A new kind of humus

There was a photo going around the ~social media~ of an avocado that was perfectly cubed in its husk. Multiple amigos, separately, shared the photo with me, knowing my love of avocados. Since I am in El Salvador, and avocados are abundant this time of year, I retaliated with my own geometrically sliced avo:

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There is a seed (legume), new to me, that is “in season” right now. It’s called semilla de paterna (literally, paternal seed). The legume was introduced to me by a friend who has a company called Terra Mantra that makes all kinds of delicious natural jams and products. We did an exchange: I taught them how to make Beer Bread and I got to see how to make a humus using this seed (photo below from my friend and fellow Fulbrighter Pam).

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Semilla de Paterna is surrounded with a sweet, white coating that can be eaten as is. The bright green seed needs to be cooked– usually boiled or cooked in ashes for up to 40 minutes. Luckily, a bag of already cooked semilla de paterna can be bought for $0.50 in the market. I bought a bag of my own with lemon juice and salt. The seeds can be eaten whole, with lemon juice and salt and even chile, as a snack. OR, it can be made into a delicious humus…

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Like a typical garbanzo-bean humus, the semilla de paterna humus is simple: beans, olive oil (we used a mix of olive and coconut oil), garlic, salt, pepper, and an optional spoonful of tahini or nuts.

The resulting beer bread and paterna humus mix were a divine combination. Fresh and hearty and full of distinct flavors.

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I would say that the humus tastes most like regular humus, but with brighter notes than a humus with garbanzo beans. While garbanzo bean humus has a creamy, nutty, earthy taste, the semilla de paterna humus is still earthy, but with a suggestion of an unidentifiable herb, and again, brighter.

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I had to make the humus again, this time, side-by-side with garbanzo-bean humus and sprinkled with paprika.

It’s refreshing to be constantly reminded of the variety of foods I have yet to try. I will continue to relish in the new learning opportunities, especially when they end in a delicious snack.

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Día Mundial de la Alimentación (happy food day!)

October 16th is the official World Food Day, with the theme “The climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too“. This day commemorates the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), which works to increase food security (end hunger) and agriculture resiliency in the face of an increasing global population with climate variability.

And, I mean, could it be more perfect that I get to be here, working with Salvadorian farmers, and their soil, rightaboutnow? This stuff under our feet we dare call “dirt” is a wonderful mix of bio-geo-chem into which roots dig down so our food stuffs can grow up. Healthy soil=healthy water, and both point to soil fertility and food security. And a lot of that connection to our soils has been lost, but good news! Events like this one in Ahuachapan (see map below) are encouraging the spread and reappropriation of that knowledge.

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So, this event was a celebration of World Food Day for the farmers in this area. There was a forum for some producers to share their experiences after adoption more sustainable farming practices, and to ask questions of the field technicians. img_0393img_0391

On display were various squashes, loroco (lil green flower buds that are pretty tasty!), and all kinds of corn made into drinks (porridgy, called atole).img_0390img_0389img_0388

It was exciting to hear the famers talk about the differences they’ve seen in yield, coupled with less expense from spending less on fertilizer. One woman in particular, Martha, began her farm from nothing. She was connected with the organization ASA (part of CRS), and was able to begin her own plot, where she now grows everything she needs to feed her family and more to sell. She spoke passionately about the changes in health she has seen in her family, how eating the food that they grow means that they never have to go to the clinic. Women at this forum were a main focus, with a lot of the discourse recognizing the importance of women in food. This was a powerful message, to see the women in this community recognized and respected as leaders.

Happy World Food Day! Celebrate with a delicious meal (I will!!!), and thank the dirt you’re standing  on (and the farmers who dug into it) for your happy tummy.

((Currently cooking white beans I got on the way back from the field in San Miguel. Soaked for 2-3 days, now boiling for hours in water with some garlic and onion. Once done, will cook with sweet potato and spinach? Other thoughts welcome!))

Hiking and Dumplings and Foraminifera

These past few weeks have been Christchurch-centric as university life and studies force us international students back to academic reality. In an effort to keep up our “joie de aventure” we peace out to go on quick hikes that take only an hour or so, but still give us delicious views like these from Taylor’s Mistake, a hike out by the beach:
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The weather has oscillated between the encroaching winter and reminders of the end of summer. We adjust layers accordingly. And in those winter days, sometimes you just have to make dumplings…

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Adapted from a recipe by Sachie Nomura, a chef in New Zealand:

  • gyoza wrappers (50)
  • 1/4 cabbage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 bunch garlic chives, chopped
  • 4 dried, soaked (maybe 30min?), squeezed and chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Dipping sauce

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • Some garlic chive can sneak on in
  • chili oil if you want it!

Cut up cabbage and rub with salt. Let sit for 10ish minutes and then squeeze the cabbage to get some moisture out. Mix squeezed cabbage with eggs, chives, mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. Put a pinch of salt in there too after tasting!

With DRY hands, take a wrapper, put a teaspoon of filling in the center, brush the outer edge of half the wrapper with water and then squeeze the edges together to form a semi-circle and seal the top. Squish a bunch together over cabbage leaves in a bamboo steamer and steam for 10ish minutes until they look cooked. Gather up some friends and eat while warm!

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Cooking adventures will continue, as will random hikes about after hours of looking at cute little foraminifera like this benthic guy up above! Eyeing the spring back home while crunching leaves under my feet as we move into winter weather here.

Beetroot Humus

First day back to class and the start of second term began as one of those really rainy gross days that stayed rainy and chilly throughout the afternoon.

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When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey…

And who doesn’t find comfort in boiling beets and chickpeas for an hour?

Beetroot Humus

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 boiled beet, peeled and chopped (or baked– would make the humus more viscous)
  • 3 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Olive oil
  • Teaspoon salt
  • Grind up some pepper
  • A combination of Paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, and Indian masala spice blend in pinches or teaspoonfuls until it’s your desired spice level

Place all ingredients into a food processor (blender works too– just pause and stir more with a spoon) and blend away. Add lemon juice/ olive oil if the humus is too thick. Adjust spices. Blend again. Serve it up– cut up some carrots and snack at it!

Spring Rolls

Winter is tough. I basically want to drink hot chocolate all the time and lie on the couch. Vegetables seem to cold to eat. Also, why is it raining in 30ish degree weather and not snowing? Can someone explain Chicago weather to me?

Luckily, this slump is only present when I don’t have a project. My sister and I decided that it would be a great idea to make Vietnamese spring rolls after an inspiring take-in night.

Veggies Prepped

Cucumbers, Carrots, Red Bell Pepper, and mint prepped

Spring rolls are a group activity: someone is frying the tofu until nice and browned and someone is cutting vegetables and someone is making the noodles.

Inspired by The Minimalist Baker

Special Necessities: Rice vermicelli noodles, firm tofu, rice spring roll papers

  1. Cut a carrot, a cucumber, and a red bell pepper into matchsticks. Set aside. Pick the mint leaves off their stems.
  2. Make a sauce:
    1. 1/3 c. peanut butter
    2. 1 T. soy sauce
    3. 1 T. brown sugar
    4. 1 T. fresh lime juice
    5. 2 tsp. garlic chili sauce
    6. hot water until liquidy
  3. Cut tofu up into rectangles. Coat in cornstarch or brown rice flour and fry in 3 T. sesame oil until browned on all sides.
  4. Boil water and cook noodles according to package directions (you won’t need all the noodles– either use only part of the dry noodles or cook them all and use the leftover for a stir-fry).
  5. Fry the tofu again in a little sauce (add more soy sauce and sesame oil if necessary) to coat, about 2 minutes.
  6. Get a big wide bowl of water ready. Have damp kitchen towels or paper towels on the counter. Dip a rice paper into the water for 10-15 sec. Lay flat on the towel. Place veggies first in bottom third, then noodles and tofu. Do one roll, then lay the mint, then tuck in edges and finish rolling.
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Finished product, ready for eating with the rest of the peanut sauce!

We devoured these despite the cold. It was refreshing to crunch the veggies and feel the slippery texture of the rice paper. I’d encourage this treat after too many hot chocolates, following a foul mood because you can’t go outside because it’s slushing/raining/WhatChicago???