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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hummus with Spiced Lamb

There was a delicious article in Eating Well this month that focused on chef Michael Solomonov's Israeli street foods. He had two recipes for hummus topped with good stuff, and that got me thinking about what else I could scrounge up to put over hummus. I immediately started imagining crumbles of lamb heavily spiced with Middle Eastern seasoning, onions, and parsley. That got me thinking about the spice mix I use for my Middle Eastern Spiced Kabobs. Just the thought of it got me excited, so I had to try it. I basically used my kabob recipe substituting ground meat for the chunks and sauteing it all in a pan. It was everything I had imagined it to be. While this would be fantastic to serve as a dip for chips, it really is quite delicious and satisfying as a main course. As you might imagine, it is quite filling. Actually, it is darn filling. Surprisingly so. I ended up uncomfortably full because it was so good, I had a second helping without realizing I was already full! Word to the wise. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Hummus with Spiced Lamb
Yield: 4 small main course servings

2-3 cups of hummus (served at room temperature)
1 TBS olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup minced onion
1 TBS minced garlic
4 tsp spice mixture (see below)
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsely
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Spice Mixture:
1 TBS ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Mix the spice mixture together in a small bowl. Heat a skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil, lamb, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring often. The dish tastes best if you can get little crispy edges on the ground meat. Once the meat is cooked through and the onion is soft, drain any excess fat. Add the spice mixture, salt, and parsley. Stir to evenly mix. Serve over room temperature hummus. Add a drizzle of olive oil, if desired, and garnish with pine nuts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Andy's Mints

Last week, I made one hundred goody bags to donate to a women's mini-retreat. I included gingersnaps, toffee butter crunch, and these little mint gems. I'd made these mints once before and thought them wonderful enough to make again. If you like those little green foil wrapped chocolate mints, you'll love these things, too. They're darn easy to make, too, which is never a bad thing in my book.

I based them off a recipe I found in Taste of Home magazine. I just knew, though, that the way the recipe was written, I would find them cloyingly sweet. I am not a big fan of most fudges for that reason. But, I figured there was a way around that. Instead of using semisweet chocolate, I used a 60% bittersweet chocolate. It made them just right. The lack of excess sugar in the chocolate is more than made up for by the sweetness in the condensed milk. It ends up being the perfect balance. Interestingly, I have made these using both real white chocolate and white chips for the middle part and am not sure the flavor difference is worth the very real difference in price between them. It seemed to me they both worked well, so use either.

The first step is to melt the bittersweet chocolate and one cups of the condensed milk. Heat it in a heavy pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, prepare an 8" square pan (use a 9x13 pan for a double batch) by spraying with a little oil and lining with a sheet of parchment (the oil simply helps keep the parchment from moving around on you as you spread the mixtures into the pan). When the chocolate is smooth, add the vanilla. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it around. Chill until firm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Then melt the white chips or white chocolate and the remaining condensed milk in another pan over medium-low heat. Heat until smooth, adding the color and extract as you remove it from the heat. Spread the green mixture on top of the now slightly firm chocolate layer and spread around. Let it firm up in the refrigerator another 10 minutes. Reheat the remaining chocolate mixture until it is smooth again and spread it on the top of the green mixture once it has firmed up.

Let the tray sit in the refrigerator until completely firm, at least one hour, preferably two. Use the edges of the parchment to pull the candy out of the pan. Cut into roughly one inch wide strips. Use a sharp bench scraper or knife to then slice each strip into 1/2 inch wide pieces of candy.

Andy's Mints
Yield: approx 100 mints

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (~60% cacao)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (divided)
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate or white chips
2 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
3 drops food coloring

Heat the bittersweet chips and one cup of the milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth, Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Prepare an 8" square pan with spray oil and a piece of parchment. Pour half of the chocolate mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Let pan chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Heat the white chocolate or chips with the remaining condensed milk, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the extract and coloring, and spread evenly on top of the first chocolate layer. Let chill ten minutes. Rewarm the remaining dark chocolate mixture and then spread over the top of the green layer. Spread evenly and chill until completely firm, at least one hour.

Remove candy from pan using parchment. Cut along the long axis into roughly one inch wide strips. Use a sharp bench scraper to cut each strip into 1/2 inch wide candies. Can be stored at room temperature, but they will keep longer if stored in a refrigerator. Let warm to room temperature before eating.

Note: If you ever find the mixture seems to firm to spread easily, you can always add a dollop of heavy whipping cream to the mixture. This will loosed it up without adversely impacting the final product. If making a double batch, use a 9x13" pan.

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