Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hummus Deviled Eggs

I don’t like mayonnaise.

Aioli isn’t bad. There are all sorts of amazing things you can do with a good homemade aioli. But store-bought mayonnaise and I stare suspiciously across the kitchen at one another and we’re seldom on eating terms.

A number of years ago, after a particularly ugly stare-down with the mayo jar, I decided deviled eggs didn’t need the stuff and used homemade hummus instead. Now there’s hardly a holiday without some request or excuse to make Hummus Deviled Eggs. I’ll tolerate the mayonnaise jar, but tahini and chickpeas forever retain places of honor in my kitchen.

Make the hummus first, up to 2 days ahead. I’ve included the quantities for a full batch of hummus, though to use all of it you’d have to hard boil at least 18 eggs. Use some of the hummus for the eggs, then keep the rest for a quick healthy snack or dip for vegetables or crackers. These make an excellent New Year's hors d'oeuvre.

Hummus Deviled Eggs
Makes 24

1 can (15oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
Dash good dark olive oil
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
12 eggs, hardboiled
Fresh parsley, washed, and finely chopped for garnish (about 1/4 cup)
Smoked paprika for garnish (optional)

Put rinsed chickpeas into a food processor, along with garlic and salt. Pour tahini onto chickpeas in a separate area from the garlic. Add half the lemon juice. Turn on the food processor and add remaining lemon juice and the water gradually as it grinds.

While it is still grinding, pour in a small dash of olive oil (no more than 2-3 tsp). Run it for at least 5 minutes; you want it to be very smooth. Add coriander and cumin. Stop it periodically to scrape sides down, taste, adjust for salt, lemon juice, etc. When it tastes perfect, stop blending. Scoop out about half the hummus and put it in the fridge (this is extra). Leave the rest in the food processor.

Carefully peel hardboiled eggs, slice them in half neatly lengthwise, and reserve yolks to a bowl on one side. Arrange whites together on a platter.

Blend about 8 hardboiled yolk halves (4 whole yolks) into hummus. Taste. Add more yolk halves if needed, but be careful to keep it from going too yellow or tasting too rich. Add more salt if needed. If yolks make hummus too dry, add more water or a dash more olive oil.

When the hummus and egg yolks are blended and tasting delicious, scoop hummus into a pastry bag with a large decorating tip. Pump hummus into egg white halves, being careful to fill the hollows well. Do not overfill; you want these to be easy to pick up.

After all eggs are filled with hummus, finish by tossing chopped parsley over all eggs as garnish. You want a good scattering, so it looks festive, but not as covered as a mossy forest floor. Alternatively, you may use smoked paprika as a garnish.

These keep overnight wrapped carefully in plastic, but they are best made within a couple hours of serving. Be careful to keep plastic from touching the eggs or they’ll smear and look messy when the plastic is removed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dodee Cookies

My great great grandmother, Dodee, would sit out on the porch and drink a beer with my grandfather. She taught my grandmother how to cook meat and kept a sharp wooden three-pronged fork for turning pork chops, which she’d serve with homemade applesauce and sauerkraut. Around her memory hover little unsubstantiated tales involving occasional cigars and outright profanity. She was the best of all idealized grandmothers and even if the facts are a little stretched, her character remains a family legend of love.

I think we would’ve gotten along swimmingly.

Dodee’s cookies are a Christmas tradition for my family. The holiday isn’t right until these emerge golden from the oven, topped with their shining maraschino jewels. I don’t know how long her recipe took to perfect. It probably suffered pinches and prods in her kitchen for years until she honed it into flawlessness. My gluten-free version took ten Decembers.

When a cookie is mostly butter, the slightest tweak to gluten-free flours and starches shakes the recipe to its core. These cookies have been responsible for more oven cleanups than any other recipe I’ve ever created or converted. Now I can’t stop smiling as I write this, having eaten four perfect Dodee cookies that each hold the flavor I remember from way back in my gluten-filled childhood.

I like to think I know a part of Dodee through her cookies. It’s been a long decade of baking chats with her as I change starches, add or subtract ingredients, and strive towards her cookie’s simple genius. This is a flavor meant for sharing.

Happy Baking!

Dodee Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 stick real butter or vegan butter (1/2 cup)
85g brown sugar
50g sweet rice flour
45g amaranth flour
55g tapioca starch
raw pecans or maraschino or amarena cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in flours until dough forms and everything is well-mixed. Scoop out about 1 tsp of dough at a time and roll it into balls. Arrange on cookie sheet about 1-2 inches apart. Press a fork into each ball just once, then top with either a pecan piece or half a cherry.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, until cookies are golden and just beginning to brown on the edges. Cool at least 5 minutes before removing from sheet. Cookies will be soft when just baked, but will become crunchy as they cool. Cookies with cherries will turn soft again the next day. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Note: Using vegan butter in these cookies works, though their edges will be feathery instead of smooth.

Grammie and me, during a past holiday season