Tag Archives: mothers

Recipes From My Mother’s Table (with some daughterly tweaking)

20 Jun

So, what of the recipes?  Well, for starters, Kaukab never learned to use them. She comes from a long list of women from the ‘old country,’ which means…there’s no safe, neat list of items–like measurements. No pantry list. No words of encouragement, like “Don’t worry, I’m sure your family will still love you, even if the hummus tastes nothing, nor looks, like the one that we’ve made for generations, harking back to the Phonecians.”

With that in mind, I give you the first of many.  I wanted to make this first one especially special, so I decided to start with the ubiquitous chickpea spread, universally known (and spelled) as “hummous,” “hummus,” or “humous.”  Personally, I go with the middle one. I’ll do us all a favor and not comment on the various pronounciations.

So, the main question I get from my non-Lebanese, hummus-making friends, is: “Why doesn’t mine taste like yours?”  Except for Kaukab.  If you flip the third and sixth words in that lovely question, you’ll have a good idea the relationship for which the perennial ‘mother-daughter’ one refers.

Here’s the secret to “authentic” (i.e., Kaukab’s hummus) hummus-making.  Reserved cooked chickpea water. Now, you may ask, “Where am I gonna find chickpea water?!”

The secret to a flavorful hummus is to cook the canned chickpeas (for the more adventurous cooks with plenty of hand-time, who start with the dried ones, you’ll already have the cooked “pea” water).  This will achieve two important things. One, it will provide you with the sacred pea water, and; two, it will soften the pea skins enough for you to remove them so that your hummus will be nice and smooth. Let’s get started!

For a party of up to 15

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon

garlic, 3-4 lg. cloves (peeled, of course)

3-4 T. tahini (Mediterranean equivalent of American peanut butter)

1C. reserved, cooled pea water

salt to taste (I prefer sea salt, although Kaukab used regular, old Morton’s)

Olive oil (Xtra Virgin, preferrably)

In medium pot, put in chickpeas and cover with cold water. Cook chickpeas on med. to medium high, lid partially tilted. Cook to boil, then turn down to medium and cook another 15 minutes.  Remove from stove and pour 1C of liquid into measuring cup and let cool. Drain the cooked peas. Rinse with cold water, until cooled. Pick off any thin, clear pea skins and discard.

Into food processor, put chickpeas, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2-3 T. tahini, 1/4 C. reserved, cooled pea water and pulse until fairly mashed. Pause, and scrape down. Add rest of garlic, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. more salt, tahini, 1/4C. cooled pea water, 1/2 lemon, and pulse enough to make smooth, loose paste. Add more lemon, tahini, garlic to correct taste. You should taste the tahini in it. Use more pea water, if needs loosened. Kaukab’s hummus isn’t thick, like peanut butter. Pour finished hummus onto platter, or in bowl, and add finely-chopped parsley, a sprinkling of paprika, and a few whole chickpeas–barely inserted. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread, cut into small triangles.

 A word about adding spices, like cumin. I tend to avoid any discussion about this with Kaukab, since her usual response goes something like this: “We don’t do this. Only Americans do this. We don’t do it!” Personally, I like cumin. But, not in my hummus. In black bean or mango salsas? For sure.

Kaukab’s Green Beans w/Tomatoes

20 Jun

Toddler-Approved

2lbs. fresh green beans (as fresh as supermarkets can provide)

1 lg. onion, finely chopped

2 whole cloves; peeled, of course

a small wedge or two of lemon

1 28oz. (or close to) can whole or crushed tomatoes. (4 or 5 med. fresh tomatoes, skinned and quarted, will also do effectively)

cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp., depending upon amt. of green beans and taste

salt, 1/2tsp. to start, a bit more as cooks down and to adjust taste

cooking oil (I prefer Canola oil; you can use any veg. oil, but don’t use olive oil)

Water, to cover.

I think I should have stated earlier, but now’s as good a time as any…Take my measurements as estimates, only. Kaukab never measured (as stated earlier), and so, I learned to ascribe to her cooking method, as well. Cooking something new takes rehearsal. Eventually, you do it, relying on all your senses, rather than waiting for a bell to ring (much like Pavlov’s dog) to tell you when the food is done. Plus, my taste buds are home-grown. By that I mean, they were acclimated to my mother’s cooking, as yours was to your’s, so when you taste the “same” recipe, is it ever going to taste exactly as Kaukab’s? Not really. Not at least, according to Kaukab. Mine gets very close–an assertion mildly grating to my mother. But I’ve learned to compromise, and let her have her win. For a woman who defines herself by the extraordinary food she prepares for friends and family, it would be self-serving, and impish of me to grant her anything less. This conciliation (and confession, of sorts) has only come my way in recent years, and I believe I’m the better for it. Now, on to the green beans.

So, now that you have all the ingredients, let’s start.

Wash and string green beans. Drain and paper-towel dry. Snap beans in half.

In pot, pour enough oil in bottom of pot to just come up the sides. Heat oil over med. high heat. Throw in the chopped onions and cook until nearly transluscent. Toss in the green beans and cinnamon, stirring with the onions until green beans begin to turn yellowish–up to 5min, maybe. (This is where you’re going to start learning to use your eyeballs.) Then add tomatoes. If whole, or fresh, break them up in the pot. Stir around.

 Add water, enough to cover beans about an inch, or so, above them. Add salt.   Cover with lid, partially tilted. Once boiling, stir, and then return lid (partially tilited, of course) and turn down heat to medium. Let cook about 30 min. and check for liquid reduction. Stir. Add more salt, if needs. Turn down heat to med. low. Squeeze a wedge or two of lemon, for a bright note of flavor. Continue cooking until tomato liquid is rich red and somewhat thickened–usually an additional 20 -30 min.

In Mid-Simmer

 

Serve with pita bread. Of course.  As an aside: These beans are really good served cold, or at room temperature the next day. With pita bread.

Call Me “Kow Kow.”

15 Jun

Today, I thought I’d introduce you to my muse; otherwise known as my mother. And, while she answers to several names–“Kay,” (her Americanized name, used by her American-born friends), “Kaukab,” (her given Lebanese name), and, of course, “Mom,” I can’t help but smile when I think back to the time of my childhood (this being one of the few good ones) when my younger cousin erased the final sounds of her name and replaced her given one with “Kow Kow.”  For several years, a mind-picture of a cow was curiously attached to her name. Alas, my mother’s father raised sheep in the northern fields of her native land, Lebanon. No cows were ever seen.

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