Wednesday, June 17, 2009

MT JULIET, TN - Cooking at Casa Belew - Pt:1: Hummus and Salad Dressing

Cooking at the Belews is always fun, albeit a challenge. I get spoiled by all the awesome pro-local locally located markets in Philly, so I have to make due with whatever is at the Mt Juliet Publix when I'm there. Luckily, Publix is a great chain, and the staff is always friendly and willing to help me find my "wacky" and "exotic" ingredients. Without that food store, I really don't know how I'd cook in the small Tennessee suburb, as I think fresh, high quality ingredients are almost more important than the skill of the chef (as long as he/she knows what to do with them). They're like a boutique intrument in that way - Adrian always killed it with his Fender Strat, but the Parker Fly allows him to do so much more...

On my first night there, I decided to cook (or rather chop up) a nice big salad for supper, as I trusted the Publix produce enough to eat raw, and it was just going to be Martha and I at the dinner table (since Adrian was still out in California mixing and mastering "e" with Gary Platt).


Mixed Green Salad with Sliced strawberries, Scallions, Lemon-Agave Vinaigrette topped with Goat Cheese and Walnut Crostini

1 crusty baguette
2 oz goat cheese, softened
2 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a dry skillet for a few minutes
1 6-7 oz bag of greens/lettuce of your choice (I used Arugula)
8-10 strawberries, hulled and sliced
3-4 scallions, chopped
couple tablespoons Lemon-Agave Vinaigrette (see March 24th post, and add a little more agave to play off the gami-ness of the goat cheese

Prepare crostini: Slice 4-6 1/2" thick pieces from the baguette and toast until light brown.
Meanwhile, stir together goat cheese, cream cheese, thyme, and zest. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Genlty toss greens, strawberries, and scallions with dressing.
Spread the goat cheese mixture across warm crostini and top with chopped walnuts, pressing in so that they adhere.
Place crostini atop salads, sprinkle with any additional nuts, and serve with a peppermill, a nice bottle of wine, and the rest of the good, crusty bread - with some softened butter or olive oil, of course!

I also made some hummus the next morning for our weekly lunches...

One of our favorite places to eat while on tour is Kassab's in Pittsburgh. Their hummus is so creamy and dreamy, I just had to find a recipe like it so I could make it at home.

Pittsburgh-style Hummus

1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and picked through
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 onion, peeled but otherwise left intact
6 cloves garlic, 3 whole, 3 minced or grated with a microplane
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup tahini, well stirred
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh herbs (parsely, basil, mint, or cilantro all work wonders)

Prepare the beans: Soak chickpeas at least 8 hours (or overnight) in enough water to cover by one inch.
Drain and place in a medium to large pot with baking soda, onion, whole garlic cloves and 6-7 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid slightly ajar until beans are soft (45-60 minutes). Drain, but reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Place all but a 4 tablespoons of the chickpeas in a food processor or blender with the boiled aromatics, minced garlic, cumin, salt, lemon juice, and a bit of the cooking liquid.
Process until a chunky paste forms.
Whisk together tahini and 4 tablespoons olive oil a pourable container, like a measuring cup.
With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the mixture through the feed tube until it's all incorporated.
The hummus should be nice and creamy, but if not, just add a little more water and blend until it is.
To serve: garnish with reserved chickpeas, chopped herbs, and remaining two tablespoons olive oil.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1 - NASHVILLE - My midyear resolution is...

... to post more!  Sorry to my readers - apparently it's hard to maintain a blog.

I'll be in Nashville all week experimenting in Ade's kitchen and listening to the "e" final mixes, so I should have plenty of material to inspire some entries!