Saturday, 16 April 2011

Springtime hummus- ful

Passover is right by the doorstep. The entire country is now in a fully blown OCD cleaning craze (they don’t call it spring clean for nothing). As per usual they are caught out in a sand storm the day before anything and everything has been boiled, bleached, disinfected and purified . Despite my affection for a good clean up, I’m happier in the kitchen where spring is in full bloom and in all its glory in preparation for the Spring celebrations, now underway, consisting on the most part of local and seasonal ingredients. That is, if I count out the (not Kosher by any account) chorizo. Even I have my limits and passing on a chorizo is one of them, so we're having it grace us with its presence in the table.

Lets not forget the cultural, traditional and religious ban on leavened goods during passover when anything made with any kind of cereal, including flour is a no-no. This has the potential of a disaster but mainly, it poses an interesting challenge when planning the festive dinner. however, with the cornucopia of seasonal produce available this time of the year one wouldn't even notice its absence. Green fava beans, green peas, green garlic and green almonds have the stage all to themselves, all lights are on them, au naturale and in the nude without bread, dough or pasta to outshine and overcast their glory.

Shopping lists have been written and crossed off as one by one all the products and ingredients are piling up. A 2kg happy reared leg of lamb? Check. 1kg of fresh chicken livers for making chopped liver? Check. Enough wine for 12 thirsty diners (who also happen to be my close family)? Check. What better way to celebrate Spring then by cooking it, serving it on a plate and eating it?

hummus- ful is a highly popular local combination of cooked and mashed dried fava beans seasoned and served over hummus with pita bread on the side. Both chickpeas and fava beans have been cultivated and consumed in the area since the beginning of times. This is as local as food gets; cheap, nourishing and satisfying resulting in both staples gaining mythological status in the local cuisine.

This is my deconstructed, springtime version of hummus- ful.

Happy Springtime.

Springtime hummus- ful

(Serves 2-4)


2 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of water, then strained

1 garlic clove

Several sage leaves

2 cups green fava beans, removed from their pod

1 ripe avocado

1 green chili pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 scallion, finely chopped

Zest from ½ lemon

2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped. If in season, use green garlic

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lemon, juiced

Olive oil

Serve with:

Coriander leaves, washed

A handful of pistachios, roasted in a dry skillet and coarsely chopped

Sheep’s milk ricotta or other fresh cheese, crumbled

  1. Prepare the chickpeas: place the strained chickpeas in a large saucepan. Add the garlic clove and sage leaves, cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil, skimming off the froth. Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. When the chickpeas are soft but not mushy, remove from the heat and strain.
  2. Prepare the fava beans: bring a large saucepan with plenty of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Blanche the fava beans for 1-2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the beans to the ice water, to stop them from cooking further. remove the beans’ outer shell.
  3. Heat a large frying pan with a little oil and lightly fry the cooked chickpeas, until they are tanned.
  4. In a large bowl mix the fried chickpeas and fava beans together. Using a teaspoons, scoop the avocado into the bowl.
  5. Add the chopped chili pepper, scallion, lemon zest and garlic. Season with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
  6. Sprinkle the coriander leaves, chopped pistachio and crumbled cheese and serve.

* Note: you can find the traditional recipe for hummus- ful here and here.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Beans, they way I remember Tuscany

As part of my job at the Tel Aviv covered market, located a convenient 10 minutes cycle from my abode, I'm lucky enough to be surrounded with local and global, seasonal and random produce, all on a weekly, if not daily, basis. So much so that my trips to the supermarket have narrowed down to purchasing toilet paper, flour and sugar, and yes, also on those rare midnight cravings for an onion, a bell pepper, or a chocolate bar a supermarket has come in handy and to my aid, along with its bright and flickering fluorescent lighting.

White asparagus, purple basil, onion blossoms and fresh turmeric root have all become viable ingredients, and how easy they make it indeed, to forget that on a scale, between commodity and luxury, they tilt heavily towards the luxury corner.

I treat them like a bright red lipstick; not for everyday use but on occasion yes, that extra touch of glamour goes that extra step and, well, designer clothing will dig a far bigger hole in my bank account.
So I there’s my justification for adding a little glamour to the kitchen in the form of asparagus or a perfectly reduced version of a pineapple that was raised with whispers of love and strokes of affection.

I do, however, always return to the comforts of comfort, because as much as those heels are drop dead sexy, snickers will forever be more comfortable. A dense, thick-crusted bread with salted butter, rice topped with a poached egg and a bowl of hearty stew with added shaved parmesan are more then enough to satiate the hunger within. One such dish is this bowl of beans, cooked as I learned in Florence not too long ago, but now long gone.

Tuscany is known for the freshness of its beans when in season and this dish truly captures the effortless red lipstick of food, with a quintessential heavy Italian Acc-a-cent.

Beans, they way I remember Tuscany

Roughly based and heavily adapted from a recipe published in Jamie Oliver's Jamie’s Italy

serves 4

500g dried or fresh Borlotti beans (cannelloni, butter or zolfini beans will work too)

1 potato, peeled

2 ripe tomatoes, crushed

½ bulb of garlic

A bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves)

Extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce:

3-4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

3-4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3-4 sage leaves

1 green chilli, chopped finely

Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. If using dried beans soak overnight in a large bowl covered with cold water. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a large saucepan, place the beans, potato, crushed tomatoes. Garlic and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, place over the heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Skim any froth from the surface and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the beans are soft and tender.
  4. Drain the beans, discarding of the all but 1 cup of the cooking water. Set aside.
  5. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot fry the green chilli for a few seconds, then stir in the garlic, sage leaves and tomato chunks. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have come apart into a thick sauce. Pour the cup of cooking water and bring to a gentle boil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the cooked beans and add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  7. Drizzle olive oil and serve.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Brown butter, banana and walnut cookies

This is an ode to a cookie. Sometimes all one ever wants is a chewy, succulent and juicy cookie. A cookie that’s large enough to satisfy such a craving and last an entire cup of coffee, but without sliding down a slippery slope to hedonism. A cookie that’s not too flat, nor too tall, that manages to strike a balance between the chewiest of cakes and the crispiest of cookies. I walked around the city last week in search for my morning coffee and a cookie to satisfy my lust, yet day after day I came back with nothing.

Why it is that the universe thinks I should be baking the cookie of my dreams instead of finding a cookie and then fall for it is beyond me, but I am not one to sit around and wait for a cookie to possibly be everything I want in a cookie. I was left with no choice and decided to bake the cookie of my dreams myself. What began by browning butter (like most good stories do) ended up as these cookies.

I shared the first batch and that was followed by a second batch, though I had to double the quantity. I shared some more, then I wrote about them in my column and now I’m posting them here. They are simply too good to keep from the world and I think the world should know. The second best thing to eating these cookies straight from the oven is having the recipe for how to make them.

Lets call it my humble attempt at making the world a better place. One cookie at a time.

Brown butter, banana, and walnut cookies

Makes 12 large and satisfying cookies.


100 g butter, diced

1 cup AP flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¾ cup raw cane sugar

1 egg

1 ripe banana, pureed

1 tsp (real) vanilla extract

1 cup walnuts, chopped roughly

½ cup dark chocolate chips, optional

  1. Prepare the brown butter: Place the diced butter in a heavy skillet over a medium flame, stirring it frequently with a whisk. Once melted the butter will begin to bubble and it is at this point you need to watch it from burning. Brown butter turns to a dark, charred butter in seconds. Once the air fills with a nutty sweet the butter is ready. Transfer the brown butter to a small bow, in order to stop it from browning any further. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl, place the brown putter and the sugar. Using a hand or electric whisk, beat until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. Add the egg and beat well until the mixture is light and airy.
  4. Mix in the pureed banana and the vanilla extract to combine.
  5. Add half the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix just until combined.
  6. Fold the walnuts and chocolate chips, if using, into the batter. Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (and up to 5 days).
  7. Preheat the oven to 190C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  8. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the cookie dough to balls and place on the tray, well spaced apart.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the baking tray halfway through. The cookies are done when the edges turn golden brown.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cool on a wire rack.
  11. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.