Friday, April 20, 2012

From the Middle East to France, and Dangers on the Ranch

The recipe that follows pita bread in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is, of course, hummus.  I've made hummus before, from a recipe found here, on a blog by Jonah Lisa Dyer.  I thought that the hummus I turned out from that recipe was okay, but I wasn't thrilled with it.  She did make me laugh at the thought of even contemplating removing skins from chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and had good suggestions on how to make it really creamy.

I decided to try Jennifer Reese's recipe for hummus.  The night before, I rinsed and put the beans into a pot of water to soak overnight.  Bright and early the next morning, I rinsed them again and set the pot to boil.  It's supposed to simmer, which is - I think - a safe thing to do when I drive the kids to school (my carpool morning!), so I set it low and slow and left.  When I came home, the water was hot, but not simmering, so I had to bring it up to speed again, because the beans were still hard as rocks.

I wish that the beans had done their thing while I was out, because I don't really appreciate the smell of simmering garbanzos.  It's not "bad," per se, but it certainly doesn't bring to mind the scrumptious hummus that I'm sure will be made from them.

There are differences in these two recipes.  One is that obviously my most current venture into the Land of Hummus was twice as large as Jonah Lisa's.  She used canned beans, and though I used cooked dry beans for that recipe, it wasn't the whole one-pound bag like I planned this time.  If you make hummus from a pound of beans, I hope you have friends to give it to, a family that will eat it up like maniacs, or a freezer.  It's a lot of hummus.

Jonah Lisa suggests creaming the tahini and lemon juice at the beginning, then adding the other ingredients, saving the beans for last, and I agree with her that that method works best.  I also use a food processor and not a blender.  I think it works better, and I'm lucky to have one that my awesome eldest daughter, Jessica, gave me.  I like the cumin in Jennifer's version.  It's one of my favorite spices, and one that I fell in love with when I discovered a recipe for Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herbs and Farfelle in an issue of Cooking Fresh magazine.  It's a summertime staple, so I'm sure I'll share soon!

The last time I made hummus, Jessica had cooked beans and had 1/2 pound left over that she gave to me.  Yesterday was the first time I'd gone from ground zero to hummus, and I was feeling frustrated.  At hour 2.5 of simmering the gol-durn beans, they were still hard, so I started warming milk to make chevre.  It all starts with a gallon, yes, a whole gallon, of milk. 

I'd never made anything using this much of my goat's milk, so I was a little nervous at first.  This is silly.  If I mess it up, there's more brewing right outside, and there's about another two gallons still in the fridge.

About the time that the milk had heated to the 86 degrees that was needed to add culture and rennet, the garbanzo beans had finally softened.  I drained and cooled them, then started to assemble the ingredients to make the hummus.  The pot of cultured milk went onto a heating pad to keep it at temperature for 12 hours.  That's going to be a late draining at 10:00 p.m.  Note to self to start chevre earlier in the morning.

I got anxious when I couldn't find the tahini immediately.  I dropped extra bucks to get organic because, though Jennifer has a recipe for making tahini, I haven't even attempted that yet.  Mixing the tahini and lemon juice creates a frothy concoction.

I was anxious to add the rest of the ingredients and get whirling!  In went the spices and garlic and olive oil.  I started adding the beans a handful at a time.  About halfway through I realized ... I should have checked the capacity of my food processor bowl before making this recipe.  I really should have known.  I filled it as far as I could, did some juggling around, mixing and removing and remixing, tasted it, and liked the intense garlicky and nutty flavor so much that I didn't want to add the last 3/4 cup of beans.  It was creamy and just fine the way it was.

I had a mess to clean up, the chevre was still staying warm, and I had a ton of work to do in the garden, so I took off the apron and tossed on the old clothes, gloves, and hat, grabbing the weed whacker on the way out the door.  I also grabbed the leftover beans, because the chickens love chickpeas!

I am making good progress in the garden.  The tall grass, weeds, and thistles that had regrown after the last rain are cleared, the greenhouse is nice and steamy (I have to take off my glasses before entering!), and I'm getting the soil softened so I can dig out some weeds in the raised beds.

After picking Becca up from school, my neighbor's brother stopped by to warn us that he'd seen three rattlesnakes that day.  He is really concerned, because normally he sees three in a whole season.  Later, Bette texted me to let me know that she'd seen another near her goat barn.  Feeling on edge already, when the day cooled, I went out to see if the yellowjackets I'd seen hanging around the pickup had made any nests.  I carefully opened the driver's door and saw that a nest was being started in the door jamb, just where it'd been last year.  I left that open and popped the hood.  The passenger door was clear, and after I carefully opened the hood I got a chill, seeing one, two, three yellowjacket nests under there.

Becca and I made a quick trip to the store to get a trap.  As she got out of the car she screamed and started flailing her leg, stomping the ground.  A yellowjacket had been on her ankle!  When it was time to leave, she really wanted to walk the six miles home, and did NOT want to get into the car.  We had no idea if it'd left or not.  It took some firm coaxing and an examination of the car to get her in, and a promise to stop if she saw anything.  Half a mile down the road, she started yelling - it was on the floor, walking around.  We pulled over and dispatched the creature, and made it the rest of the way home without incident.  By now the day had cooled, so I knocked down the nests, discovering two more that had been barely started.  The hood of the truck is open today and I'll keep an eye out.

As creepy and nerve-wracking as these things are, rattlesnakes and yellowjackets, and bobcats, raccoons and skunks and other creatures are just another part of the country living we enjoy.  Learning to live with and near them, and encouraging them to stay away from my place, is a balancing act.  Extra vigilance is a small price to pay for a place that I enjoy spending more time outdoors than in, can enjoy fresh air, grow good food, and not hear traffic, arguments, or sirens.  I fall asleep to the sound of coyotes in the hills, and appreciate that life here is darn good.

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