Masala Hommous

With the heat of summer coming on, I like to trade in the warm soups of fall and winter for something cool in my lunch bag. Last week, I kicked off the season with gazpacho (see last year's recipe). This week, I've decided to bring in fresh vegetables (grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, and baby carrots), mini pitas, and hommous. The varieties of hommous available at the grocery store appear to be endless, but I decided to try making my own this time around - and to add some Indian spice in the process. I also cut down on the oil and tahini, which add a lot of fat to hommous; in order to restore the moisture needed to achieve a creamy texture, I used low sodium vegetable juice.

Masala Hommous (~ 2 cups)
1 can (16 oz.) chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 T. lime juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
dash cayenne pepper
up to 1/4 cup vegetable juice

1. Combine all ingredients except vegetable juice in a large bowl and lightly mash together.

2. Process in batches in a food processor. Add vegetable juice as needed to achive desired texture. [I found that processing in three batches, adding about 1 T. of vegetable juice to each batch, worked well. Experiment and see what works for you.]

3. Garnish with diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, paprika, or pine nuts. Serve as a dip for pita or vegetables, or spread on a sandwich.


Dark Chocolate Cherry Ginger Scones

When I'm running late in the morning or just want a little extra treat, I'll sometimes swing by Breadline to pick up a cherry-ginger scone on my way into the office. These scones are light and delicious and packed with moist cherries and tangy ginger. Since they are among my favorite scones, I decided to try my own variation for my first foray into scone-baking. While they didn't come out the same as Breadline's - a slightly different consistency, and of course my addition of dark chocolate to the mix - judging by the reaction at work today, I'd have to say that they were a success.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Ginger Scones (8 scones)
1/2 cup dried cherries (+ 1/4 c. water or amaretto)
2 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 T. sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces
1/2 cup light cream
1 egg

1. Place cherries and water or amaretto in a small saucepan, cover, and cook over low heat until cherries begin to plump. Drain.

2. Preheat oven to 425F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and use fingers to mix with dry ingredients until crumbly.

4. Add cherries, sugar, ginger, and chocolate pieces to batter. Stir a few times to distribute throughout batter.

5. Mix egg and cream in a small bowl. Add cream mixture to batter and stir until the batter is just moistened and mixed.

6. Form batter into a large ball and transfer to baking sheet. Pat into a circle or square of 1 inch thickness, cut into 8 pieces and slightly separate.

7. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, until scones are golden. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.


Sangria for a Party

Today, a guest post from my parents:

From Tennessee - August 2008

This is one of their favorite sangria recipes - but my mom warns that you should only make this if you are going to have a PARTY - this recipe is not for the small, intimate gathering!* Most recently, they whipped up a batch of this sangria for the "deck christening party" thrown by their neighbors.

* If you're looking for a sangria recipe that serves fewer - say, 4-6 people, try the recipe I posted last summer.

Sangria for a party
1.5 L Brandy (red - fruit flavored - Blackberry is good)
1.5 L Triple Sec
3.0 L Burgundy Wine
1.5 L Simple Syrup**
2.0 L Sprite or 7-Up
Orange/Lemon/Lime Slices to garnish

Mix in a VERY LARGE bowl.

** Simple Syrup: fill one of the empty 1.5 L. bottles with 1/2 sugar and 1/2 water. Shake until sugar is dissolved


Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb is one of those foods that defies classification - although cooked in pies and made into sauces like a fruit, it is actually a vegetable (leaf stalks, or petioles, to be exact). It's also the kind of food that, according to Garrison Keillor, isn't grown anywhere else except for here (here being wherever you happen to be) and which, when baked into a pie, can really revive a guy. My mom always kept a patch of rhubarb in the backyard while I was growing up, and back then the flow of rhubarb seemed endless. Then I moved out into the real world, and my rhubarb supply dried up. Occasionally, I'd find frozen rhubarb at the grocery store, or a stand at the farmers' market might have some. Grocery stores occasionally have it in the fresh produce section, but usually at exorbitant prices ($3.50 - $4 / pound). Then yesterday I found some really nice stalks in the corner of the grocery store - and on sale, too! As it happened, I also had about a half carton of strawberries in my refrigerator that really needed to be used up - and voila! I had the makings for an early summer strawberry-rhubarb pie.

The nice thing about strawberry-rhubarb pie is that you can adjust the ratio of strawberries to rhubarb and the amount of sugar / sweetener you put in, depending on how much of each you have available and how sweet you like your pie. For the pie I made last night, I used 2 cups of strawberries to 4 cups of rhubarb. If you prefer your rhubarb unadulterated, you can cut the strawberries out entirely - although you might want to up the sugar content a bit to offset the rhubarb's sharp taste.

Strawberry - Rhubarb Pie (8 servings)
2 pie crusts (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 cup sugar (or 12 packets no-calorie sweetener + 1/4 cup sugar)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
dash ground nutmeg
6 cups sliced strawberries + rhubarb (2 cups strawberries + 4 cups rhubarb is a good place to start)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F.

2. Line a 9 inch pie plate with one of the crusts and trim to edge of pie plate.

3. Stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb and toss until well-coated.

4. Pour strawberry - rhubarb mixture into pie plate, place second crust, fold edges under bottom crust and seal edge of pie. Cut vents in top crust.

5. Bake 50 minutes. If desired, place foil around edge of pie to protect crust during the first 25 minutes of baking. Cool pie on a wire rack after removing from oven.

6. Slice and serve pie - top with vanilla ice cream if desired!