Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back Home, With Hummus and Porridge

Phew! February was a LOOONNNGGG and busy month, and the past few weeks have especially been a whirlwind. I spent President's Weekend in Florida with some close college girlfriends to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one friend. It was a spectacular weekend. Truly, I had such a great time with the girls, catching up, walking on the beach, and, of course, eating. There was a lot of Italian food: a delicious fresh squid ink pasta with calamari and a simple but lovely rigatoni al pomodoro.

We also had a lovely late lunch/happy hour at Taverna Opa! of Meze: grilled octopus, zuchhini sticks, grilled vegetables, and the MOST divine hummus that has ever graced my taste buds! I know, I'm swooning over hummus, but I swear, it was swoon-worthy. It was garlicky and lemony and the chickpeas still had some bite left in them. I am almost drooling as I type this!

I was home for two days, during which I recreated (pretty successfully) the hummus recipe twice. Yes, you read that correctly: for each night I was home I made a batch of hummus. It was a good couple of dinners, if I don't say so myself. With a belly full of garbanzos, I left for a work trip to Colorado for the weekend, where again I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with a close friend from Denver.

It was another great weekend, again filled with catching up and eating, only I traded out the beaches for the mountains. We skied, and both were impressed at the improvements in lunch options on the mountain: sushi, a great salad bar, fresh soups. It was a far cry from the burgers, pizza and chili we remembered from when we were kids. But the food memory that has stuck with me is again a rather strange one: Oatmeal and Polenta porridge from Avondale restaurant in Beaver Creek. It was creamy, hearty, and just the right amount sweet. I ate it every day I was there, and couldn't wait to recreate it as soon as I got home.

And now it is good to be home, with my husband, whom I missed dearly. It is good to wake up in the morning and go for a run with my dog, Lucy. It is nice to sleep in my own bed, and go to bed at my normal bedtime...which is apparently earlier than everyone I know as I stayed up WAY later than normal both weekends!

(My running partner, Lucy)

Vacations are a wonderful way to relax and recenter yourself. Spending quality with friends who I don't see often enough was an extra treat. And an added bonus is having two new recipes that will bring back the happy memories each time I make them.

Smashed Hummus

Because this recipe is so simple (it has just 5 ingredients), it is important to use high-quality ingredients. Make sure you use a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You really want that fruity flavor in the dish. I tried a few brands of garbanzo beans for this recipe, and Cento was my favorite. Not only did it taste better and mash better, but it had a nice yellow color, rather than a grayish hue that other brands had. The recipe below is based off of their 19-oz can, but if you use another brand in a 15-oz can, just reduce the garlic to 5 cloves and adjust the oil and salt as needed.

1 19-0z can Garbanzo beans, such as Cento, drained and thoroughly rinsed
6 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 small or half of 1 large lemon
1/8 cup Extra Virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Pita bread, for serving

Using a mortar and pestle, grind and smash the garlic and salt so it is a pasty but still chunky. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can do this in a shallow bowl with the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, and smash it all up a bit more, so that all the flavors come together.

If your mortar is large enough, add the garbanzo beans to the garlic mixture; otherwise, do as I did and put them in a small bowl and add the garlic mixture to them. Continue to use the pestle to smash it all together. You want the beans to be broken up a bit. Add the olive oil and keep on smashing. If the pestle is unweildly in a bowl, switch to a spoon. You want most of the beans to be broken up, but still in chunks and not completely creamy.

At this point, you want to taste the hummus and see how it's doing. Once, I needed more garlic (you want a pretty strong garlic flavor), and another time it needed a touch more salt and olive oil. This is a very forgiving recipe, so be sure to taste it as you go and make sure you like it.

Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour before serving for the flavors to develop. Serve with toasted pita wedges, and garnish with parsley if desired.

Steel Cut Oat and Polenta Porridge

This is another recipe that delivers a lot of flavor - and health - with a few ingredients and very little work. The polenta adds a great sweetness and creamy texture to the oats, and flax seeds add not only heart-healthy omega 3's, but a little but of bit of bite.

1 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup coarsely ground corn meal, such as Bob's Red Mill
4-5 cups of water
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Flax Seeds
Honey, to taste
Milk, for serving
Fruit, for serving (optional)
Toasted almond slices or walnuts for serving (optional)
Dried raisins or cranberries for serving (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Slowly add the oats, stirring to combine. Slowly add the cornmeal, stirring until smooth. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the corn meal stays smooth. Add more water as needed to thin it out if it is sticking to the pan and bubbling and shooting molten porridge at you.

Cook for about 15 minutes total, until the oats are pleasantly chewy and the texture is creamy but not runny. Stir in the flax seeds and honey. I used about 2 tablespoons, but add a little, taste, and add more as needed. (Remember: you can always add more, but you can't take away, so start small. That is one of my chef-husband's most useful mantras!)

Serve with milk and top with nuts, berries and/or dried fruit if desired.

This porridge keeps for a week or longer in the fridge. To reheat, add a little milk and heat in a saucepan for about 5 minutes or microwave for about 2 minutes, depending on serving size.


  1. Amazing. Both these recipes are worth a try. You're writing is soo gooood!

  2. thanks for posting the hummus recipe! i added some parmesan cheese