One of my favorite meals is what I call a “nibbles and bits” night. It’s all about the finger food, and it is consumed in front of the TV. Sometimes the choice of nibbles and bits follows a theme. Are we going to watch “French Kiss”? I will serve roast chicken (often cut into finger-friendly pieces, but sometimes just ripped from the bird…), brie, baguette and sliced cucumber. I love the combination of brie, chicken and cucumber atop a slice of crusty baguette. How I would love to rush to the store for those ingredients. Right! NOW! Sigh… I would round the meal out with a nice Bordeaux wine and some dark chocolate (anyone for See’s walnut squares?). More often than not, there is no particular theme to our choice of nibbles and bits. There is always a protein (like meatballs, salami, or shrimp), one or two kinds of cheese, assorted fresh veggies, crackers or crostini, a dip or two, some olives and maybe some nuts. I usually have most of the ingredients on hand, so throwing together a nibbles and bits night on short notice is no problem. But this Pantry Challenge has stretched my horizons and tested my talents.
Yesterday, Charlie Bear had an appointment at the vet for a check-up and shots. His big sister, fondly known as the Loud Mouth Hussy, went along for moral support. I’ve been going to the same vet for almost ten years. So when we moved and bought our house, it was with the understanding that the dogs would still go to the same vet. Forty-some-odd miles away. Yes, we love our vet that much. Even if that means sitting in Southern California traffic. If you have ever experienced Southern California traffic, then you know the level of trust and respect we have for this fantastic group of professionals. Besides, Dr. Cole was the Loud Mouth Hussy’s vet before she became a K-Mart Blue Light Special at the pet store. (The Princess was a gift. Her brother is a rescue.)
I knew we wouldn’t be home until almost dinner time. I didn’t want to put anything into the slow cooker, primarily because everything I thought about making needed an ingredient I didn’t have. Since it was Ground Hog’s Day, and we traditionally watch the Bill Murray movie of the same name, it was inevitable that we were destined for nibbles and bits. I knew we had cheese, some crackers, fresh carrots and my favorite almond-stuffed olives. I was pretty sure there were meatballs in the freezer. And I figured I could mock-up some hummus using canned garbanzo beans. I knew I didn’t have tahini for the hummus, but I have heard that peanut butter is a perfectly acceptable substitute. But then I remembered – I have sesame seeds! Woo Hoo! I can make my own tahini sauce!
This is the first website I looked at for making homemade tahini. Reeni’s recipe makes far more tahini than I wanted. Since I only wanted enough for one batch, I reduced the ingredient amounts drastically, but I used my regular-sized food processor. I don’t recommend that. I think my tahini would have turned out better had I used either the blender or a mini food processor. But since I only wanted to dirty one thing (do you know how many dishes I have been washing since this started?!?!), I opted for the big food processor. I also don’t have a mini one. This is not the most traditional hummus. I love the flavor of cumin, so I toasted cumin seeds with the sesame seeds. Ground cumin would have blended better with the small amount of sesame seeds I was using. I also tend to add a little extra lemon juice, so I can keep the salt down. If you don’t have sesame seeds, go ahead and use the peanut butter. Or try this hummus recipe from Nutmeg Nanny that uses cashew butter. I will definitely be trying it… I love cashews!
Totally Homemade Lemony Cumin-Spiced Hummus (Adapted from this Serious Eats recipe)
3 Tbs sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds (or ½ tsp ground cumin)
4 Tbs. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2-4 Tbs. lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed
Salt to taste
- In a hot, dry skillet over low heat, toast the sesame seeds and cumin seeds for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Sesame seeds can burn quickly, so watch carefully. They do not need to be a uniform color. If using ground cumin, add during the last minute or two of cooking, just long enough to bloom the spice and release its flavors and aromas. Remove the seeds from the pan and let cool.
- Place the seeds into a blender or food processor. Put the top on, then start the blender or processor, and drizzle in about 1.5 to 2 Tbs. of olive oil to get a smooth consistency. Be sure to scrape the sides down at least once or twice during the process. According to Reeni at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice, homemade tahini doesn’t have the same texture as commercially prepared tahini. Mine could have been better, but I was making such a small amount in the food processor… I still had pieces of cumin seed visible. I plan to make a larger amount of tahini in the future!
- Drop in the garlic and let the food processor chop it up for you. Scrape down the sides again, and add the garbanzo beans. Replace the top, turn on the machine, then drizzle in the final 2 to 2.5 Tbs. of olive oil and at least 2 Tbs. of lemon juice until the garbanzo beans are smooth.
- Add salt to taste. If desired, add up to 2 more Tbs. of lemon juice and mix well. If the hummus is too thick, add water one tablespoon at a time while the food processor is running, until you have your desired consistency. Scrape the hummus into a serving dish or storage container, and refrigerate for at least one hour for flavors to blend. Makes about 2 cups.
And as for the meatballs, we were out. Not a meatball in site, in either freezer. The Hubbers said he was fine with what we had put together so far for our nibbles and bits night, but I wanted some more protein. I made up a quick chicken pate using some canned chicken breast, roasted garlic mustard, and a roasted red pepper spread with eggplant and garlic (from Trader Joes). Not bad for an impromptu creation, but I think I would have preferred a mustard with a bit more kick, like a good Dijon or even Coleman’s Mustard.