Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Cool eats in the heat
You may have heard that the Los Angeles area is currently battling some huge brush fires that happen annually here. We thought that we might have successfully avoided a big one this year, but no such luck, this one is currently burning 140,000 acres of land. Huge. I have friends who live in the areas nearer to the fire who are affected by the heat, smoke, weird filtered sunlight, poor air quality, large ashes falling and even electronic interruptions due to the damage to the cell, cable and satellite towers in the area. We're all affected -- the heat and poor air quality makes everyone cranky and feel slightly depressed. Also for those of us with respiratory allergies, we need to hunker down indoors and turn up the HEPA filters on days like these!
At work, I talk on the phone to people from all over the country and have been very touched by complete strangers who ask if we're okay. LA is a large city sprawled out over a very large area, so it's difficult for some people to comprehend the distance between the opposite sides of the county. But it's still very sweet that people are concerned -- it makes me feel good about people again, even when I'm also talking to complete jerks in the same day. :)
Anyhow, we were hot, sticky and hungry when dinnertime rolled around, and I didn't feel like cooking anything that put me too close to the stove for too long. So after a quick look into the fridge and a check into epicurious.com, I pulled together a Mediterranean style antipasto-type combo (also called a mezze). We had cold shrimp cocktail (this is not Mediterranean, but stick with me here), garbanzo bean hummus with cucumber chips (instead of pita), and black Nicoise olives. It would have been more authentic to make a shrimp and tomato salad, but that was nixed since this is a tomato-free zone. This was quick, easy finger food ready in a hurry, and only a few minutes of cooking time to boil the shrimp. (If you had precooked shrimp you'd get away with ZERO cooking!) Plus, an extra bonus is you eat all of this with your hands, so less dishes! Ta da.
Here's my recipe for hummus. This is cheaper, tastier and much fresher-tasting than the pre-made stuff you buy at the store. I always keep a few cans of garbanzos in the pantry (about $1 a can!) and with my trusty Cuisinart can whip this up as a snack for company in 10 minutes. For another gluten-free alternative, serve with tortilla chips.
Quick Hummus (garbanzo bean dip)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed free of bean starch in the can
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot or garlic
1/4 cup of a fruity olive oil (I'm currently using Spanish olive oil)
2 Tbsp. light vinegar (champagne, white balsamic or white wine) or lemon juice if you can have it
1 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste) optional
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with parsley if you're serving it to company!
Optional: pomegranate molasses (available in Middle Eastern stores)
Put the garbanzos and shallots/garlic in a food processor, and roughly puree. With the motor running, add the olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice. Add more oil if you like a smoother dip -- I personally like mine a little chunky. Add tahini is you're using it, and salt and pepper to taste. If you can find pomegranate molasses, try drizzling a little on top of the hummus to add a tart/sweet taste. I learned this from Claudia Roden's excellent The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I believe it's a Lebanese style addition.
Serve with cucumber chips or gluten-free crackers or pita. Delish! And enjoy the fact that you spent less time at the stove.
Thank you to all the firemen out there protecting us. Be careful out there people.