Plain Hummus with Za'atar and Paprika

by Maja Lukic


Sometimes, I feel that if my recipe is not a complex multi-step endeavor or at least somewhat inspired and original, I should refrain from posting it -- even if it's something I legitimately prepare and enjoy at home on a regular basis. This way of thinking serves as a decent gatekeeper most of the time -- i.e., I will never post a green smoothie or oatmeal unless there's something entirely innovative about the recipe (I make no promises about kale, though. I live for kale.). But, on occasion, I neglect a good, substantial recipe simply because I worry that it's not exciting or attractive enough. This hummus is one of those recipes. 

At some point, I realized that every food blogger/cookbook chef worth her/his salt has a basic hummus recipe. It took a lot of nerve to restrain myself from adding unusual flavors (jars of harissa and smoked paprika beckoning, open bags of sundried tomatoes resting on the counter, fresh herbs idling in glass jars in the fridge), but I said: "No, Maja. No. We're going to keep it lo-fi this time." And so, this is my plain, basic good hummus recipe, culled from the excellent Deborah Madison and Yotam Ottolenghi versions but refined through months (years!) of my own trial and error. 

It's a good one. To dress it up, I like to top it with whole chickpeas, fragrant extra virgin olive oil, paprika, and za'atar. Za'atar, if you're not familiar with it, is a Middle Eastern spice blend and my new favorite ingredient. It's kind of all over the place now in food magazines and on food blogs and there is good reason for that -- za'atar is delicious, infusing dishes with a bright, almost lemony flavor, which is a remarkable quality for a ground spice blend. The basic elements vary but the blends may include sumac, sesame seeds, sea salt, coriander, thyme, cumin, fennel seed, oregano, etc. I source it at Kalustyan's in my neighborhood but I've seen it at Whole Foods and various online spice shops. It's a great match for eggs and roasted vegetables. I find that it burns easily so it's best to use it fresh at the end of a meal but it can withstand a short cooking/baking time at lower temperatures. 

And now, the hummus. Sage advice from a lifetime of hummus preparation: you will always need more lemon juice, more tahini, more sea salt, and more chickpea cooking liquid than you think. Dried chickpeas far surpass their canned counterparts and, when you rely on canned chickpeas, you deprive yourself of the flavorful, starchy chickpea cooking liquid (do not use the vile canning liquid). Peeling the chickpeas (for instructions, see here) yields a creamier, smoother hummus but it's entirely optional. Notably, neither Madison nor Ottolenghi peel their chickpeas. My personal stance is that I do it when I have the energy/motivation to do so, which is only about 50% of the time. And if the prospect of peeling chickpeas is the only thing keeping you from making your own hummus, don't bother peeling. For a creamier hummus, you should always add more water, not oil -- save the oil to drizzle on top.

By the way, Veggies & Gin can now be found on Instagram (veggiesandgin) and Twitter (@veggiesandgin). Never miss an update. 

Plain Hummus with Za'atar and Paprika (v/gf)

Adapted from Plenty and Vegetable Literacy

Makes 3 cups approx.

1 cup dried chickpeas (or 2 cans)

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1-2 lemons

1/3 cup tahini

reserved chickpea cooking liquid

za'atar

paprika

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

If using dried chickpeas, place the chickpeas in a bowl the night before and cover with an inch of cold water. Soak on the counter overnight. The following day, drain and rinse well. To cook the chickpeas, cover the chickpeas with about 6 cups of water in a large pot, bring to a boil, and simmer on low for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until very tender. When cooked, turn off the heat, and add a tablespoon of sea salt to the cooking liquid. Cool slightly and then drain the chickpeas but reserve the cooking liquid. Peel, if desired. For canned chickpeas, drain and rinse well, and peel, if desired.

Reserve a few whole chickpeas to finish. Transfer the remainder to a large food processor and pulse until broken up. Add the juice of a lemon, garlic, and tahini and process until smooth. With the motor running, add as much chickpea cooking liquid (or plain water) as needed to reach a creamy, smooth consistency (about three to six tablespoons). Season with sea salt and more lemon juice, to taste. 

Turn the hummus out into a wide shallow bowl and spread it out. Sprinkle with paprika and za'atar. Finish with the reserved chickpeas and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with pita bread or vegetables. 

The hummus can be stored in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to a month.


Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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It was only a matter of time before I got swept into the pumpkin spice madness of the season. Today, I am sharing a pumpkin muffin that would be a respectable addition to any holiday brunch or breakfast table. 

I have to confess that it took me a very long time to fully appreciate pumpkin puree and pumpkin-flavored treats. To be fair, up until a few years ago, my only associations with pumpkin were: a) the completely unnecessary Starbucks infusion of dairy, sugar, and artificial flavors known as the Pumpkin Spice Latte; and b) the trays of sugary, cracked pumpkin pies that regularly appeared at my local grocery stores around November 1 every year.

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But with age comes, I don't know, wisdom or at least something approximating wisdom. Having been exposed to some delicious pumpkin treats recently, I am now devoted to the sweet gourd. I do think that pumpkin benefits from a little chocolate (as do all things) so I often pair the two together. 

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And, so, this muffin -- the happy marriage of pumpkin, spices, walnuts, dark chocolate, and citrus makes for a perfect fall pastry. The walnuts lend a crunch, the chocolate chunks melt into rich, bittersweet ribbons throughout the batter, the spices are warm but not overwhelming, and it's all perfectly balanced with bright citrus notes. (The orange comes through nicely -- please don't leave it out). 

Do not let the long ingredient list put you off --  you probably have most of the ingredients at home and once you gather the various components, it moves fairly quickly. Also, you can substitute the individual spices with a few teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. 

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As for texture, this will not yield a very crunchy muffin top, unfortunately. The crumb is soft and incredibly moist. I have a strong aversion to dry or overdone baked goods so I err on the side of underbaking everything. If you prefer a drier or more "done" pastry, simply extend the baking time by a few minutes.  

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

Adapted from Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Makes 12 

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup buckwheat flour (not buckwheat groats) 

1 tsp baking soda

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix/filling) 

1/2 cup organic maple syrup

1/8 cup unrefined coconut oil

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground allspice

pinch of ground clove

pinch of ground white pepper

1 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks  

1 tbsp chia seeds

a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. (Whisking means you don't have to sift the flours!).

In a separate bowl, combine the liquid ingredients: canned pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, three beaten eggs, the juice and zest of an orange, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, a pinch of ground clove, and a pinch of ground white pepper. (If you're using whole peppercorns, two to three grinds of the pepper mill should do it.). 

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid batter, taking care not to overmix. 

Stir in the walnuts, chocolate chunks, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.  

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they will not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

The muffins will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Notes: Both the almond flour and the buckwheat flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Instead of the individual spices, you can substitute 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. For a less sweet muffin, decrease the chocolate chunks to 1/3 cup. It's a fairly soft, wet batter but if it seems too wet, add in some more almond flour. Conversely, if the batter seems too dry, add in a little bit of almond milk. Extend the baking time for a drier, crunchier muffin.


Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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Fall is officially here and it seems to have brought with it a succession of perfectly crisp, sunny days -- at least in New York. Even though I'm increasingly reaching for scarves and sweaters, I also know that this is the season of walks in the park under brightly colored leaves, morning yoga classes, almond milk lattes sprinkled with nutmeg, and quiet creative projects.

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The arrival of fall also marks the beginning of apple season at farmers market. Wooden crates of beautifully sweet and slightly tart apples are now everywhere and if you're an apple lover (and I am), this is an exciting development. Biting into them fresh is my preferred method of consumption but a freshly baked apple dessert or pastry is more than tolerable.

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I have to confess that I'm not the world's greatest baker. Baking is a very exact, very precise science, and I've always felt more at home with the improvisational, experimental nature of cooking. But I'm actually pretty adept at baking muffins -- a muffin savant. (One could argue that being only good at baking muffins is the very definition of an unskilled baker.). The only real muffin wisdom I've picked up over the years: always use oil instead of butter and do not overwork the batter.

All of this brings me to my current favorite muffin recipe. As someone who eats her fair share of gluten-free (GF) baked goods, I can say, without reservation, that these are the best GF muffins I have come across. (The muffins are also dairy free but not vegan due to the inclusion of eggs). Not only do they come out of the oven perfectly moist and soft, they remain so overnight and freeze/unfreeze well. They're fragrant, lightly spiced, and not too sweet. Mostly, they're a simple, delicious way to celebrate apple season.

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Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Adapted from Food 52

Makes 12 muffins

2 1/4 cups almond flour (see Note)

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3 bananas

2 organic apples, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/4 cup dried mangoes, chopped

2 tsp chia seeds

3 eggs

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or maple syrup)

1/8 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp organic raw apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Roughly chop the walnuts and dried mangoes.

Peel and grate the apples using a coarse grater -- do not use a food processor -- and set aside while you prepare the wet ingredients.

Mash the bananas with a fork.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up and add the oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and the mashed bananas. Stir everything well. (You can also do this in a blender). 

Gently incorporate the almond flour, walnuts, dried mangoes, and chia seeds into the banana mixture. 

Squeeze out the excess juice from the shredded apples and stir the apples into the batter. Try not to overwork it. The batter should be fairly wet at this point but if it's too wet, add in another 1/4 cup of almond flour.Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to absorb the liquid.

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Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they do not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

They will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in a freezer bag for up to 1 month.

Notes:  Leftover almond flour should be stored in the freezer. If mangoes or walnuts are unavailable, feel free to make substitutions (get creative!). If you do not have coconut oil, substitute other neutral tasting oils (or even olive oil) but not butter. This is a very soft batter so the paper liners are necessary - try not to omit them. For a moist texture, the key is to not over bake the muffins - start checking them at the 17- or 18-minute mark and make sure that they do not dry out.

 

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