Before I start with the cookery today, I’d like to warn you all that my hard drive crashed this week. I have nearly everything backed up on my external drive, sans some pictures of the fall foliage (which makes me really sad) and some pictures of persimmons that I intended for the blog. I have more persimmons! Never fear! However, because my computer is out of commission, I can’t really get the saved pictures off the external hard drive as I have nowhere to put them. This week’s edition of the Gaijin Chef is brought to you by the sheer power of my online photo albums.
Tahini Battle! Hummus and Curry-Tahini Pasta
Adapted from “Hummus” from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.
Tahini is the delicious sesame-seed paste found in hummus. Hummus is not very popular in rural Japan, but you can make this at home. You can find canned and/or dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in bigger grocery stores and on the FBC. Tahini is readily available even in my town, but it has a different name, so it took me a while to find it. I’ve been told that Japanese 練りゴマ nerigoma has a more toasted flavor than regular tahini, but it makes great hummus. Cumin is available on the spice racks of grocery stores.
Ideally, you’ll use a food processor for this, but you can do it in the blender. It’s best if you have a larger blender with power settings, but even my “little blender that couldn’t” managed without catching fire. My first attempt with canned beans yielded a thick hummus, which made a great dip for crunchy vegetables. My second attempt, in which I used home-cooked beans and more liquid (reserved from the boiling) resulted in a thinner hummus, which was suitable for crunchy breads and vegetables.
Well-cooked* or canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) ヒヨコ豆 hiyokomame: 425 g (15 oz/2 US cups/ 1 standard-sized can)
Tahini or sesame paste (練りごま nerigoma**), with some of its oil if you like: 160-180 grams (1/2 US cup)
Extra virgin olive oil: 60 ml (1/4 cup) plus oil for garnish
Garlic, peeled: 2 cloves, or to taste. If you are going to use a weak blender, you should dice the garlic first.
Lemon juice: 2 lemons’ worth or about 90 ml, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ground cumin (クミン kumin) or paprika (パプリカ papurika): 1 Tablespoon or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
Parsley: fresh chopped or dried parsley for garnish
Pine nuts (松の実 matsu no mi): 50 g (1/4 US cup) (optional)***
Water: about 1 cup (200 ml); use as necessary
1. Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over low heat until slightly brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Drain the liquid from the chickpeas and save it for later. The more liquid you use, the thinner the tahini will be.
3. Put the chickpeas, tahini, oil, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor or a blender, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and begin to process.
4. Add chickpea-cooking liquid or water as needed to produce a smooth purée. If your blender is as tiny as mine, you’ll need a lot of water and patience, but you can do it!
5. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more seasoning or lemon juice as needed.
6. Serve drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of cumin or paprika and some parsley. Sprinkle pine nuts on top.
In the States, I like to pair store-bought hummus with pita, but pita is not very popular in rural Japan. My hummus was pretty thick, so I dipped carrot- and cucumber slices and baby tomatoes in it. It also goes well with Ritz crackers or naan, which you can find in the frozen section of the grocery store if you don’t want to make your own. Be creative!
Can’t eat all that hummus at once? Freeze it in freezer-safe plastic containers; let thaw on the counter overnight before serving.
*To cook raw chickpeas, soak 1 cup of raw chickpeas in 3-4 cups of cold water overnight in a covered pot. This will expand to 2 cups cooked. When the chickpeas are done soaking, boil from 2-3 hours until tender. The longer you soak and the longer you boil, the softer the chickpeas will be and the easier they will be to blend. In my experience, boiling my own chickpeas and using the liquid left over from boiling resulted in a thinner hummus that was more like what is sold commercially in the US.
**練りゴマ(nerigoma) means silken sesame. You can find it in the grocery store with the other sesame goods. Be sure to get the “white” kind, or you’ll have black hummus.
***Usually located with the dried nuts and fruits or with the baking supplies.
Translated and adapted from 毎日パスタ’s “Original Curry Pasta”****
I love making new and exciting fusion pasta dishes. This pasta dish blends Japanese eggplant and daikon with curry-and-tahini-based “sauce.”
Pasta – 80 g of thick spaghetti or linguine
Onion – 1/4 of a large onion
Tomato – 1/2 of a large tomato
Eggplant (なす nasu) – 1/2 of a medium eggplant
Daikon (Japanese “radish”) – 3 cm
Salad oil – 2 Tablespoons
Garlic – 1 clove, diced, or 1 teaspoon grated
Ginger – 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (しょうが shouga)
Curry powder (カレー粉 karee kona) or curry flakes （カレーフレーク karee fureeku）-2 Tablespoons*****
Water – 650 ml (2 3/4 US cups)
Tahini （練りごま nerigoma）(white): 1 teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Dice the tomato and onion.
2. Peel the daikon. Chop the eggplant and daikon into large-bite-sized pieces. Leave the skin on the eggplant.
3. In a large pan, heat the salad oil and the garlic over low heat until fragrant.
4. Turn up heat to high, then add, in order, the onion, curry powder/flakes, ginger, and tomato. Stir-fry.
5. Mix the tahini and water together in a bowl. Add this mixture to the pan, then add the eggplant and daikon. This will boil the vegetables and cook them.
6. Add the uncooked pasta and cook over medium heat.
7. When the pasta is done and the liquid is reduced, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
****The original recipe can be found in 赤坂ビバレッジクッキングスクール[Akasaka Cooking School] (2009). 「本格カレーパスタ」“Original Curry Pasta.”『毎日パスタ: 自炊生活を応援する』 [Everyday Pasta: 145 Easy Recipes for Cooking at Home**]. 廣済堂あかつき株式会社[Kosaido Akatsuki Corp., Ltd.] P. 160.
**** *Look in the curry section at the grocery store; curry powder and flakes should be next to the curry roux.