Monday, December 30, 2013

Hummus and Cheesecake

Hummus and Cheesecake don't sound all that good when placed together like that, but it happens to be what I was working on today. Separately. The cheesecake is an idea I have had for more than a month, but with all the holiday baking and other holiday foods, there just wasn't time to get to this - or even any desire to have yet another sweet around the house. While I still don't need another sweet around the house, I did want to make this and see how it comes out, so it is being created for our New Year's Day Feast.

Dulce de Leche
It all started with making dulce de leche, back that month-and-more ago. I had seen so very many ways to make it with sweetened condensed milk, and wanted to try at least one. The safest way, in my mind was in the crock pot, since once it is made, it does not have to be opened right away, which is a really good thing. So, I took the labels off of two cans of sweetened condensed milk and set them in my crock pot, covered with water. I put the lid on and waited until I was ready for bed and turned on the crock pot to Low. I had read that 8 hours in the crock pot gives a lighter colored dulce de leche and 9 hours gives a darker result. I left it in for 8 1/2 hours, splitting the difference.

In case you are unfamiliar with dulce de leche, it just means (in Spanish) "a sweet made from milk". The Spanish culture, along with others like Indian seem to use milk for a lot of their sweet treats. When I lived in Guatemala there were at least 3 or more different "typical" candies made with milk, and I loved them all. I am not completely positive, but I believe that dulce de leche is from Spain originally, but it took off and has become known most everywhere now. The husband of my best friend in Guatemala was from northern Spain, and she made him this treat regularly; unopened cans in the pressure cooker for 1 hour, which just gives me the willies, still.
Pecan Crust with melty chocolate chips

Anyway, I made my dulce de leche, allowed it to cool, then stored it in my pantry, until today. Wanting to get a jump on things, I set today as my cheesecake-making day. I had created a recipe - on paper only - of what I wanted to do. My idea was a "Turtle Cheesecake" but using the DDL instead of any other caramel. Pecans are a must for anything Turtle, as is chocolate and the caramel. I made the crust with pecans, sugar, vanilla and butter - so this cheesecake will be completely Gluten-Free. I baked the crust, then straight from the oven I tossed in 1/2 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel (coarse sea salt) and 3/4 cup of dark chocolate chips. As I proceeded with  making the filling for the cheesecake, the chocolate chips softened, and I spread the chocolate over the crust.

Just Baked Cheesecake
The filling is a mixture of cream cheese, DDL, sour cream, brown sugar, vanilla bean, coarse salt and eggs. The batter tasted heavenly and the cheesecake smelled fantastic during the baking process. So far so good. It looks perfect. I intend to top the cheesecake with toasted pecan halves, then drizzle with some reserved DDL and then some melted chocolate. 

Meanwhile, for Christmas Eve and for New Year's Eve I always make lots of little appetizers and snack things; no meal. One of the things I haven't made in a while is hummus, so I really wanted to make that. My husband loves hummus too, and we both prefer it with roasted red pepper in it. I made an addition of caramelized onion, because I  had already made some last week for another application. The caramelized onion is completely optional. In fact, I wouldn't really recommend it unless you already have some made (never a bad idea, but it takes the better part of an hour to make). This was the first time I made hummus with the caramelized onion, and it is excellent, but it was just fine without it, so you decide.

Making caramelized onion was something I did last week, figuring I would make plenty so I had leftovers. I thinly sliced and then rough-chopped 3 large onions. I heated a large skillet with some butter and added in the onions, along with a good pinch of salt and another good pinch of sugar. On medium low, I let the onions cook, stirring occasionally at first, then more often as the onions began to color. It took about 50 minutes before the onions were a beautiful deep caramel color - not burnt. My hummus recipe is as follows:

Red Pepper Hummus with Caramelized Onion

1 can (15 ounce) garbanzo beans / chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 small jar (4 ounces) red pepper / pimiento, drained
Red Pepper Hummus with Caramelized Onion
1 large onion, caramelized (about 3 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
3 - 4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
a few grinds of pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the olive oil into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil until it is all incorporated. 

A trick I learned a long time ago from a friend; if raw onion or garlic do not agree with you, simply place them in a small bowl to soak for 10 minutes in vinegar. Drain and use for any application. I love garlic and onion, but not raw, so for this recipe I did soak the garlic in white vinegar while prepping the rest of the ingredients. It makes the whole thing far more easily digested and therefore enjoyable. Cheers!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.