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Prepare Yourself

Welcome to Hungry Sam, where we always play with our food. Enjoy diving into dishes and reading through recipes -- and if you don't find this brand of food-themed humor TOO absurd, follow me below!

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Make it Yourself: Wicked Lemony Hummus

If you're like me, you spend altogether too much money on store-bought hummus. You shell out your hard-earned dollars for often-mediocre tubs of the stuff, or perhaps if you're feeling flush you pick up some delicious Sabra.

There is, however, a better way. That way is homemade. 

BEHOLD: Tasty, savory, easy, and inexpensive Lemon Sesame Hummus

The key to this recipe, as for all hummus, is the tahini. Tahini is nothing more complex or exotic than a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds, yet it is a critical component of all hummus recipes. It adds a rich depth of flavor and undergirds the creamy consistency so prized in excellent hummus. When one tastes a "hummus" that, despite its pretensions, tastes merely like ground up chickpeas, the missing piece is nearly always tahini.

For my thrifty readers: Tahini is a tad pricey but stretches far; each batch of hummus, for example, only requires about two heaping tablespoons. The sum of the remaining ingredients in the recipe below might reach as high as two dollars.

Finally, I warn you--this is a wicked lemony hummus. Feel free to crank things back as you see fit. You're the chef!

Click through for the recipe!

Click to read more ...


NEW RECIPE! Smoky Black Bean & Bacon Stew with Avocado and Fried Egg

It's hard not to enjoy black bean soup. It's rich and dark, a perfect cold-weather recipe, and virtuous too--both calorically and financially. Black bean soup is a simple classic, and should therefore not be tweaked, added to, or substantially changed.

Or, instead, we could do all of those things! We could seek to improve black bean soup--nay, perfect it. 

"Perfect it?!?!" you gasp. "But how?"

"With bacon," I say. "With bacon."

Yes, dear friends, dear readers: We can make our black bean soup with bacon. Then, we can play off the rich bacon with smoky chipotle and sweet garlic and let the soup slowly cook down into a thick, hearty stew. We can load up the toppings: sour cream to offset the smoke and heat; fried egg for protein; avocado for healthy fats and texture. Finally we can serve the whole mess with the afterthought of some greenery: a little chopped scallion to make it look as though we went to trouble (we didn't, of course; the whole thing was quite easy).

Et voilà--a delicious, dark, filling meal, served in a single bowl. (Recipe after the jump!)

Click to read more ...


Farewell, Everyday Food

Today is a sad day at Hungry Sam. Everyday Food magazine--the small monthly full of cooking tips, recipe ideas, and quick and cheap but gourmet meals--is no more.

One of my several Everyday Food-inspired recipes

Yes, some exec at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (I'll just refer to this person as "Brutus" from here on out) hath stabb'd my poor sweet inspiration. I almost feel as it were doomsday.

I'm genuinely bummed. I can only hope THIS Brutus has some measure of the regret his predecessor felt (no running into swords, though, please).

I will say the last issue looks awesome--quite the swan song--so I'd encourage you to pick up a copy if you see it at grocery store checkout aisles. Just a preview of some of the great recipes in the last edition: Homemade Marinara five ways; non-deep-fried Sweet and Sour Chicken; and Chicken and Artichoke Lasagna. All with pretty pictures.

(Also, I promise they've never given me anything--this is just love and respect for a nice, unpretentious little magazine.)

Anyways, for the Hungry Sam tribute to the sweet demise of this fun magazine, here's a list of a few of my recipes and posts that were at least inspired by Everyday Food:

Spanish Paprika Turkey Meatloaf

Pineapple and Ginger-Infused Rum

Mustard and Caper Pan-Seared Salmon

Homemade Crepes

Lemon-Nutmeg Acorn Squash (my only vegan recipe!)

Coffee and Chili-Rubbed Skirt Steak

Tomato and Fresh Oregano Skillet Chicken (an early post; please excuse, well, everything)




What is a Chicken? Or, Things I'm learning in Law School

As I expected, law school entails wrestling with many weighty issues of Great Importance--questions that shed light on American values and on the very foundations of our legal rights.

Questions like, "What is a chicken?"

Image via Allie's.Dad, Creative Commons licensed. Some rights reserved.

Yes. A case I read for Contracts last week turned on whether, in a particular contract for the sale of frozen chickens, "chicken" meant "any bird of that genus . . . including stewing chickens" or, more narrowly, young roasting chickens. See Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int'l Sales Corp., 190 F. Supp. 116, 117 (S.D.N.Y. 1960) (holding plaintiff failed to prove the contract was for young chickens--I won't bore my non-lawyer audience with the somewhat involved rationale).*

But here's a question suitable for this blog: Why does the age of the chicken matter? Or, put differently, what's the difference between a young chicken (suitable for roasting, broiling, frying, baking, etc.) and an older chicken (good for stewing and braising)?

The answer, as I understand it,** lies in the fact that absent texture-altering prep techniques (like using marinades or brining), meat from older animals is much more likely to become tough when cooked at the high temperatures associated with roasting, broiling, frying, and baking. As an animal ages, the number of contractile protein fibrils inside each of its muscle fiber increases, making the fibers stronger and thicker. Because cooking makes muscle fibers dry and dense, denser muscle fibers will more readily squeeze out liquid, resulting in tougher cooked meat. This issue is exacerbated by the fact older birds have more connective tissue (particularly collagen) and less marbling fat to keep things tender and juicy.

Here's where it gets cool. You can slow-cook older chicken meat in liquid without it getting tough and dry, both because the meat reabsorbs liquid from the stew or braising medium and because the lower temperatures assists in the breakdown of tough collagen into soft gelatin.

As an example, one traditional French method for cooking old birds is Coq Au Vin--chicken in wine. You can find any number of variations, but here's a link to Julia Child's recipe for a Bourgogne-style Coq Au Vin.



*DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way intended to be helpful to anyone attempting to understand or brief Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. International Sales Corp. For that, I'd whole-heartedly recommend listening to this song. (Further incentive: there are banjoes!) 

**All the cool cooking science here comes from this tome of food science, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (external link).


Hungry Sam Goes to Law School; Makes Parmesan Puff Pastry Pinwheels

BAM. Hope that picture whets your collective appetite. But first, the news.

In case you hadn't heard -- and why would you have -- I am embarking on another adventure. Not, as over the summer, to destinations international; rather, I am now a law student.

Ayuh -- as they say in the land of my birth. Maybe I'll do food law. Lawyer for the chefs. Representing contestants on Hell's Kitchen in their suits for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What this means for you, dear reader: Mostly I'll now have an onoing excuse when I'm late with posting some new delicious recipe. I'll try not to sound like a broken record.

This may also mean that my posts will have less of a "what to make when you have tons of time on your hands" flavor and a bit more of a "fast -- cheap -- awesome" vibe to them. AND SO, in that spirit:

Parmesan Puff Pastry Pinwheels with Mustard and Genoa Salami! (Click through for recipe.)

Click to read more ...


Food in Israel: Beyond Hummus

Not long into You Don't Mess with the Zohan, the (really very funny) Adam Sandler movie about the Mossad superagent who quits to become a hairstylist in New York City, there's a great scene in which the agent's father, while mocking him for his new life plan, spoons hummus into his coffee, stirs, and drinks.

He seems to enjoy the café au garbanzo, which shouldn't surprise us, because throughout the scene we see him eating vast quantities of hummus on everything, including scooped directly from the bowl on his glasses.

This isn't far from the truth. And it's fun to tease my Israeli friends about this national cicerphilia (a word I just made up by taking the Latin word for chickpea, 'cicer' and tacking on 'philia').* What makes this so enjoyable is they often don't quite get the joke and become frustrated. They say: "What is this joke? What is this? We have more foods than just hummus!"

It's true, though. This long-winded digression (progression?) gets me to the point of the story: Food in Israel is often superb, always fresh, and more than just hummus. 

Now, to be clear, "food in Israel" is not the same as "food on Birthright" (for those unaware, Birthright is the free-of-charge trip to and tour of Israel for young Jews. I've just returned from staffing a trip). Food on Birthright is generally ok, but nothing special (it's a free trip, after all, and we're mostly eating in hotels).

But then, you hit some restaurants after Birthright (I extended my trip). Here's where the magic happens:

1) Burgers in Israel are Unbelievable

Just, unbelievable. The quality of the meat is the highest, whether because it's kosher (it is) or because the Israeli palate expects it I'm not sure. The meat is so fresh and so much effort has gone into the process that I have few concerns about ordering rare. Buns are freshly made and clearly superior. Toppings are diverse, fresh, and creative. What a treat -- when in Israel, eat a burger.

2) Try Lachuch -- If You Can Pronounce It

Lachuch isn't Israeli; it's Yemenite, which brings me to another point. I'm not sure there's such a thing as Israeli food. Instead, there's just Middle Eastern food to which all the various Middle Eastern nations lay claim, and occasionally sue one another over. Hummus, tabbouleh, baba gannouj, tahini -- it's a shared heritage that no one wants to share. Israel deals with this phenomenon by just adding the world "Israeli" or "Jerusalem" to the front of everything (e.g. "Israeli salad," "Jerusalem Pine"). 

The point! Lachuch is awesome. It looks, sort of tastes, and is cooked like a crepe, although it's leavened, it would seem. The lachuch I tried, made by an insane Orthodox Jew in Tzfat (see above; he also tried to sell me a drink he claimed was made from coca), was stuffed with a blend of fresh-grated goat's milk, sheep's milk, and cow's milk cheese with tomatoes and herbs. Pretty incredible.

More awesome stuff after the jump!**

Click to read more ...


Goldstar: Israeli Beer of Champions

Image via Flickr, Courtesy Achi Raz

The following post was written last week from a cafe in Istanbul. I was unable to actually post it, however; I promise the thoughts are just as fresh one week later.

Dear Hungry Friends,

As I might have mentioned, I'm out of the country and have been for going on three weeks now (two in Israel, one in Turkey). When I return there will be many pictures, of halvah and pistachios, Turkish delight and Turkish coffee, shwarma, falafel, baklava, and lychees.

Until then, let's talk about Israeli beer. Specifically, Goldstar. You know, the better of the two options.

Ok, that's not precisely true -- you can obtain a number of different types of beer in Israel! Like maybe five types. But unless there's an underground microbrew industry I'm not aware of, it's pretty much Maccabee or Goldstar for widely available Israeli brew.

And my friends, Maccabee sucks. I don't think I've ever seen anyone order it, except when the bar/hotel is out of everything else.

Then we have Goldstar, a so-called dark lager really no darker than a Yuengling. Unlike Israel or Israelis, the beer is simple and uncomplicated and rather easy to take in large doses (I joke, Israeli friends!). It really is pretty good, even better from the tap, and there's little that's more refreshing after a long day in 110 degree heat.

But the cool part is this: based on the label and my five minutes of research prior to writing this post, Goldstar started brewing in 1950. That means that something like two years after Israel declared independence, with a still-tiny military, far too little infrastructure, barely enough water to farm, and without a single ally in the region, in fact, with its neighbors committed to their destruction, some Israelis got together and said, "You know what our number one priority should be right now? Brewing beer."

No matter your politics, you have to respect that.

I'll be back in the You-Ess-of-A soon enough, and will then regale you with my eating adventures. Until then, stay Hungry!