February 11, 2008
Last week, I found another cracker recipe on 101 Cookbooks and decided to take it as a sign. I love crackers and should probably buy some stock in the producers of Triscuits as many as I go through. And I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that making a batch of my own crackers wouldn’t be too hard – no yeast or rising required, but cracker recipes are relatively few and far between. When Heidi first published a recipe for crackers made with polenta, I was, of course, without polenta in the house. By the time I bought some, the cracker project had been forgotten. So last week’s post on semolina crackers was a nice reminder of that original mission and I happened to have some semolina sitting aimlessly in my pantry.
The cracker dough couldn’t have been easier – all-purpose flour, semolina, salt, extra-virgin olive oil and water – mixed together, portioned out and let to rest. Glossy and pliable, the dough was easy to roll out; I used my pasta roller, which I adore and love any excuse to use, to thin the dough evenly. Using smaller balls of dough than Heidi reccommended, I was able to roll them thinner for a more crisp snap and then finished them in the oven on a hot baking stone.
One of the strengths of this recipe, as Heidi notes, is the ability to play around with flavorings. I started with plain sea salt and fresh-ground black Tellicherry peppercorns, moved on to red pepper flakes and parmesan (which didn’t stick very well), and ended with balti seasoning, a spice mix from Penzey’s that contains coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin, dundicut chilies, Ceylon cinnamon, and quite a few other indian-inspired spices. The balti crackers were my favorite, delicately scented with just a hint of heat.
After finishing the crackers, I wanted to pair a spread with the indian flavors of the balti spice without overwhelming the crackers I had just spent an hour rolling out and baking. Looking through the pantry, I decided on a classic hummus. It’s one of my go-to recipes, something I’ve been making regularly since I discovered it in college, one of my first culinary epiphanies. Concerned about my large consumption of hummus from tiny tubs in the grocery store, my friend Abby dug up a recipe for me. I can remember the awe I felt upon first making it – “This is so easy! And it tastes better! And it’s cheaper! Why didn’t anyone tell me this was this easy?” (I guess Abby did.) And I’ve been making this hummus ever since.
Hummus Bi Tahini
thanks to Abby, makes ~ a little less than a quart, which goes pretty fast at my house
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
sprinkle the minced garlic with a pinch of kosher salt, then scrape/press it across the cutting board with the edge of a knife to form a paste, breaking down the individual bits of garlic. add to the bowl of a food processor along with
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
process on low until oil is incorporated.
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 teapoons ground cumin, optional
add the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, and cumin if you are using it. process until smooth and creamy. taste. add more lemon juice and seasoning to taste. the tasting part is key, as is a bit of restraint with the garlic and lemon. I’ve gone overboard with both in the past in this recipe and I’ve found that tasting carefully for balance between the ingredients is key here. you can also add a bit more warm water if you are looking for a creamier, more dip-friendly texture after you have got the acidity right.
for a pretty presentation, spoon into a serving bowl, make an indentation in the center, pool extra-virgin olive oil in the indentation and sprinkle with za’atar, a middle-eastern spice blend, or a bit of cayenne.