Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mashed Garlic Pumpkin

Roasted pumpkin drizzled with olive oil and then mashed with garlic makes a deliciously succulent side dish I'm calling mashed garlic pumpkin.

Food Lust People Love: Roasted pumpkin drizzled with olive oil and then mashed with garlic makes a deliciously succulent side dish.
Here’s a post for all my old friends who used to think my life is glamorous.   We have finally gotten there!  Back when we lived in Paris, I remember friends exclaiming, “Paris! That is so wonderful.  I have always wanted to go to Paris!  What do you do there?” The answer to their question was, “Well, Mondays I do laundry, including the ironing. Tuesdays I clean downstairs. Wednesdays I clean upstairs. Thursdays the bathrooms have to be cleaned and Fridays are always bed linen changing and washing day.”  

And everyday, of course, I was caring for my two little darlings. Changing diapers, nursing the baby, potty training the toddler, getting spit up stains out of my t-shirts and cooking, always cooking.  Such a glamorous life I led!

But now, in truth, I can say that this last week has been pretty cool. No family responsibilities (except a baby sitter for the hound) and besides the fact that we flew economy class, the jet-setting started on Thursday with a dinner dance next to the pyramids in Egypt.

Beer and wine were served from 6 p.m. (and we brought some champagne and cocktails of our own) with the pyramids in full view!  Everyone was in tuxedos and lovely gowns just like the beautiful people.   We were the beautiful people! (Except for not being skinny and rich.)

Look!  One of the pyramids in the background.  Is that cool or what?!

Then the party went inside to the hotel ballroom, where we were served a sit-down meal and entertained by three or four live bands in succession.  We ate, we drank, we danced!  Then around 11:30 p.m., we headed home to change our clothes and collect our luggage.

We checked in for our flight to Bologna via Istanbul then hung out in the executive lounge (That Star Alliance gold card comes in handy!) until the flight was called.

Mere hours later, we found ourselves on a sleek train from Bologna to Venice, and then on a water taxi to the Splendid Hotel.  We enjoyed the sightseeing and reveled in the delicious meals that Venice offers. Glorious seafood! The hotel even had complimentary Prosecco – Italian sparking wine - at every breakfast.  Splendid indeed!

The Grand Canal in Venice, taken from the Rialto Bridge
After two wonderful days in Venice, we rented a car and drove down the coast roads to Ravenna for work (dear husband) and more sightseeing (me) and more delicious meals and wine (both.)

The altar: Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna

Then we were off  to Istanbul for more gorgeous seafood Tuesday evening at Afrodite Restaurant in the historic area of Kumkapi, and a Wednesday shipyard visit (him again) and more sightseeing and shopping (me.)  

The view from our hotel room in Istanbul. 
I am thinking that this is what my friends imagined I did all these years. Anyway, it certainly feels like a dream. We arrived home today almost a full week after our whirlwind departure from the pyramids, exhausted but happy.  Some work, some play but, all in all, a great week. 

Mashed Garlic Pumpkin

Here’s a quick easy dish that is delicious eaten with a spoon right out of the pan (me) or as a side dish.

1 1/4kg  or 2 3/4 lbs pumpkin
Olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200°C or 400°F.

Cut the peel off of your pumpkin and cut it into chunks.  

Put the chunks into your baking pan and drizzle liberally with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss then distribute the chunks evenly around the pan. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, drizzle your garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Roast the pumpkin for about 30 minutes.

Add in the garlic, toss the pumpkin around, and roast for a further 30 minutes.  You want some browned bits but you don't want the garlic to burn and turn bitter so keep an eye on it.  

Using a potato masher, mash the pumpkin and garlic as smoothly as you like.  I like to mashed the garlic thoroughly but leave a few small bits of pumpkin for texture.   Check your seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.


Food Lust People Love: Roasted pumpkin drizzled with olive oil and then mashed with garlic makes a deliciously succulent side dish.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Green Beans with Fresh Tomatoes and Thyme

Green beans with fresh tomatoes and thyme are a great side dish chicken, steak, pork chops or fish. In fact they go well with everything. Or eat them on their own!

Food Lust People Love: Green beans with fresh tomatoes and thyme are a great side dish chicken, steak, pork chops or fish. In fact they go well with everything. Or eat them on their own!

This week I am away from my kitchen, spending time in Venice and Ravenna, Italy and having a great time seeing the sights and admiring the art and architecture.  So here's something I cooked and wrote a while back but never posted.

Elder daughter has never been a fan of cooked tomatoes, so when she still lived at home, I didn’t make things in tomato sauce very often or add tomatoes to many cooked dishes.  She was not a picky child, this being her one dislike – she was the only other person in the family who joined me in the love of beets! – so it seemed a small concession to a mostly flexible eater.  I’m also not saying she wouldn’t eat the cooked tomatoes, after all, just that they were not her preference.

Her sister will not eat beets, but spaghetti Bolognaise and lasagna were two of her favorite meals.  Both traditionally have tomato-based sauces, of course.  So I walked a fine line of pleasing everyone by cooking those only occasionally but always when her sister was traveling or spending the night with a friend.  It’s all about planning.  Do other families do this balancing act?

Suddenly, with both girls away at university (and, boy, do I miss them daily) I am free, free to cook whatever I want.  (Also free to travel when dear husband has a business trip somewhere interesting!) Thankfully, their father eats everything.  (But beets.)  I love this dish because the colors are gorgeous.  And it tastes good too.

Green Beans with Fresh Tomatoes and Thyme

These are best made with red ripe tomatoes. If you don't have any, good quality canned tomatoes can be substituted. 

1/2 lb or 225g green beans
2 red ripe tomatoes
Generous sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves
5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Chop off the tops and tails of the green beans.

Cut the tomatoes into small pieces.

Pop your tomatoes into a dry non-stick skillet on high heat and brown (scorch) them a little.

Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, slice your garlic very thinly.

Give the tomatoes a good drizzle of olive oil and add in the garlic.   Let it fry a little bit then add in the green beans.

Toss them in the tomatoes and olive oil and then add about half a wine glass of water and put the lid on.

Let the beans steam for a few minutes, depending on how soft you like them.  Crunchy beans will take just a few minutes.  Very tender beans might take as long as seven to 10 minutes.  Check them occasionally by tasting a bean and remove the pan from the heat when you are happy with the bite of the beans.  (Add more water if it gets dry before the beans are cooked to your satisfaction.)  While you are checking the tenderness, add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve along side some roasted chicken and rice with gravy.  

Beso admiring the roasted chicken in the oven.  We have never had an oven just his height before.
He finds it endlessly fascinating to watch meat cook.
Or whatever else you have on the menu.  These green beans with garlic and tomatoes go with just about anything.

Food Lust People Love: Green beans with fresh tomatoes and thyme are a great side dish chicken, steak, pork chops or fish. In fact they go well with everything. Or eat them on their own!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hummus – Middle East Meal, Part 3

Traditional hummus, made from the eponymous chickpea, is easy to make at home and more delicious than you'll find in any supermarket.

My dear husband woke me up with coffee in bed last Wednesday and the words, “Time to wake up!  Time to go to work!”  I cannot tell you the last time I heard those words, but I am guessing 1987.

We were living in Abu Dhabi and I was working for a publishing company/advertising agency called Apex Publishing.  We did the artwork for print ads, glossy four-color annual reports, published the British Club magazine, among other jobs. It was a tiny enterprise with a sales manager, a couple of salesmen, one accountant (who also answered the phones), one art director and one editor, which was me.

Or perhaps it was 1988. Still in Abu Dhabi but I had changed jobs and was working at the InterContinental Hotel as public relations officer.  Yep, that, friends, was the last time I was paid for work. (But it was also the time I discovered the joys of hummus.)

For the last two Wednesdays I have been volunteering at the gift shop in the Community Service Association’s facility in Maadi and it is great fun! I get to rearrange the merchandise (local craft items made by charities and non-government agencies to raise money for their programs), chat with all the shoppers and run the cash register, which is really a money drawer with a tiny key, and a computer with an Excel file. If you know me, you know what my favorite part of that job is.

Check it out!  My desk with computer and my very own ID badge.

Isn't it a lovely little shop?!
Anyway, back to Abu Dhabi and hummus - the final part of the three part series, Middle East Meal, which started with shish tawook and tabouli. I was saving the best for last because hummus has been one of my favorite things to eat for 25 years.  It's not hard so anyone can make it. 

12 oz or 340g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon flakey sea salt (plus more to taste)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup or 80ml tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/3 cup or 80ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Either soak your chickpeas overnight or, in a metal or heat-resistant bowl, cover them with twice their depth of boiling water and then cover the bowl with a plate to keep the heat in.  Let them soak for at least one hour.

After either soaking method, drain the water and put the chickpeas in a pot with fresh water and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the chickpeas are tender. 

If you want really smooth hummus, you can gently squeeze the chickpeas and remove the thin skins.   If I have some time on my hands and something good to watch on television, I do this because it is a tedious, mindless task that goes perfectly with some Ellen or perhaps a rerun of Friends, and it will get you the smoothest hummus possible.

If you can’t be bothered, as I can’t most of the time, drain your chickpeas, reserving a  few to garnish the serving bowl, and put them into a bowl deep enough for a hand blender to work without spewing the bowl contents all over you and the kitchen.  (Or you can use a food processor, if you prefer.)

Add in 1 teaspoon of flakey sea salt, your garlic, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and about a half cup of water. 

 Using the hand blender, mix until you get a nice smooth paste.  

Add a little more water if necessary.  Taste the hummus and add more salt if it needs it.

This should be served in a shallow bowl with an indention in the hummus for some extra olive oil.  Scatter the reserved chickpeas about.  (As you can see from the photos, I forgot this step.)  Serve with some fresh Lebanese flatbread.   (Or even crudités like carrots, broccoli or cauliflower to dip.)

Sorry about the shadows!


Looking for part one and two or the Middle East meal?

Part 1, Shish Tawook  

Part 2, Tabouli