Thursday, March 23, 2017

What We Dig Checks Out Southern Accent

Tonight I'm off to shoot another episode of What We Dig, but before I get to try another type of cuisine, I wanted to share with you the last episode that I got to co-host, at the new location of Southern Accent

My sister has lived in the Annex area for years, so Southern Accent came to be one of our favourite go-to restaurants in the area. I was always a sucker for their fried calamari, brisket with grits and collards, and, of course, their famous bourbon sours, so it was really fantastic to get to visit their new location on College Street, and try a few dishes that were previously unfamiliar to me. 

I had such an amazing time filming this episode with the lovely Debbie Dear, and was completely blown away by the unbelievable southern hospitality that all of the staff welcomed us with. Big shoutout to Wendy from Southern Accent who went above and beyond to make our experience special. Wendy was a very familiar face from their previous location, and it was so nice to see her taking on that same role of "the host with the most" in their new home.

Have you ever eaten at Southern Accent before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me: @thisgingerrose

Listening To:
Passionfruit - Drake

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recreating Israeli-Style Falafel & Hummus At Home

If you've ever traveled to Israel, you'll know just how drastically different our falafel and hummus is here in Toronto. It would be an understatement to say that Toronto falafel and hummus are "just not as good," because, my lord, it's like an entirely different animal! I often say that Israel ruined me for falafel and hummus, because now I don't want to eat it anywhere else. We're lucky being in such a multicultural "food" city to have a few good options here and there (hello, Dr. Laffa, Famous Laffa, and Fat Pasha!), but it's not always easy to get to Bathurst and Lawrence for fresh laffa bread and creamy hummus, and as much as I love Fat Pasha, it can be a little hard on the budget at times. 

Two weeks ago, after a week of daydreaming about perfect fresh falafel balls and creamy hummus, I got inspired to finally try my hand at making my own falafel and hummus at home. I did a little bit of research online and found a recipe for falafel that sounded great, as well as a recipe for hummus that appeared to be just as creamy as the dips I devoured all over Israel. Being a last-minute decision to make both dishes, I unfortunately didn't start out with dried chickpeas, and had to settle for canned, and hoped to the Israeli falafel Gods that it would all work out. 

The falafel recipe I found was from an excerpt from Joan Nathan's book The Foods Of Israel Today on Epicurious, and caught my attention thanks to Nathan's description of her favourite falafel in Israel. Though I can't recall the exact name of the place where I had the best falafel that has ever touched my lips, I do remember what made it so special and how it made me feel. Nathan's description of her favourite falafel reminded me of my experience biting into my very first Israeli falafel (which just so happened to be the best of the whole trip!), and made me trust that her recipe would be a winner! The great thing about preparing falafel at home, is that you can prepare almost everything in advance and just quickly fry-to-order and assemble when ready to serve. 
The hummus recipe that I landed on was from Chef Michael Solomonov from the Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, featured in the New York Times. With an emphasis in the description and Zahav's reviews on their unbelievably silky and creamy hummus, I was confident that this recipe would be a good starting point. 

Because hummus is incredibly simple to prepare, it's the little details that make all the difference in terms of achieving those dreamy creamy results. One of the biggest tricks to achieving silky smooth hummus is to over-cook your chickpeas and remove all of the skins. Starting with canned chickpeas, they were already quite soft and I was able to skip the step of boiling them until soft to the touch. Unfortunately, I still had a lot of work ahead of me in terms of removing the skins. I knew that I could easily remove most of the skins by rubbing the rinsed chickpeas in a clean towel, but I suppose I wanted to make things difficult on myself, and decided to remove each one individually. This was a mistake.

I put all of my chickpeas in a bowl of water and rubbed them with my fingers, hoping that all of the skins would float to the top. When the surface of my water was covered in chickpea skins, I figured they must all be off. I was sadly mistaken. I proceeded to check every single individual chickpea by pinching it between my pointer-finger and thumb to remove any remaining skin. It was crazy to see how many chickpea skins still remained! It was tedious and boring as hell, but absolutely worth it! I was determined to make that same wildly creamy hummus that I had been dreaming of! 
The second trick to achieving the ultimate creamy hummus is to add ice water when blending. Truthfully, I don't know why. It just works, and I'm not going to question it! It's what Anthony Rose taught us to do at the Metro & Fat Pasha cooking demo that he held at Taste of Toronto this summer, and it is what I will continue to do. 

I have to admit, after removing all of those damn chickpea skins, I announced "I'm over it!" and wanted to just collapse on the couch. Once my falafel mixture and hummus were in the fridge, I was worried that I still had a lot of work ahead of me frying up the falafel balls. I was lazy, and wanted to just relax, but I knew that after all of my hard work, I had to finish the dish. Thank goodness these falafel balls were actually the easiest things I have ever fried in my life! It was so fast, clean, and simple, we were eating our falafel in no time! 

I always want my final dish to taste spectacular, but when it's the first time making it, I expect that there will always be something that wasn't quite right. Though I do want to work on the hummus recipe a little bit (it was great,  but needs a bit of tweaking), the final falafel in pita (with all of the fixings, of course) was out-of-this-world, ridiculously delicious! Oh my God, guys, Chris and I were losing our shit, it was so good! We stuffed our faces, and ended up having two giant falafels each, even though we were so full, because we wanted to taste more. This will likely go down as one of my favourite things I've ever made, and am so incredibly excited to make it again! The next time I make it, I will most definitely be making it for friends and/or family, because it's not only a show-stopper, it's also so convenient to be able to prepare so much so far in advance. 

Remember: You can't always sub dried chickpeas equally for canned. Remember that canned chickpeas are already cooked, meaning that their volume has increased from the cooking process. A general rule-of-thumb is that 1-cup of dried chickpeas should equal roughly 3-cups of cooked chickpeas. Read every recipe carefully to see if they are referring to the volume of cooked or uncooked chickpeas, and if something feels off, trust your gut! 

Check out the recipe for Joan Nathan's favourite falafel, featuring fresh parsley and cilantro here.

Check out Zahar's super-silky hummus recipe from The New York Times here.

Listening To