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Archive for September, 2008

BASICS: The importance of roux…

Light Brown / Peanut butter roux

Light Brown / Peanut butter roux

Roux which although sounds like the english “rue”, as in “rue the day”, will never be considered an ill-fated time investment,  once you discover this wonderful two ingredient thickener.   Yes, sure it doesn’t create a clear sauce like corn starch or arrow root, but it can add that extra enhancement of flavor to the finished dish that has them licking their chops for more.

I think it is fantastic that such flavor can be derived from so little.  Oil and flour.  That’s it.  after that, it is simply preparation for color, and its linked flavors, with an understanding that the longer you cook it, the less it will thicken in the end.

Spend some time mastering this foundational building block for sauces.  There are many forms, white for cream sauce, brown / peanut butter for gravy, or brick for jumbalaya.  You need to know this.  This basic will make you a better cook.

I tend to make my roux in a separate pan, so I can control the exact color I desire.  Some recipes call for adding flour to searing meats or sauteing vegetables to create the roux.  However, in essence, it is oil, usually in the form of butter, and flour which make up this cornerstone.   If you are going for brick or really dark roux as called for in some cajun or creole recipes, consider cutting some or all of the butter with a higher smoking point oil, like canola or peanut.

Roux

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp all purpose flour

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium high heat.  When foaming stops indicated by the lack of spitting, add flour.  Using a plastic whisk, combine melted butter and flour into a thick paste.  The roux will bubble and some of the butter will relax out of the paste.  Reduce the heat to medium and stir roux.  The heat will begin to cook out some of the structure of the paste.  Be careful to monitor the temperature of the stove, as the roux will begin to change colors and brown.  This can happen quite quickly, so be careful.  Continue to stir and monitor the roux.  When the color of the roux is about one color change above the desired depth of browning, remove from heat.  Stir the roux and set aside to cool.  The carry-over heat should continue to darken the roux to the desired color.

Finished roux has the consistency of wet sand, with a thin film of oil when tipped.

For general purposes, I tend to use light-brown roux.  It adds a nice little buttery creaminess and toast from the flour.  Add roux to pan juices or other liquids for a nice coating sauce.

Roux can be refrigerated in a sealed container for later use.

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Hummus

Hummus_plate

Hummus_plate

Okay, here you go everyone.  I know you’ve all been waiting for it.  After many a request and promise, here is the not-so-secret recipe for my hummus.

I don’t know when I started making hummus, but it has always been a big hit.  I think it is something about the nutty, slightly bitter, garlicky paste mashed up against nice cool cucumber and sweet tomato on a warm pita, which when quickly consumed with salty olives and feta, really gets the stomach revving.  It is a great starter, but yes, we’ve made a meal of this many-a-time.  It is great for summer when you don’t want to fire up the grill.

The consistency of the hummus can be controlled by the introduction of more cooking liquid.  Since I usually serve as a spread, I tend to make the consistency a little thicker than traditional hummus.   Just remember to taste and adjust salt, garlic, lemon, and tahini to the proper taste.

My hummus has gone through a number of iterations resulting in something that is a little different than traditional hummus.  Seasoned salt for salt and sweet.  Sesame oil for a hint of smokiness, fresh thyme to drive the top note, and roasted garlic for sweet depth.  These are all my own additions.

Next version, I will probably try and use a food mill after cooking, this should result in an ultra-smooth version, whereas in the past, the hummus has been left a little chunky. We have also tried many flavored versions, inclusion of lebanese sumac for more bright notes, artichoke, roasted garlic.

Hummus with Tahini

3c garbanzo beans (*dried and soaked overnight)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

5 tbsp lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

3 tbsp tahini

1 fresh garlic clove

5 roasted garlic cloves

1 1/2 tsp cumin (*pan roasted and ground)

4 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt

1/4 tsp dark sesame oil

1 tsp fresh thyme

1/2 c. cooking liquid

1/3  tsp Hungarian paprika  *to garnish

Prepare dried garbanzo beans by soaking overnight until re-hydrated.  Pour off liquid and place beans in a medium sized pot.  Fill pot with plenty of water and add kosher salt.  Bring pot to a slow simmer skimming off any foam.  Allow beans to cook until a bean can be easily crushed against the side of the pot with a fork.  Approximately 1 1/2 to 3 hours.  Drain off cooking liquid, reserving at least 1 cup.

Place cooked garbanzo beans into a processor and pulse to break up or run cooked garbanzo beans through a food mill.  Place chooped bean paste into a mixer bowl.  Add lemon juice, tahini, roasted garlic, olive oil, seasoned salt, cumin, dark sesame oil, thyme and some of the cooking liquid.

Using the paddle in the mixer, turn mixer on low and allow to combine.  Steadily increase the speed of the mixer until mixture is whipped smooth.  Using a spatula, scrape down the sides to ensure uniform mixing.

Taste hummus.  The hummus should have a strong nutty forward with a nice citrus note and slight bitterness from the tahini in the mid-palate and a top note of herbaciousness of the thyme.  It finishes with notes of cumin and garlic.   Adjust texture if required, by adding more cooking liquid.

Place into container and rest in the refridgerator, this will allow the flavors to continue to combine.

Place hummus in serving dish and form a shallow depression with a spoon.  Add oilve oil to the depression.  Garnish with paprika.  Makes approximately 4 cups of finished hummus.

Serve hummus with greek style Pita or flat bread accomponied by cucumbers (seasoned with dill and olive oil), tomatoes (seasoned with salt, pepper, basil and olive oil) , avacado (seasoned with balsamic vinegar), olives, and good greek feta.

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