We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hummus Reincarnated: So Smooth It's Like Mousse

by Michelle

"Of all the things that I love the most about preparing food and experimenting with recipes is that over time, if one is patient and willing, one can, on any given day, create a brand new dish. Something that you might previously have thought to be not that exciting or commonplace, can with a twist or a new technique, reveal itself to be a delicious new star in your everyday repertoire. Such is the discovery that I made about hummus during Michelle's recent visit. Without a doubt, this is a recipe with a special attention to detail, which makes all the difference. It will help you make the best hummus you have ever eaten."   ~Linda

   I can just imagine what my friends, or even worse, what my sister, Juliette will have to say about this post. "Just for clarification...  once again, you did what with a chickpea?" As Katy Perry might riff on herself, "I pinched a chickpea and I liked it." A simple pinch between my thumb and forefinger was all it took to pop each individual bean from its skin. Tedious work? A little, but not difficult. The results are worth the effort if you like hummus silky smooth like I do. This is an amiable chore when you have kitchen companionship - four hands make quick the work of two. Or, switch to the alternate mood zone, and listen to an audiobook while you make light of a repetitious job.

The garbanzo skins will amount to more than you imagined. 
   I like to give credit where credit is due. I saw the technique for removing the chickpea's skin over over at the Smitten Kitchen. However, the necessary step of adding ice water for a super silky texture was gleaned from cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, which I highly recommend that you add to your cookbook collection. It's a fascinating read, the photos are gorgeous and it makes me want to put on an apron and cook.

   The trick here is to not add too much garlic especially if the hummus will sit overnight. The garlic flavor builds as the hummus ages. I've learned this lesson the hard way through experience. The flavor of the hummus is not weighed down by incorporating olive oil in the purée. Instead, we prefer to use a flavorful olive oil as a garnish drizzled over the prepared hummus. We also like to hold back a few whole chickpeas to scatter over the final preparation. A sprinkling of aleppo chili is nice along with a shower of minced flat leaf parsley and perhaps a few fresh grinds of black pepper.

Hummus: Extra Smooth and Creamy

1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas = approximately 3-2/3 cups cooked
1 tsp baking soda
6-1/2 cups water
2 cans prepared chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), skins removed and liquid discarded
1/2 cup Tahini paste, stir the paste until all the liquid is emulsified, and then measure
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled (Linda loves garlic but likes just 1 in this recipe)
6 to 8 Tbsps ice-cold water
about 1 to 1-1/2 tsps sea salt to taste
4-5 dashes Tabasco

whole chickpeas
olive oil
freshly minced flat leaf parsley
lightly toasted pine nuts
a sprinkling of sweet paprika

Serve with:
flat breads
pita chips
prepared fresh vegetables

1. The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.

3. Whether fresh or canned, drain the chickpeas and remove and discard skins. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, with the machine running, drop the cloves of garlic through the feed tube to mince the garlic. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon teaspoon salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste. (I turned off the machine every so often to check the consistency.) I was surprised by the amount of water I added, so keep adding water until the hummus has a mousse-like consistency.
4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes to develop the flavors. If not using right away, refrigerate until needed. Remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.
5. To serve, take a spoon and make a decorative swirling pattern on the surface of the hummus. Scatter the reserved whole chickpeas, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with aleppo pepper and minced parsley. Serve with flatbreads, pita chips or prepped veggies.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Visit to the Anderson Valley, Husch Vineyards and Jacques Pépin's Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

My Traveling Tales by Linda

Zac Robinson of Husch Vineyards
   The Anderson Valley in California is a paradise... not a virtual paradise, but the real thing. I had traveled through this wine lover's destination years ago, and did not stop at the names that called to me at the time... Husch, Navarro, Roderer, Scharffenberger, Elke and Goldeneye. However, at little over a year ago, all that changed for me. My friend, Mark, took me on my first wine tasting trip there, and I fell in love. From where I live in Petaluma, it takes about an hour and a half to get to the entrance of the valley. From there it is about another twenty minutes to Husch, which claims the honor of being the first vineyard in Anderson Valley appellation.

Amy poses in front of the rose-covered cottage that serves as the charming 
tasting room at Husch Vineyards.

   Last Sunday marked my first visit to Husch Vineyards. Being a part of the retailing arm of the wine business, my Wine Specialist compadres, Mark and Amy, arranged for us to get a special tour hosted by Zac Robinson. Zac and his sister, Amanda are the family owners of the winery. They are most recent stewards of this land, since they are descended from three generations who have grown grapes and produced wine here.

Zac leads us through a tour of the vineyard.
Amy inspects the tiny grapes.
The future harvest of 2013.
   For the first part of our tour, Zac took us out to see the vines which were just beginning to set fruit, and we were pleased to see that they abounded with tiny berries. Zac said that the most difficult pest to deal with is gophers, and they have opted for a natural form of rodent control. He pointed out the owl nesting box that we were standing by, and he showed us an "owl pellet"which I had heard of but never seen. Owls regurgitate the unprocessed part of their food. Encased in the pellet, we were able to see, was a gopher skull... proof that the plan is working.

A nesting box is home to barn owls. The owls help keep the voracious gopher population in check.
A gopher skull encased in an "owl pellet". The rodent control program appears to be working.
   We passed by the crushing equipment on our way to the production barn. Zac explained how the process works.

Do you speak wine code?
     Then Zac took us into the main production building and showed us how the wines are made. This is also where the library of wines is located.

Zac educating Mark and Amy about wine barrels.
   It was a special treat for us to be able to taste from several bottles in the library. Zac showed us how the wines are cataloged, and then let us sample from some of the older bottles.

Amy seems pretty pleased with her "library" encounter.
   Zac was most obliging and let us linger awhile sipping and chatting. We found the wines to be excellent. Too soon it was time to say good bye, and reluctantly we headed back for home to prepare our dinner. Amy is a vegetarian, and definitely in the minority when she is in the company of Mark and I. We are dedicated omnivores, but Mark had a dish in mind for dinner that would make us all happy.

PS... it pairs well with Husch wine!

Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

Sunday, June 16, 2013

French Carrot Salad and Sin City

My Traveling Tales by Linda
Me buying carrots at my local farmer's market.
       I did not visit Las Vegas until I was in my forties. This was mostly by intention on my part  since its reputation for glitzy seediness and over-the-top trashy opulence never exactly appealed to me. Really... a fake Eiffel Tower and smoky casinos with no windows in which it is always the same time of day? Not for me I thought. However, that all changed when Michelle won a sales contest and took me on weekend to Las Vegas paid for by her company. I remember getting good advice before I went. A friend suggested that I suspend all judgement and just enjoy the free trip, and that is exactly what I did.

View from our room at the Palazzo. You can see the Treasure Island "volcano" erupting.
Juliette had to drag me to Fremont Street, and then I had an absolute blast 
photographing the lights and old neon signs.
    I remember someone saying to me beforehand, "Just think of it as an adult Disneyland." So with that in mind I traveled to Sin City for the first time. I must admit that in spite of my latent puritanical leanings,  I enjoyed myself immensely. Such a spectacle, however unsustainable it may be, was a source of many sensory wonders. I have to say that the immense "theme park" that has been constructed is nothing if not enticing. What does all this have to do with French carrot salad you might ask?

The famous spurting fountains of the Bellagio.
    Since Michelle is a regular visitor to Las Vegas because of frequent business trips there, she is also "in the know" about the great food to be found. On our first night in town, we luxuriated in the late afternoon out on the patio at Mon Ami Gabi, a upscale French bistro on the strip and situated near Paris where were staying. The heat of the day was fading, and with our chilled glasses of wine we were served a plate of crusty french bread and a ramekin filled with a shredded carrot salad. It was not sweet like the carrot salad with raisins of our childhood, but instead was dressed with a delicious and tangy vinaigrette. Since that day (and after Michelle's skilled inquisition of our waiter), we have tried our hand at making it at home.

   I have been back to Las Vegas several times since my first memorable adventure. My last visit was our Sistercation of two years ago, when all three of us were able to meet up and live the high life at the Palazzo for almost a week during our annual get together, which we described in our Sistercation Trilogy posts. When in Vegas, I do however always think back to my first visit with Michelle and the great time I ended up having much to my surprise. Just remember... what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless you decide to publish the photographic evidence on your blog.

Linda (left) and Michelle... Las Vegas circa 2004.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sparkling Rosé Bellini Cocktail and Sistercation with Michelle

by Linda

   This past week was joyful one for me. My sister Michelle and my 16-year-old niece were here to stay with me in Sonoma County for their annual visit. We spent the week wine tasting, walking on the beach and visiting Stanford University to see about the application process for Maddie next year. Stanford had 38,000 students submit applications last year, and just over five percent were accepted. We have our fingers crossed that Maddie will succeed in her life-long dream to attend. Go Maddie!

    Lynmar Estate was one of our wine tasting destinations.  I was introduced to Lynmar a little over a year ago, and it has become a favorite of mine. Naturally, I wanted to introduce Michelle to the wonders that await there. Lynmar produces superb wines... especially well-crafted pinot noirs. Lynmar is situated in a stunning corner of the county near the laguna of Santa Rosa. The location truly is breathtaking and the gardens are beautiful and amazingly well-designed. This is a treasure not to be missed if you plan to go wine tasting in Sonoma.

   Next up, being that Michelle is a former beach girl who now lives in the Sonoran desert... beach-time is a must. We visited on two different days. One foggy, and one sunny, but both were cold. North Salmon Creek Beach provides ample opportunities for us to indulge in our favorite passion other than cooking... photography. Michelle and Maddie just happen to be two of my favorite models.

   And then there was a sunny day... but it was also crazy windy and even more cold!

   And as always when we are together, there is food. Really, really good food. And where there is food, you will also find us sipping a cocktail or two. Since stone fruits are just coming into season, we picked up some white peaches at our local farmer's market and went to town... well, just down the street. I live about two blocks from a great Saturday farmer's market.

   And then there was the food

Étoile of French Carrot Salad

 Salvation Sister's Baby Back Pork Ribs

Caprese Salad

 Homemade garlic bread made from Juliette's famous sourdough recipe.

And what would a Sistercation be without the duck fat oven fries?

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