Weeknight Cooking: Tiramisu Affogato

Still building a repertoire of quick after dinner deserts, I ran across this stripped down, chilly version of a Tiramisu, the coffee-soaked Italian treat. Rather than going through the fuss of making a layered dessert, this employs the use of ice cream. What made this such an attractive option to me is that the person I live with does not like coffee, and different ice cream options would allow me to create different versions. Mine tasted like a tiramisu, his did not.

Tiramisu Affogato

The recipe’s original instructions are a little unclear, so I’ve changed them a bit. Basically, you want this to look like the photograph you see above, and the instructions don’t necessarily suggest to make it as you’re seeing it.

Tiramisu Affogato
Courtesy of Gourmet

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 pint coffee ice cream
9 savoiardi (Italian crisp ladyfingers), broken into quarters
1 1/4 cups freshly brewed espresso (10 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups boiling water and 3 tablespoons instant-espresso powder
A small piece bittersweet chocolate

Directions:
Beat cream with sugar until it just holds stiff peaks.

Divide vanilla and coffee ice creams among glasses, then top with ladyfingers. Pour hot espresso on top and dollop with whipped cream. Grate chocolate on top.

I didn’t want to brew up a cup of coffee for two reasons: First, it was late at night and second, I was cooking for someone who does not like the taste of coffee. That left me with the water and instant-espresso powder option, since that is as un-coffee-like as you can imagine. Our long time readers may recall the following mathematical formula:

Powder + Water =/= Mocha

With that coffee issue out of the way, the only other thing left for me to do was to eliminate the coffee ice cream from his, substituting it with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Savoiardi cookies are then placed on top, and the hot water-instant espresso mixture is poured on. The cookies instantly soak up the liquid and provide the soft, spongy texture enjoyed in tiramisu. Thanks to the ice cream, the liquid is quickly chilled.

The mistake I made in this was I put my savoiardi cookies in my food processor, because the original recipe said to coarsely crumble them. Unfortunately, the chunks of soaked cookie were not big enough for me, and I was left with wanting more — not just larger pieces, but a lot more of them. Don’t go light on the cookies; they’re magnificent soaked in the liquid and accompanied by the ice cream. Top it off with the sugared whipped cream and enjoy. If you want to go the extra mile, shave off some chocolate to sprinkle on top.

As a dessert, this was fun and refreshing, and I’m going to love serving this up come summertime. It’s a fun play on tiramisu but without all of the fuss. You’ll not be ashamed to serve this at home or at a gathering. It’s also versatile for those strange individuals in the world who do not care for the taste of coffee. Everyone will get their fix with this one.

As a weeknight dessert, this isn’t hard to put together. Sure, you’re having to beat up the whipped cream and sugar, but that takes all of 60 seconds. The utensils used are at a minimum, making clean up easy. My favorite part of all is that each dessert is served in a separate little cup. I don’t know why I’m so enamored with that, but I am. I guess it was just so good that everyone else can go get their own!

Overall Dessert Grade: A-
Weeknight Cooking Grade: A-

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MoM Feb. ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets

Though we aren’t sharing recipes from this month’s Magazine of the Month, Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008, I have found the one reason as to why you should go and pick it up at your local grocery store:

ATK - Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets
Photo courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

You are looking at a picture of my current most favorite dish ever. I’ve made it a couple of times so far, and will make it until everyone in my house is sick of it. Then I’m still going to keep making it. This dish alone is worth the $7.95 it costs to pick up this magazine, and I’m not kidding.

The Test Kitchen shows their love for garlic with this one, giving the chicken a shot of garlic in, not one, but three ways.

First, the chicken is marinated in minced garlic and oil for 30 minutes. The breasts are then coated in a homemade breadcrumb mixture with garlic powder. For the final touch, the breasts are cooked in a bit of oil that had been infused with smashed garlic. Despite all of the garlic, I was still kissable after the meal.

What impressed me the most about this wasn’t the garlic, it was the texture of the breading. Admittedly, I’ve had a hard time in the past with breaded chicken breasts. Using store bought breadcrumbs has yielded simplistic results. I’m not opposed to them; they get the job done. Unfortunately they lack the fresh, clean and light results I would prefer: I want something thick and fluffy! Store bought crumbs, on the other hand, coat your chicken with very small, hard crumbs and, when using boneless, skinless breasts, only form a thin coating. With the Garlic Chicken Cutlets, I ended up with a completely different experience. If you put the two chicken breasts side by side, they wouldn’t even look as if they were related.

For this dish, they recommend either pounding your chicken out flat or cutting it in half, horizontally. I was only serving two, so I used one chicken breast and cut it in half. Economical — that’s a bonus in my book.

As I’ve already said, the breasts marinate for 30 minutes in minced garlic and oil. While that is going on, the breadcrumb mixture is prepared and toasted in the oven.

Chicken Cutlets - Breadcrumbs & Garlic

Once that’s ready, the chicken is then dipped in a light coating of flour, then into whipped up egg whites — which will not only create lightness, but it will allow for a thicker coating of the garlic-breadcrumb mixture to stick.

Chicken Cutlets - Coating the Chicken

And that’s where it’s going next: The breadcrumb and garlic powder mixture. Press to adhere so lots of delicious breading can get on there.

Chicken Breasts - Drying

The breasts are dried on a rack for 5 minutes, and we turn our attention to the frying pan.

Smashed garlic is dropped into oil, and the pan is heated up.

Chicken Cutlets - Smashed Garlic Cooking in Oil

Once the garlic starts to brown, it is removed from the pan and the chicken cutlets go in for 2 minutes per side.

Chicken Cutlets - Frying Chicken 1

Chicken Cutlets - Frying Chicken 2

These are served up with a side of pasta that was cooked in well seasoned water. If your water isn’t seasoned and/or the pasta is overcooked, it’s really going to fall flat up against the chicken. I’ve served the pasta plain and served with a little butter, and I have to say I prefer it plain next to chicken that was just frying in oil, but that’s just me. My recommendation is definitely to serve it up with a side of pasta.

Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlet

So good, and not too overpowering. The breading is incredibly fluffy and delicious, making it just a pleasant food to eat. I could have this almost every night. Overall dinner score is high because the taste and texture of the chicken really bring it home.

As a weeknight cooking dish, this falls down a little for me. Because I love it, I’ll make the supreme sacrifice and continue to cook it up however, there are a couple of issues. Despite how hard the Test Cook tried to keep the cooking time at a minimum, there’s a marinating time plus the time it takes to toast up the breadcrumbs on top of everything else. Even if that wasn’t an issue, the real clincher for me is the amount of dishes it takes to make it. Not only are you using three separate containers to bread the chicken, the food processor comes out to break down the bread, a cookie sheet is employed to toast the bread, a separate rack is used to just to dry the chicken… There’s a lot going on here in terms of dishes and clean up that bothers me.

So, although this is my current favorite dish ever, it’s a bit inefficient and will be frustrating for someone who worked a full day and comes home to do more chores and get dinner on the table. I’m not going to lie about that, because I won’t be making this if I’m on a short fuse that night.

Still, it’s delicious. I ate it again for dinner last night.

Overall Dinner Grade: A
Weeknight Cooking Grade: B-

Best of America's Test Kitchen

Weeknight Cooking: Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onions

There’s not much to say about this recipe except DAMN.

I love paprika chicken and its many, many incarnations. When I was growing up, my mom used to make a version that soaked in a bullion broth with diced onions and spices and was served over rice. It was my favorite dish, so you can imagine my disappointment when I came to discover my spouse hates paprika.

The thought of going through the trouble of making my favorite dish for only me to eat was a bit discouraging, so the recipe went into the back of my recipe card file, and has sat there for the last couple of years.

Last week, as I was flipping through everything in my Google Reader, I came across Epicurious’ February 4th Recipe of the Day: Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onions.

Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onion

The recipe is written with bone-in chicken in mind, and I prefer boneless, skinless breasts. So I took this home and adapted it a bit. Holy crap, was this good. Yeah, the spouse still hates paprika, but this is so simple and so fast, I could easily make it for just one person. (Do you hear that, single folks? This gets ripped together so fast you actually won’t mind cooking only for yourself.)

Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onion
Adapted from Gourmet

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Mix oil with spices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl, then add chicken and onion, tossing to coat. Arrange chicken, skin side up, and onion in a shallow baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the spices have formed a light crust all around the chicken breast. Add chicken broth to the dish and cook for another 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

In short, throw all of your stuff into a bowl, mix it up, put it into the pan and throw it into the oven. That’s it. That’s all you’ve gotta do. The directions above are pretty similar to what’s on the epicurious site, except that I halved the recipe and, so the breasts don’t dry out during the cooking process, I added the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan after the spices have had a chance to stick to the breast. Adding the broth at the start just washes the spices off, so I waited.

Paprika Roast Chicken - Spices & Onion

So here’s a shot of the spices and onion, right before I throw in the chicken. After you add the chicken, it all becomes like a thick paste.

Paprika Roast Chicken - Mixing Bowl

Here it is going into the oven:

Paprika Roast Chicken - Heading Into the Oven

And coming out:

Paprika Roast Chicken with Sweet Onion - Done

How I should have served this was on top of a small bed of rice, but I didn’t think about that until later.

Alone, this was just a spicy chicken breast. With the onions (I used yellow Mayans) it’s absolutely magnificent. How it should be eaten is with one onion and one bite of the breast together. The contrast of the sweet, soft onions and the spicy chicken was so delicious, I can’t even begin to explain. Bonus: Ten minutes prep time. By the time this came out of the oven, I had finished making dessert and cleaning up the kitchen.

I can’t say enough about how great this dish is. I’m sad I won’t be making it often and, when I do, it will be only for me, but I’m excited that I found something delicious and healthy, and even Citizen Chef can make when he gets home from a late night at work.

Weeknight Cooking Grade: A
Main Dish Grade: A

Weeknight Cooking: Warm Almond Cakes with Grapes

It’s been a week of food experimentation for me and, after the Butterscotch Pudding, I was craving something a little offbeat. Well, I mean something offbeat for me. Typically, when I go out to eat, the dessert menu I am provided has a selection of, well, the typical: Chocolate cake, ice creams, your run-of-the-mill pies, and so forth. My home baking usually gravitates toward the same safety net of sweets, and I guess I was just looking to take a walk on the wild side.

Warm Almond Cakes with Grapes
Photo courtesy of epicurious

Or maybe just the weird side. After all, we’re talking about a cake. With grapes.

Eh?

I like cake and I like grapes, but the thought of them coming together was a little weird for me. Would it be heavenly or heinous? There was only one way to find out.

Warm Almond Cakes with Grapes
Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: 4 shallow 1/3-cup gratin dishes (1/2 inch deep) or a 9-inch pie plate

I didn’t make this overly difficult because I was making it on a weeknight and had too many other things going on, so there are a couple of things I did differently, but it’s not too big of a deal. If you want to check out the original recipe on epicurious, it’s linked inside the ingredients list.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Pulse almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl and repeat with remaining almonds and 1 more tablespoon sugar.

Warm Almond Cakes - Sugar & Almonds

This sugar and almond mixture is going to set the texture for your cakes. So, if you like your cakes with a little more chop to it, don’t process it so finely. If you want your cakes to be a little smoother in texture, keep grinding.

Normally I’m not a big fan of these types of textures in cakes, but this time around I didn’t mind it — I wasn’t in love with it, but it wasn’t off putting. It was nice. The batter is light and moist so the almonds are not distracting when you eat it. I will say that next time I make this, I will grind my almonds up a bit more — most of it is fine, but if you look closely at the above picture, the fragments near the center of the blade didn’t get chopped up as much as I would have liked. Next time I’ll make sure the almonds are a little more consistent, but that’s just a personal gripe and nothing to do with the recipe itself.

Beat together butter and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and beat in ground almonds, flour, and salt until just combined.

Warm Almond Cakes - Butter & Sugar

My butter was chilled solid when I took it out of the refrigerator so, without unwrapping it from the paper, I nuked it in the microwave for 20 seconds, then left it sitting out while I made dinner. When I was able to start dessert, the butter was ready to go.

Again, I didn’t over complicate this. I did add the eggs one at a time, but I mixed until they were incorporated, making sure that everything was properly stirred — no egg white globs, no yolk trails in the crevices of the bowl, no beaks.

Just kidding.

The point is, I didn’t beat this to death. Just make sure it’s all mixed. It’s a pretty simple recipe, so don’t sweat it. Throw your stuff in a small bowl, use your mixer on it and when it’s all done, it should look something like this:

Warm Almond Cakes - Batter

Divide batter among gratin dishes and press grapes lightly into batter. Bake in dishes on a baking sheet until cake is firm and pale golden with slightly darker edges, about 20 minutes. If using a 9-inch pie plate, bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

Transfer cakes to a rack and cool slightly in dishes before serving.

I didn’t have the small gratin dishes they described above and I like the idea of giving everyone an individual little dessert dish rather than having to slice something up, so I used the next best thing I had in my house, which were gratin dishes a little larger than what the recipe called for. The mixture ended up being divided evenly between my three dishes, so I knew I would need to bake it a little longer. It ended up taking only 23 minutes as the slightly larger version.

Warm Almond Cakes - Prebaked

Unfortunately, when they came out, they had risen above the grapes, totally engulfing them in the cake. Most likely this is due to having poured in more batter than was prescribed, so it didn’t look like the professional picture (at the top) but whatever — I wasn’t taking the cake to the prom and showing it off, I was going to take it to the table and eat it.

Warm Almond Cakes with Grapes

While I was eating it, I snapped a shot of the insides so everyone could get a better idea of the texture. Here it is:

Warm Almond Cakes - Inside Texture

At first glance, it may resemble cornbread, but it isn’t. It’s light and cakey (yeah, I’m making up words now) and very sweet, and the texture of the almonds really comes through nicely. I was concerned that the almonds may be too crunchy, but they do bake up nicely in the dish and soften.

As for the grape aspect — in the picture above you may see a little bit of the grape juice “bleeding” into the cake. The little tang of the black, seedless grapes I used were actually a pleasant surprise. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked that the grapes hadn’t bled through to the entire dish, but I think that would have cheapened it. Like I said, the tang of the grapes were a neat little surprise. Without the grapes, it would have just been a boring almond cake, one that could be nicely served with a side of ice cream. With the grapes, it was a little something different.

This ended up being a fairly fast and easy dish, one that came out well on a weeknight. After I had prepared dinner and placed it in the oven to cook, I started working on the cake batter.

The batter only took me about 15 – 20 minutes. Once it was done, I covered the tops of the dishes and put them into the fridge until dinner had finished up in the oven. Then I just swapped everything out — dinner was plated and the dessert went in to bake. By the time dinner had been eaten, dessert was coming out.

I liked the timing on this a lot. I liked that I could pop the dessert in the oven and it would be ready by the time everyone had eaten. As for cleanliness, I only used one small mixing bowl, my food processor and a small cutting board (to half the grapes) to create it.

In terms of a weeknight dish, it was mostly speedy. As I said earlier, I liked the way the timing went with having it prepared. Taste wise, it was delicious and fun. I wouldn’t say it was elegant — grapes give it a little more casual and fun flare to it, and it was definitely filling. Not that there’s anything wrong with being casual, but that knocks the grading down for me just a little bit, because I don’t think this is something I could dress up and serve at a fancy dinner gathering. This was a great and fun little dessert, one that I will make again… although that doesn’t mean I’m totally won over by the idea of grapes in a dessert. Tastes great, sounds foreign so, if you’re looking for something a little off beat, here’s one to try.

Overall, deliciousness wins the day so I’m going to give pretty high marks for this one.

Weeknight Cooking grade: A-
Overall Dessert Grade: A-

Weeknight Cooking: Butterscotch Pudding

For the past month, I’ve been interested in the concept of the after dinner dessert. Because desserts can take up copious amounts of time and, lover that I am of quicker weeknight meals, I’ve avoided them. Desserts in my house have typically consisted of low fat ice cream on a stick (mmm, Skinny Cow Mini Mint Dippers). Though lately, it just hasn’t been enough. I’ve been wanting something more.

Butterscotch Pudding - courtesy of Gourmet

Maybe it was the milk chocolate desserts I explored from last month’s MoM, or maybe I just wanted something tasty, I can’t say for sure. But when I stumbled upon a quick and easy butterscotch pudding recipe that called for things I already had on hand, I rushed right home and whipped it up.

Because I was only serving two, I cut the recipe in half. I also only had to dirty one pot to make it and, on a weeknight, that suits me just fine. The custard finished after about 15 minutes and was in my ramekins and in the refrigerator, chilling out while I finished up dinner.

Butterscotch Pudding
Courtesy of Gourmet

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

It’s another one that’s fairly straightforward, leaving the guesswork out for even the most novice cook.

Whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, then boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with buttered wax paper and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Butterscotch Pudding - Brown Sugar & Cornstarch

Making fresh desserts on a weeknight doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to cut corners. Other things have to be taken into consideration, like the time and effort it takes to clean up. If I only need to scrub down one pot when it’s over, I will lean toward that recipe on a weeknight.

Butterscotch Pudding - Whisking Milk & Cream

This step is actually where I went slightly wrong. I had my back turned for a couple of minutes and when I came back, it had started to thicken and collect in the bottom of the pan. Without thinking, I started scraping it off of the bottom with my whisk. This resulted in small little beads (reminiscent of tapioca) throughout. What I should have done was continue to whisk without scraping the bottom.

Well, what I should have done was to not be a moron and leave the kitchen, but it was too late for that. And by that time I wasn’t going to toss the whole thing and start over because it smelled way too good.

Once it’s thickened, add in the butter and vanilla.

Butterscotch Pudding - Vanilla & Butter

The butter and vanilla give it the glossy texture and add all kinds of magic to the end result. (It’s butter and vanilla, do I really need to explain what they do?? They’re like the Starsky and Hutch of baking ingredients!)

Butterscotch Pudding - Final

Keeping in mind that I halved this recipe, when it was finished I poured them into two small, 4 ounce ramekins. They sat in the refrigerator for about an hour or so to chill, then we had them for dessert.

Despite my user error on letting some of the custard coagulate at the bottom of the pan, I am going to give this recipe a B+ on the dessert scale and an A- on the weeknight cooking scale. Definitely worth it, especially for a weeknight. It’s quick if you want to whip it together right before you start cooking up dinner, that way it can chill while you’re cooking. It’s also economical due to the fact that the ingredients it calls for are common, most people would have these things on hand as I did, and also because there are so few ingredients, unlike other recipes.

Something else in its favor is something I pointed out earlier, and that’s the amount of dishes and utensils it takes to make it. When you’re done, clean up is very simple because you’re only having to rinse down one pot, a few measuring spoons and a cup. The B+ is because this is pretty much what you’d expect — it’s a butterscotch pudding. That’s not a bad thing, because butterscotch lovers will be absolutely satisfied. However, and I know I’m nitpicking here, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that would make me say, “Wow, that was so great that I’m going to make this a million times.” It was certainly delicious and definitely satisfying and I would recommend it, but I didn’t love it as much as I loved the Warm Double Chocolate Brownie Cakes.

Still, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a little something spiffy to serve up on a weeknight.

Weeknight Cooking Grade: A-
Overall Dessert Grade: B+

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 10: Oats and Failure

“Bunky beds”.  Can we just end the show and make Fabio the winner already?  Fabio is another great example of why everyone wants to be Italian.  It’s not just the coolness, it’s the zen-like ego-less coolness that allows them to be cool without being annoying for being so damn cool.   It’s the complete effortless cool  of Jude Law in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.  Which I guess is a bad example because it got his head bashed in by an oar, but only because he didn’t let Matt Damon get in the bath with him which you know he totally wanted him to do anyway but whatever.

 

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE:  DO SOMETHING WITH OATS BECAUSE QUAKER PAID US 30 SILVER COINS

Enough with the product placement already!  How much does this show f***ing cost to produce??  I’ll give you the omnipresent Glad-ware and the stacks and stacks of Diet Dr Pepper in the stew room, but for God’s sake can we just let them cook without shoehorning another product in?  Because nothin’ says Super Bowl like oats!!

So Stephan wins, again.  Dude is looking pretty unstoppable…….(ominous music plays)……

 

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE:  BEAT THE LOSERS!!

Our contestants go head-to-head with previous contestants using the regional cuisine of NFL team cities.  I have to say I really like this challenge.  20 minutes is too short, in my opinion, to really showcase those regional cuisines but what the hey.  The issue I have (oh come on, you knew there’d be one) is the use of the phrase “All-Stars”.  So we got  Heckel and Jeckle, the pasta chick , Chunk le Phunk and some other people I don’t remember.  Anybody in this group win Top Chef?  Make it to the final show??  Anyone of you have a shot at winning at all?  That would be, in reverse order because it’s funnier that way, no, NO and NOT ON YOUR LIFE.  If we want to continue with the  NFL analogy, you are not playing the NFC Pro Bowl team, you are playing the Detroit Lions.

The three losers were Jeff, Fabio … and Stephan!!  (ominous music crescendo)  Stephan thinks he’ll be fine because it’s his first time at the bottom.  Sorry bucko, that’s not how it works.  In the end, Stephan didn’t go home because his dish was uninspired, but Jeff’s didn’t taste good.  And let’s give the judges a lot of credit here for making taste the sine qua non of a winning dish.  I imagine it would suck to get beat out by a warm seviche, that quite honestly looked like crap compared to his plate.  But hers tasted better.  And while that is a tough criteria for us to judge at home, it is really the only thing that matters.  In this touchy-feely, nobody-loses, perception-is-reality world we are currently in, I find it refreshing to have a discipline where intentions don’t matter, results do.  But, acid with cheese, Chef? 

 

The preceding blog article was brought to you by the hyphen.  HYPHEN-ATE YOUR LIFE – WITH HYPHENS!!

~Citizen Chef

MoM Feb ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Restaurant Style Hummus

Best of America's Test Kitchen

Starting our February Magazine of the Month, Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009, off on the right foot, I started with the first recipe in the book: Restaurant-Style Hummus.

Cook's Illustrated Hummus

The test kitchen staffers who created this recipe for hummus often found themselves, like us, purchasing hummus from grocery stores, until one day they ordered it in a restaurant. The creamy, flavorful hummus they were served convinced them once and for all to create a definitive version that could be conveniently made at home.

Chickpeas

I love how the CI magazines take you through the thought processes and steps that determined their final recipe.

Traditional hummus, the chef notes, is made with dried chickpeas, definitely superior to canned, but found that canned beans produced a taste and texture for the overall hummus that was “perfectly acceptable.” Before deciding on the canned chickpeas, both were experimented with.

Pulsed Chickpeas

Everything is conveniently done in the food processor. After the chickpeas are ground together with garlic and spices, it was found that the best results were produced when the additional ingredients were slowly poured into to the mixture while the food processor ran. So that’s exactly what we did.

Chickpeas - Water & Lemon Juice

A mixture of lemon juice and water are then slowly added through the feed tube while the processor is doing its work. The mixture definitely becomes a smoother, creamier version of itself. As soon as the lemon juice and water are incorporated, an extra virgin olive oil and tahini mix is added in the same way, slowly and steadily into the processor while it’s running.

Chickpeas - Tahini & Olive Oil

It really comes together quickly and the results are amazing. The hummus is then poured into a bowl and refrigerated for 30 minutes, then served up with slices of pita bread.

Restaurant-Style Hummus

We dug into this during the Super Bowl and found that it was creamy and flavorful. Although I wasn’t an initial hummus fan, my household has been digging into this every night since I made it while we wait for dinner.

Delicious.

MoM Feb 2009: Best of America’s Test Kitchen

Behold, the Amateurs with Knives selection for the Magazine of the Month:

Best of America's Test Kitchen

Ooh, la la. America’s Test Kitchen, you’re looking so fine.

We’ve spoken before about our love of the Cook’s Illustrated empire and their dedication to helping the masses cook good food well. Not only are they concerned with teaching you good techniques, their Test Kitchen makes a recipe a hundred different ways before they come up with the best one. This particular feature is their “Best Of”, choosing a selection of their favorite recipes that were published out of every magazine they released in the last year. With 72 recipes and a great price of $7.95, AwK is declaring this publication a must have. Also, keep in mind that Cook’s Illustrated does not have their recipes on the web unless you are a paid subscriber, so picking this little booklet up is well worth it. Every cook will be using these recipes for years to come. You can also pick up the hardcover version if you want, but let’s face it — CC and I are cheap, so we’re recommending this smaller, less expensive version.

The magazine is broken up into mini categories and starts with appetizers and goes straight through to desserts. Each protein that’s common to the home cook gets a look at, with recipes dedicated to each one: Pork, beef, chicken, and fish. Within each protein, each recipe selected is vastly different from the other, so you can try out a wide range and break out of your cooking comfort zone.

I’ve already taken a little more than a half dozen of these recipes into the kitchen and I’ll tell you what’s really struck me this time out: Textures. So far I have fried, baked, and broiled, and everything I have come out with has had the most amazing texture. Breading isn’t soggy with oil and steak really does come out better than on the grill (I love those crisp edges).

The publication is on the stand until April 27, so head out and pick up a copy before it’s gone. We’ll be featuring the magazine all through the month of February, but keep in mind that to honor the publication, we won’t be posting the recipes… We’ll just be tempting you with our photos as we travel through the publication.