s a morally questionable use of paper towels.  I don’t care.  Squeeze out your eggplant however you need to, then throw them in the pan.
  6. Douse the vegetables in olive oil.  You don’t want so much olive oil that it puddles up at the bottom of the pan, but you definitely don’t want to skimp.
  7. Season the shit out of your vegetables.  Be generous with every herb and spice you throw in there, with the possible exception of cayenne (a little goes a long way, of course).  I know using Herbes de Provence as well as marjoram and thyme is perhaps redundant, but I don’t care.  And if there’s a vegetable in sight without a blanket of herbs on it, you probably should use more.
  8. Now mix them up!  Toss and turn those veggies until the oil and herbs are more or less evenly distributed.
  9. Stick the pans in the oven.  Don’t touch them, don’t even think about them, for a half hour.
  10. Has a half hour gone by?  All right, take the pans out of the oven and give the veggies a stir, make sure nothing’s sticking where it shouldn’t.  Now stick them back in the oven.
  11. If everything is cooperating, it should take another half hour or so for your ratatouille to be done.  To determine whether it’s done, take a fork or knife and try piercing a few eggplant chunks.  If your utensil is met with little or no resistance, then you’re good to go.  If it’s still giving some resistance, give it a few more minutes.  Why?  Because eggplant is best when it’s been cooked to mush.  If you disagree, then enjoy your weirdly chewy eggplant and go to hell.
  12. When the ratatouille is done, take it out of the oven.  Eat it while it’s hot!

But wait, we were promised garlic bread!

DAMN STRAIGHT YOU WERE.

Take as much bread as you want and slice it how you please.  Pull those piping hot garlic cloves out of the ratatouille — they should turn to mush with a little pressure, and if they don’t then you probably didn’t cook your eggplant all the way through either, you scoundrel — and smear them on that bread.  Is it smeared all over?  Cool.  Now drizzle some olive oil on that bread.  You don’t need a lot, just a smattering.

Now grate some goddamn Parmesan cheese on your bread.  You missed a spot.  No one wants just a little cheese in the middle of their bread, Scrooge.  Make sure it’s everywhere, even the corners.  Come on.

Ok, stick the slices of bread in the oven (you didn’t turn it off already, did you?) and let them toast up for a few minutes, until they start turning brown.  Alternatively, you can use a toaster oven (I just don’t have one).

Once your bread is ready, then you’re ready to eat!

LEFTOVER TIPS

If you have leftovers, reheating them on the stove or in the oven is far preferable to microwaving them, but do what you have to.  You may even have some garlic cloves left over with which to make some more garlic bread.  If so, I salute you.