I first tasted hummus at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Minneapolis called Jerusalem's several decades ago. It was delightful; all buttery and lemony. So I decided it would be a good thing to have at home. I tried several versions of store bought hummus including a local variety made by Holy Land in northeast Minneapolis. It is quite good, but none of them really seemed to be the right flavor for me. Perhaps it is the Scandinavian boy from the prairie who grew up on blandness? Not! I think it really is that I wanted something smooth with a little tang that could be spread on bread as a sandwich or used as a dip for chips or pita. Something versatile and yummy. So, for years I made batches of hummus. Unfortunately, my kids really don't like hummus, so I've had to eat a lot of it on my quest for perfection. Today, I got it and I'm going to share it with you: My Perfect Hummus!
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 large lemon juiced (little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1 15 oz can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil

Preparation
  1. Put the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and turn on for at 1-2 minutes until very smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the work bowl at the half way point.
  2. Add the drained garbanzo beans and the finely diced or crushed garlic. Blend another 1-2 minutes until smooth.
  3. While the food processor is on, slowly drizzling the olive oil into the mixture.
  4. Spoon out and garnish with a bit of olive oil and paprika. (Cumin and other spices can be added at the end if you wish.)

Nutrition
1 Tablespoon = 25 calories.
Notes
The two secrets to this hummus are:
  • The initial tahini lemon juice mixture.
  • The blending order of the ingredients. We are treating it like we are making mayonnaise or a dressing by emulsifying the olive oil slowly at the end into the acidic mixture.

Try it on our Honey Wheat Bread toasted. You will love it!
 
 
Many flat breads don't have yeast, but I like this one because of the wonderful flavor. It is easy to whip together in the morning and ready to bake that evening. Also, you can refrigerate the dough for a week and have flatbreads whenever you like. 

The added bonus is that this dough makes great rolls too! So if you get tired of flatbread, just make a roll or two for your favorite sandwich or eat warm with butter. Yum!

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp quick yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
  • spray oil
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Preparation
  1. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and mix until incorporated. It should be lumpy and wet, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed.
  3. Spray oil the top of the dough and bowl sides, flip the dough and then spray again.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and towel. 
  5. Place in warm area to rise about 5-6 hours. I put on my stove top and turn the oven on to 150 degress F and the vent keeps the top warm. It needs to be about 70-74 degrees F.
  6. Pour dough out onto greased counter top and fold over twice. Cover with wrap and let rise another hour.
  7. Uncover and divide dough evenly into six pieces.
  8. On a floured counter top, shape the dough pieces into quick balls. Set aside and rest for a few minutes.
  9. You can roll out the dough very thin after about 10 minutes or you can refrigerate the extra balls wrapped in plastic for about a week.
  10. Brush top of dough with a little olive oil and salt and bake at 450 degrees F on a preheated pizza stone or heavy cookie sheet for 3 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, top with toppings, and return to bake for an additional 15 minutes or so depending on wetness of toppings.

Topping Ideas
  • Mozzarella, caramelized onions, and pancetta.
  • Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, pepperoni and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, tomato sauce, pineapple and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, blue cheese, and pancetta.
  • Ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheddar cheese.
  • Mozzarella, nicoise olives, castelvetrano olives, and red onion.
  • Mozzarella, bacon, parmesan, and tomato.
  • Tomato, mozzarella, and basil.

Rolls
You can cook the six pieces individually or together as large or small rolls as well.
  1. Bring the dough to room temperature and let proof a little on an oiled counter under plastic wrap for about an hour.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or other large covered heavy pan with a cover in a 450 degree F oven for at least a half an hour.
  3. Shape dough quickly into rounds and placed into Dutch oven. Cook covered for 15-20 minutes depending on size of your rolls.
  4. Cook uncovered 5-8 minutes depending on size of rolls until golden.
  5. Remove to wire rack to cool.


Nutrition
Depends on toppings and portion size.

Tips
I usually cook 1-3 of the flatbreads and then store the rest wrapped in plastic wrap in a recloseable plastic bag. Bring dough back up to nearly room temperature before cooking.
 
 
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Sochi! Olympics! Putin shirtless! O.k., well at least two out of three ain't bad. I cringe after every skater as NBC pans to a stoic Putin in the crowd. Honestly, NBC should just rename themselves the Putin Television Network. There has to be more about Russian than just Putin sitting in a crowd or hanging half naked in a hotel room - his portrait, I mean. That and the stories of uniquely unfinished hotel rooms and bathrooms drove me to think about how I could share more about the culture of Russian to my family instead of the mismanaged hype. 

The Russian people are known for many great things including unique food due in part to their climates and topography. In particular, they are known for pickling certain foods including cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage. Their pickling brine is almost as holy as soy sauce to some Asian cultures. Almost as holy as vodka! So, I decided we'd celebrate a bit of the culture of Russian outside of the NBC/PTN mockumentary experience by having a bit of pickled foods and a few shots of vodka for the adults with a proper Russian toast of course.

Here are two great quick pickle recipes I developed for the occasion. One recipe is for tomatoes with pepperoncini and the other is for cooked Brussels sprouts. Vashe zrodovye! - To your health! Half naked or not.

Ingredients
TOMATOES
  • 10 medium small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 small jarred pepperoncini
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

BRUSSELS SPROUTS
  • 18-20 Brussels sprouts halved
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic sliced thin

BRINE
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (you could use red wine vinegar for a different flavor)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Preparation
  1. Bring the brine ingredients of water, vinegar, salt and sugar to boil until dissolved.
  2. Steam the halved Brussels sprouts in a bit of water in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Fill a quart jar with the tomato ingredients.
  4. Fill a pint jar with the Brussels sprouts ingredients.
  5. Pour the brine into each jar. You will probably have a tiny bit of brine left.
  6. Seal jars, cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition
Calories are pretty small, probably about 10 or so for each tomato and 10 for about a quarter of the Brussels sprouts.

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Tips
You can serve the Brussels Sprouts within an hour or so, but I'd wait a day at least for the tomatoes.

This is a refrigerator recipe. Please do not use for long term storage canning.
 
 
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We have some wonderful friends that we love to share time with at a great little restaurant called Black Sheep Pizza in Minneapolis. They have a dish of warm olives that is absolutely fabulous to munch on while you down a cold local brew or a lovely glass of wine. But be careful as the olives are hot and you could burn your tongue. So take your time, let the olives steep in the oil, mind your tongue and share them slowly just like you would a great friendship! Here is my version inspired by good friends and Black Sheep.
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Ingredients
  • 2 Cups Mixed Olives (Castelvetrano, Nicoise, Kalamata)
  • 1/8 Cup Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 To 4 Garlic Cloves
  • Rosemary Sprig
  • Pinch Of Salt

Preparation
  1. Combine all ingredients in pan and heat over medium until boiling.
  2. Serve warm in a dish that will retain heat.
  3. Enjoy with cheese and cold beer or wine.

Servings
Multiple 1 oz servings.

Nutrition
About 10 to 12 calories per olive.

Tips
  • You can use pitted or unpitted olives, but the olives with pits will take longer to cool which could be a plus if you want to savor them.
  • Other herbs work well too.
  • Alternatively, this recipe can be cooked in an oven. They will take about 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Longer at a lower temp.
  • Stuffing the olives with small rectangles of cheese after cooking is a superb addition. I used a light Gouda in this photo.