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No-Knead Dinner Rolls

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Who out there has found a recipe, followed it to the letter, and thought part way through that it would be a total disaster?

When I made a no-knead roll (perfect for Thanksgiving) I was positive it was doomed to failure. The initial dough mixture resembled paste and was impossibly sticky. I was hoping to make a dinner roll that was flaky and delicate, but I was left with dough that was so sticky all I could do was messily plop it into a greased muffin tin. While I felt incredibly defeated, certain I had made one flop of a bread, I just tried to finish and make a roll that was at the very least edible.

I’m so incredibly happy I followed through with the recipe instead of tossing it, as I ended up with a roll so delicate, slightly crusty, buttery, and flaky it completely melted in my mouth. My initial misgivings about the recipe entirely disappeared as I enjoyed a roll, fresh out of the oven, which was one of best carbs I’ve had in months. Best of all, these rolls are great to make ahead, then freeze, then let defrost before serving.

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Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 9-10 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages (4 1/2 Tsp.) active dry yeast (be sure you don’t use the instant or rapid rise kind)
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (if using table salt, use 1 heaping tablespoon)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter

Pour 4 cups of milk into a large saucepan, stock pot, or Dutch oven. Add one cup of sugar and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir to combine, cooking over medium to medium-high heat, until simmering, but before reaching the boiling point. Remove from heat, and let mixture cool.

When mixture has cooled to approximately 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit, add 4 cups of flour and yeast. Stir to combine (I used a wooden spoon). Once mixture has partially come together (don’t worry, it will still look very clumpy), slowly mix in 4 more cups of flour (again, don’t worry, it will look like a disaster). Let rest in a warm spot, lightly covered with a lid or dish towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, divide stick of butter in half. Use half of the butter to generously grease 24 muffin tins. Set aside the remaining half of butter.

Once dough has doubled in size (the top of the mixture will look poofy and slightly bubbly), vigorously stir in 1 additional cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. At this point your dough may still be impossibly sticky. If so, slowly stir in additional flour, up to 1 cup more. The dough may still be very wet and sticky, but that’s okay.

Divide dough evenly between the muffin tins (you’ll want the dough to come close to coming level to the top of the muffin tin) (again, don’t worry if you have to messily plop the dough in, it will be lovely once it’s risen and baked), lightly cover with a dish towel or lightly greased saran wrap, and let rise for and additional hour, or until rolls have puffed.

Right before baking, melt remaining half stick of butter, and lightly brush over the top of the rolls.

Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans 10 minutes into baking.

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Whole-Wheat Banana, Nut, and Chocolate Chunk Bread

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A while back I made banana and chocolate chunk bread…. and then dipped that in egg batter and pan-fried it, French toast style. I thought it was completely divine, but perhaps a bit rich and decadent for breakfast. And while I’m never opposed to something excessively indulgent, perhaps for the first and most important meal of the day, one should try to eat a bit more sensibly?

Some people seem to think banana bread is healthy enough as is, since, ya know, it has bananas in it. And fruit is good for you! While banana bread is a far more practical breakfast than a donut, there’s still room to make it a smidge healthier without making it dull. For starters, try substituting all-purpose flour with whole wheat. And then perhaps use honey instead of sugar, egg whites for whole eggs, and applesauce for oil.

Should you make all of these substitutions? Sure. With this particular banana bread recipe making all of the healthier substitutions results in a very good product. However, the texture was just a bit on the dry side. Still exceptionally good, but if you opt only to make a few of the healthier substitutions you may end up with something a bit more moist and rich.

… and yes, you could skip the chocolate, but why would you? This is pretty healthy so why not indulge a bit?

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Whole-Wheat Banana, Nut, and Chocolate Chunk Bread

Adapted from AllRecipes

  • 2-3 medium to large very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup honey or 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs or 2 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 heaping cup chopped nuts (I use pecans)
  • 1/2 heaping cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (I prefer bitter-sweet)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mash bananas (you want 1 heaping cup of mashed banana). Mix in oil and honey (or alternatives).

Add eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition (if using egg whites only, add all at once).

Add vanilla, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until just combined.

In a small bowl, mix baking soda and hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter, mixing until combined. Blend in chopped nuts and chocolate. Spread batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just one or two moist crumbs. I usually check around 50 minutes to ensure it doesn’t overcook. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing.

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No-Knead Bread

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So something pretty glorious happened in November of 2006: The New York Times posted a recipe adapted from Jim Lahey called “No-Knead Bread.” 2006 also happened to my junior year of college—an incredibly fun year—but a year in which I was definitely not reading cooking blogs. In fact, the closest thing I got to cooking was assembling my own salad from the salad bar.

While I didn’t get around to making no-knead bread until January of 2013, a solid 5 years after the craze died down, it’s truly such an amazing bread that I had to share it, even though I’m sure it’s old news for most bloggers.

What makes this such a good bread? The tender, moist, chewy interior and the incredibly crispy, crunchy crust rivals that of any rustic or artisan bread from a bakery and it’s so ridiculously easy to make. While the process of making this is far from fast (a day from start to finish), there’s only about 10 minutes of active work—the rest you just let the dough do it’s thing!

The recipe calls for very little yeast, a fair amount of water, and a lot of time to ferment. Fermentation basically develops the gluten in the bread, which eliminates the need to knead.

 

No-Knead Bread

From NY Times via Jim Lahey

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 11/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cup water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.

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Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at minimum of 12 hours, preferably about 18 (18 is always what I do and I think it has the best results), at room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

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Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

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Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth)* with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

*Note: you need a really, really smooth towel to wrap the dough in. After coming close to ruining two dish towels with sticky dough that never quite entirely came off I decided to use a brand new, 100% cotton t-shirt—which works like a charm.

 At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic—I use a Le Creuset French oven) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

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Cover with lid (if you’re not using a pot with a cover, tightly wrap with tin foil) and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

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Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

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Sometimes when the pressure of life just gets to be too much I like to sit back, relax, and ponder the important things…

Do you call it soda or pop? Is it pronounced crawfish or crayfish? Do you call coleslaw “slaw”?

… And most importantly, given the time of year it is, is it stuffing or dressing?

I guess I like to think of myself as Switzerland; I’m rather neutral when it comes to these touchy issues and pronunciations. I typically interchange saying stuffing and dressing and I honestly don’t know which one I use more or which one is more correct. The only strong opinion I have on the issue of stuffing/dressing is that whatever you want to call it, it’s my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving dish, but mine has always been stuffing. I could (and usually do) eat plate after plate of it. I love me some mashed potatoes and turkey, but I just can’t get enough dressing.

A note on the cornbread: I make my own cornbread from scratch but you can buy it from a bakery or make some from a mix. My cubes were around an inch, but feel free to cut any size you desire. You can use stale cornbread, or if using fresh, cut into cubes and bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees (stirring occasionally). You want your cubes to be browned and dry. Also, I’ve never measured how much cornbread I use (super helpful, right?!?!?!). I cubed an entire recipe of cornbread I made, which was made in a 10-inch pan (although what you would make in a 9-inch pan would work just fine as well).

 

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

  • 8-12 cups cubed cornbread (see above note)
  • 1 lb sausage (either ground sausage, or sausage removed from the casing)
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • 3 ribs celery, small dice
  • 1 scant cup pecans, medium chopped
  • 1 scant cup dried cranberries
  • 8 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary (leaves removed from stem), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees*.

In a large sauté pan, brown sausage (the sausage I use is pretty fatty, so I didn’t find the need for additional grease or fat, but if using a lean sausage, add olive oil or butter). Once sausage has browned nicely, add in diced onion and cook for a few minutes more, until onion has become translucent and slightly caramelized.

In a large bowl, mix together cubed cornbread, sausage mixture, celery, pecans, cranberries, finely chopped herbs, and salt and pepper. Pour in stock and stir. Taste for seasoning (the amount of salt you’ll need really depends on how well seasoned your sausage is and how salty your stock is).

Pour into a 9×13 inch pan**, cover with foil, and bake for half an hour. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 more minutes, until top is crispy***.

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*The dressing is rather flexible when it comes to the cooking temperature. If you’re simultaneously baking something that requires a different temperature you should be okay as everything is already cooked, you just want it to be nice and hot.

**A 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet also works nicely to make the sides and bottom crispier.

***If you like really crispy stuffing, reduce covered cooking time and bake longer uncovered, if you prefer softer stuffing, bake covered for longer.

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All food groups are equal, but some are more equal than others (Yorkshire Pudding!)

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While choosing my favorite food group is rather difficult (as I like them all!), I have to say that carbs are by far my favorite. Would the world be a sad place without seafood? Yes, but it would be even worse without carbs! I could (and often do) eat bread every single day, my life feels incomplete without generous servings of pasta, and what kind of society would we live in if there wasn’t rice?!?! Besides, liking carbs is economical. Far too often when I’m out at a restaurant I fill up on bread before my entrée even comes! That just means I’ll have yummy leftovers for later (2 meals out of 1)!

I still remember growing up and eating the delicious roasts my grandmother would make. While the meat was always cooked to perfection and had delicious flavor, my favorite part of the meal was always the Yorkshire Pudding, which is an English carb made of milk, egg, and flour. Her recipe came from her father who decided to add onion and make them in muffin tins (I believe the more traditional method is to bake in a large pan and cut into individual servings). Yorkshire pudding, smothered in gravy, is an ultimate comfort food to me and always fondly reminds me of my childhood.

While I’ve helped my grandmother make Yorkshire pudding 8 million times, this past Friday was the first time I had attempted to make them solo. The recipe itself is straight forward, and chances are you probably have everything to make them. Yorkshire puddings have always been popular served with roasted meats and gravy, but even if you’re only cooking for two, a nice steak works just as well as a leg of lamb.  Mashed potatoes (and perhaps a vegetable) are also nice accompaniments.

Yorkshire Pudding

A family recipe

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • A few tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place a small dollop of butter into each muffin tin (this recipe makes about 10-12).

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Once oven has preheated, place muffin tins with butter into the oven to allow butter to melt and the pan to get hot.

Meanwhile, mix together flour, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add in milk and eggs and stir until just combined. Fold in onions.

Spoon batter into muffin tins. You’ll want to fill the muffin tins between 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (although check at about 22 minutes). Puddings will be puffed and golden brown.

Serve with a side of gravy and enjoy!

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Soft Pretzels (and Welsh Rarebit)

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Pretzels and cheese sauce is  a well-balanced and nutritious dinner, right?!?! Right.

While I love going out for a fancy dinner or attempting to cook something elaborate at home, sometimes I just want to eat some stinky blue cheese, a scoop of ice cream, a glass of wine…. or perhaps potato chips and onion dip. I guess when you’re an adult no one forces you to eat vegetables (or anything that resembles an actual meal).

After a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants (which included perfectly seared Albacore and an edamame and  mushroom risotto) I can’t say I was that hungry for a huge dinner. Something snacky sounded good. Seeing as I’ve wanted to make pretzels for a while and I had all of the ingredients I decided to seize the moment and make me some pretzels and cheese sauce.

Up until this week I can’t say I had any idea how one makes a pretzel. I found it very interesting that you actually (briefly) boil your pretzel in water with a very healthy amount of baking soda before you bake it. If you’re new to making pretzels, be sure to boil your pretzels in the biggest pot you have. The baking soda and pretzels caused the water to foam like crazy.

As far as pretzel salt goes, I didn’t have any so I used coarse sea salt and it worked just fine.

Soft Pretzels

From Alton Brown

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon table salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a bit more if your dough is too sticky)
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for bowl and work surface
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt

Combine the 1 1/2 cups water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

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Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. I found I needed to sprinkle in a few additional tablespoons of flour, as my dough was incredibly sticky.

Place the dough in a bowl coated with vegetable oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Alternatively, you can take your 24-inch ropes and cut into 6 or so pieces for pretzel bites. I did a combination of both.

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Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds (flipping over after 15 seconds). Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula (I used a fish spatula, which I love). Place pretzels on your prepared sheet pans.

Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel or sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Serve with mustard and/or a delicious cheese sauce (recipe below).

Just a note on storing the pretzels: like most baked goods, soft pretzels are best the day they’re made (preferably freshly baked). DO NOT put them in an airtight container (too much humidity). Chances are they’ll look super shriveled up. The best way to store them is in a paper bag, at room temperature. When ready to serve, heat them up for a few minutes in a 375 oven. But really, there won’t be any leftovers because they’re so delicious!

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Welsh Rarebit Sauce (aka Welsh Rabbit Sauce)

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup milk (whole is preferable, but skim or 2% will work too)
  • 1/2 cup beer (I found a pilsner worked very nicely)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 dash Worcestershire
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
 Sprinkle in flour and whisk together until combined. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.
 Pour in milk and beer, whisking constantly, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add mustard, paprika, and cayenne and whisk.
 Add cheese and whisk slowly, cooking for a couple of minutes or until smooth, melted, and very hot.
 Remove from heat and serve immediately. If you’re so inclined, a sprinkling of finely chopped chives will make it look less orange and goopey.

Pita and Hummus

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About 10 years ago I used to eat packaged, pre-made hummus by the gallon. I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Then something happened and the thought of store-bought hummus just didn’t appeal to me. People I knew started making their own hummus and I had the really, really good stuff at specialty restaurants. I just couldn’t stomach the gummy, flavorless junk from my local supermarket after having far superior hummus.

After craving hummus for far too long I decided to take matters into my own hand and make my own. It can’t be that difficult can it? Feeling ambitious, I decided I might as well make my own pita as well. For some reason the pita I’ve purchased at the store has been disappointing. Very cardboard-esque.

So, project pita and hummus commenced.

Pita Bread

Adapted from Anne Burrell

  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour, plus a little more for dusting
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl

1. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar and yeast and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, combine the bread flour and 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, cumin, salt and cayenne.

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3. Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and mix on medium speed to combine and knead the dough. It should take 6 to 7 minutes. At about 4 minutes into kneading my dough was super sticky so I gradually added more all-purpose flour a tablespoon at a time (it resulted in roughly half a cup more). After 7 minutes your dough should be very firm and not sticky or tacky.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

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After an hour mine was (waayyyyyy) more than double in size, so just check along the way.

5. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll into 7-inch rounds (1/4-inch thick), using an additional sprinkle of bread flour if your dough is sticking (my dough hardly stuck at all). Divide the dough between sheet trays (I have little baby sheet trays so needed to use 3), cover them loosely with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. As you will see, I chose to roll mine into abstract circles. I suck at rolling… errr…. I like the rustic, handmade look.

After researching other recipes I discovered a few different ways of cooking the pita and I wanted to try both to see which was most successful.

Stovetop method: Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle on medium-high heat. Lightly grease the skillet and cook pitas, one at a time, for 15 seconds on one side, flip and cook for one minute, then flip again and cook an additional minute. The pita should lightly brown and puff up and the total cooking time should be less than 3 minutes per pita. This method seemed straight-forward but was disastrous for me. After burning two pitas (even after turning down the heat and cooking for a shorter period on the second pita) I decided this wasn’t for me.

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Oven method: Lightly spritz the pitas with water and bake in a preheated, 500 degree oven for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pitas over and bake for 2 more minutes. Let cool slightly before eating. I prefer warm pitas and almost immediately started ripping these bad boys apart to dip into my hummus.

This was definitely my preferred method.

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Hummus

From Ina Garten

While I only went to one store in search of tahini, I was somewhat shocked at how pricy it is. I mean, it’s not obscenely expensive but considering tahini is simply ground up sesame seeds and a bit of oil, I thought the $11 price tag for the teeny, tiny bottle was a bit obscene. After googling “homemade tahini” on my iPhone, I decided it would be easy and much cheaper to make my own. I did so by grinding 4 cups of lightly toasted sesame seeds and 1/3 olive oil in my food processor for a few minutes, until it was a smooth, thick paste. It stores in the fridge for a few months.

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, 2 tablespoons liquid reserved (cooking dried chickpeas tastes so much better, but using canned results in a delicious, but less tasty hummus)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately the juice of 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
  • 8 dashes hot sauce (Frank’s is my preferred hot sauce)

Turn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it’s minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature with pita and/or an assortment of vegetables. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

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