While cooking, listen to this: Lauf - Cafe Shahor Hazak
Sometimes when I'm in the kitchen, things go exactly according to plan. The dough rises, the sauce reduces, the soup is perfectly salted.
Other times, the cap on the paprika pops off and unloads two tablespoons right into the blender.
Ah, cooking. Never a dull moment.
Fortunately for this particular kitchen mishap - adding 4 times the amount of paprika to a hummus recipe - it actually tasted really good. And it looks really pretty too, which is half the battle.
These two recipes, paprika hummus and amba, are a pretty solid glimpse into what happens in my kitchen. While the hummus was a happy accident, the amba actually went according to plan. I had never made it (or heard of it) until Alyssa suggested it, and it seemed really complicated and long-winded. Three days for a recipe? Who has that kind of time? Well, it turns out that amba is really easy to make! It just requires time-management and mise-en-place, which means having all of your ingredients lined up and ready to go before you start cooking. Now you have another fancy French word to add to your vocabulary.
"So um, Rina, that's great and all, but what the hell is amba?"
Glad you asked! Here is a great article about its history and taste, but it's essentially a savory mango sauce, kind of like chutney. In Israel you can find it at falafel and shawarma places in squeeze bottles that would hold ketchup and mustard in the US. Sometimes it's blended and sometimes its in bits, but either way it is so. effing. good. Not only does it look like chutney, but it smells like it too, thanks to the addition of fenugreek (the spice that people tend to associate with curry). This isn't a coincidence - long story short, which is explained in the aforementioned article, a community of Iraqi Jews ended up settling in India in the mid-1700s, and called themselves Baghdadi Jews. Mangoes are native to and a huge part of Indian cuisine, and are one of the many fruits that can be used to make chutney. Mango chutney made its way from India to the Middle East via the Iraq-India exchange created by the Baghdadi Jews and received its current name, amba, on the way. How cool is that?!
And not only is it cool, it tastes SO good. It's savory, acidic, pickle-y and loaded with spice. You can treat it the way you would treat any other chutney-like sauce - as a dip for samosas, a personal favorite, for example - but I highly recommend eating it with the Israeli sandwich we're putting up tomorrow. For now, serve it with the paprika hummus and some homemade pita (it is SO easy to make, you will never buy it again). Sit back, relax, and let the feeling of standing at a falafel counter in Tel Aviv in the 90 degree weather overtake you. If you're in New York and dealing with the intense heat, it isn't so far off.
Love and meows, Rina
Yield: 6-8 servings
Total Cook Time: 5m
Category: Snacks, Mediterranean
Source: adapted from The New York Times
Special Equipment: food processor/blender
2 cans chickpeas, drained
½ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 cloves peeled garlic, or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika, plus more for garnish
Prepare the hummus: in a blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste, and add more salt, lemon or garlic if needed. That's it!
To serve: the standard way to serve hummus is on a plate, spread out in a circle with a signature hummus swirl (look to the picture to see what I mean.) Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle some paprika, and serve with warm pita.
To keep: in a tightly sealed container this will keep for 1-2 weeks.
Yield: a little under 4 cups
Active Cook Time: 10m | Inactive Cook Time: 2 days*
Category: Sauces, Mediterranean, Vegan
*I know, I know - but trust me, it is so worth it.
5 small-ish green (unripe) mangoes, peeled and diced
2 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 fresh small hot chili peppers, like Fresnoor Serrano, seeds and veins removed, finely minced (wear rubber gloves)
1 ½ teaspoons ground fenugreek
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ - 1 teaspoons ground sumac
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, according to taste)
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup packed brown sugar
Water as needed - have a cup ready just in case
Salt the mango: in a non-reactive bowl (I used a heavy duty plastic mixing bowl), toss the mango with the sea salt. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight.
Prepare the mise-en-place: things move quickly in this recipe, so it's essential to have everything ready to go. In a small prep bowl, add the fenugreek, cumin, sumac and cayenne pepper. Have the lemon juiced and the brown sugar measured out as well.
Prepare the sauce: in a wide pan or a sauce pan over medium heat, heat the oil until it starts to shimmer. Add the mustard seeds - when they start to sputter (which is pretty cool), quickly turn the heat down to low and add the minced peppers. Give it one good stir, and add the mangoes and spices. Stir to incorporate. Add the lemon juice next - ours didn't, but if your mixture looks dry, add water in ¼ cup at a time. Add the brown sugar and and stir until it has melted completely.
Cook the sauce: stir the sauce and add water if you need it. Cook until the mango bits are tender, and taste to see if it needs any more seasoning. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, scrape into a container and allow it to cure in the fridge overnight. Patience is a virtue here - the longer it sits, the better it will taste.
To serve: use this as a dip wherever you would use chutney, like with samosas. You can also use it as a sauce on a whole slew of sandwiches and things, like the one we're rolling out tomorrow.
To keep: this will keep really well in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.