Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

http://www.nomingthrulife.com/grilled-zucchini-corn-tostadas-spicy-hummus/

This is one of the best recipes I’ve come across in terms of effort-to-deliciousness ratio. It only takes a little bit of work, and the payoff is more than worth it. As long as you have all the ingredients on hand and have the time to grill or roast the veggies, the prep work is a snap, and you end up with a flavor-packed dish that seems like it must have been a lot harder than it really was.

If you have a grill, this is an easy summer staple, great for a light dinner or substantial snack. We technically do have a grill at our house, brand new this summer in fact, buuuuuuuuuut… it’s electric. I have mixed feelings about the electric grill. My fiancé, who is all about no-fuss cooking and alternative energy, was super excited about it, and has had mostly positive results so far. He cooks a lot more meat than I do, and has been very pleased with the grill’s ability to produce precisely-cooked, extra-juicy steaks and such. Personally though, grilling doesn’t do much for me if it doesn’t suffuse everything with that smoky, charred charcoal flavor. We do have some hickory chips for smoking; sometimes they make a difference? But mostly, food isn’t on the grill long enough to really absorb the smoke. I will admit that the setup and cleanup are much less hassle than with a standard charcoal grill. But with some things, the extra work is worth it, and for me summer grilling is one of these things.

That said, when I myself am already roasting from the heat of the day and just can’t deal with the idea of turning on the oven, the grill does a totally adequate job of cooking veggies.  If you’re looking to avoid heating up your kitchen, you can definitely go this route.  When the weather is cooler, I generally use the oven for this recipe.  I don’t roast the vegetables whole in this case. Instead, I dice the zucchini and cut the kernels off the corn, then spread everything in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, toss/stir a bit to combine, and then roast at 425 for about 20 minutes. Your time & temperature may vary; sometimes I bump it up to 445 and roast for a shorter time. You do have to stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on it to avoid ending up with a blackened mess (ask me how I know), but I like to have a little bit of char on roasted vegetables, and the higher temp is great for that (as long as you pull it out in time).

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Once you have your grilled or roasted veggies, it’s just a matter of assembly; spread your hummus on tostadas or tortillas, then top with veggies. I also add feta cheese or queso fresco on top, which I highly recommend. The recipe includes a tasty basic hummus recipe, but naturally you can use any hummus you like, including storebought; if you’re not making hummus from scratch (or are using previously-prepared hummus), it cuts down the prep time even more. I do find that spicy hummus really shines in this recipe, moreso than regular hummus (and I say that as a total lightweight when it comes to spicy foods) – I never order above a 1 at Thai restaurants, but I do like a little spice in this. If you only have regular hummus on hand, you can always throw it into the food processor with a little cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Also, I find that I actually prefer regular tortillas to tostadas here. The tostadas are tricky to eat; they tend to drop toppings if you try to eat them with your hands, but they still crumble awkwardly if you go after them with knife and fork. A soft tortilla can be rolled up like a burrito, and is more convenient in my opinion. Alternatively, you could serve these like nachos, with either tortilla chips or pita chips – a unique & tasty appetizer, easy to whip up in small or large amounts.

I’m always excited to find quick, healthy vegetarian recipes that deliver strong flavors, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I come back to it every couple months and it’s solid every time. You could definitely experiment with other veggie toppings, too: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, or really anything you like. Hope you’ll give it a try this summer and let me know how it goes!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

2.2 pinterest

Homemade Pitas & Hummus

Homemade Pitas & Hummus

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016071-homemade-pita-bread?login=email (* See footnote.)

The first time I watched someone make pita bread from scratch, I was totally enthralled. My roommate in my early 20’s, a cafe manager and avid baker, would make huge batches of pitas like it was no big deal. I’d never seen it in person, and found it totally magical: the rounds of flatbread dough are tossed onto a very hot pan in a very hot oven, and within a minute or two they puff up into perfect little balloons. It’s quite captivating, and even now having done it a few times myself, it still hasn’t gotten old.

So, the key feature of pitas is the hollow pocket that forms inside as they bake, perfect for stuffing with your favorite sandwich fillings. Why does pita dough puff that way, you ask? The key is to put fairly moist, thinly-rolled dough into a very hot oven. When you do that, a couple of things happen. First, the intense heat quickly starts to solidify the outer surfaces of the pita. At the same time, it penetrates to the center, turning the moisture inside the dough into steam. That steam expands and pushes outward from the interior as it forms. And because the outer surfaces have already baked a little bit, they are solid enough to stay intact as the steam pushes on them, forming the hollow pocket.

With that in mind, these are the keys to perfectly-puffing pitas:

1) Don’t work too much flour into the dough as you knead. Just dust it with barely enough to keep it from being completely unmanageable. Too much flour will soak up all the moisture you need to create steam at bake time.

2) Roll the dough out pretty thin. The NYT recipe says to go for 1/8”. I find that a little bit unattainable; 1/4” is also a reasonable goal, or somewhere in between. If it’s any thicker, the heat won’t penetrate to the center quickly enough.

3) Place the dough onto a pre-heated object of some kind in your very hot oven. A baking stone or cast iron skillet would be great options. I don’t have either of those, so I use a cookie sheet turned upside-down. (Turning it upside-down was my fiance’s suggestion; he thinks it traps more heat underneath, and it does seem to produce good results.) Also, don’t put the next batch into the oven at the same time you take the previous batch out. I have better luck if I close the door and let the pan reheat for about one minute in between batches.

And arguably, I’d say the fourth key is: if it doesn’t puff, don’t sweat it. Some won’t. This batch I made today was my best batch to date, and I’d still say about a third of the pitas have incomplete puffs. Doesn’t matter at all; they’re still delicious.

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So, once you have your delicious puffy pitas, you need something to put in them! I love making hummus from scratch; the hardest part is finding out where your grocery store keeps the tahini. From there, you just whizz everything together in a food processor, adjusting proportions to your taste and adding whatever extras you want. My current favorite recipe is Tori Avey’s:

http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2010/07/classic-hummus/

Tori Avey has done extensive research into the history of Middle Eastern cuisine; I definitely plan to try more recipes from her site in the near future. I’ve also used her tutorial on roasting red peppers (which, incidentally, are great to throw into this hummus if you have them on hand).

This recipe is a nice starting point with good proportions. I typically halve it, since two full cans of chickpeas make more hummus than I can eat in a reasonable amount of time. Or I should say, I halve everything except the garlic. Full disclosure: I love garlic. In the entire time I’ve been cooking, with all my numerous misadventures, I’ve yet to make a recipe that caused me to think, “Man, I put too much garlic into this.” (And I put a lot of garlic into things.)

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Looks about right.

But of course, this is the joy of making your own hummus – you can fine tune it according to your tastes. 😉

The point of making pitas & hummus this week is to have another way to enjoy your leftover chopped Greek salad. It’s a perfect pre-made sandwich filling; just add it to your pita along with some hummus and extra feta cheese for a quick & tasty dinner, lunch, or snack.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 6

6.3 rating

* Note: This recipe from the New York Times does require a free account to view. I balked at this the first few times they hit me with it, but eventually signed up and haven’t regretted it; their cooking column is pretty interesting, if a bit aspirational. This isn’t an affiliate link or anything like that; I just like their pita recipe.