For a while, I’ve been telling myself I need to learn to cook meat. I mean, I know the basics. I know about marinating meat, breading meat, seasoning it, letting it come to room temperature before cooking it. I know basic cooking temperatures for different meats and poultry. I know about cuts of meat and using the bones for stock and all that. I know about basting and checking that the poultry juices run clear. And I did come up with the recipes for the meat toppings at the restaurant. The real problem is that I’m a little afraid of meat.
Normally, when I’m cooking, I toss things in, I don’t need to measure (I find myself chopping up ingredients and then measuring them so I can give you accurate proportions). In short, I trust myself. When I’m cooking meat, though, I’m working through this terror that I will poison people with undercooked meat crossed with a more artistic fear that I’ll overcook and destroy a beautiful chicken or cut of fish.
On top of that, I feel I owe the animal good treatment–it gave its life, I should do my best to perfectly cook that meat in honor of the animal. Doing otherwise feels disrespectful somehow. I don’t expect that sentiment to make sense to everyone, but it’s kind of the same way I consider it thoughtless to cook beautiful wild strawberries, when they really shine if served fresh, or the way it’s wasteful to order endangered tuna and not eat it all. It’s like saying to the animal, “I don’t even really need you. Thanks anyway.”
Whoa, that took a turn I wasn’t expecting.
Anyway. It’s tough to admit that I have a “meat problem,” although I imagine anyone following my blog already knows I don’t really cook meat, and you wouldn’t be here if you had a problem with that. Still, I resent the age-old assumptions that men work the grill and cook the meat and women stand inside and make pasta salad or whatever. (Or is that not an assumption everywhere?) That’s probably a pretty base reason to want to conquer meat, but I tend to want to do things are not normally expected for a younger, petite woman.
This year, though, I’ve been coming to terms with this: I’m not a meat lover, and, while I still want to learn more about cooking meat (and especially seafood), I don’t need to become a grillmaster out of some sense of inadequacy. Here’s to more of cooking what I actually love.
This hummus is so delicious, and that’s something I can really get behind. After dabbling in the Bon Appetit Food Lovers’ Cleanse, I’ve reignited a latent passion for dips and spreads. This hummus is great spread over toast or a cracker as a post-run snack, as a dip for vegetable sticks or pita chips before dinner, and even spread across a plate and topped with roasted lamb or beef for an entrée. Oddly enough, I served this in the latter fashion. I never claimed to be consistent.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus
Makes about 5 cups
1 lb. cooked chickpeas (2 14 oz. cans, drained and rinsed)
½ cup Tahini paste
2 garlic cloves
2 roasted red peppers, seeds removed, chopped
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cold water
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Parsley and olive oil, garnish
1. Situate oven rack near the top and set oven to Broil, High. Wash and thoroughly dry bell peppers and place on a dry, ungreased baking sheet. Broil, turning peppers every few minutes so that each side becomes blistered and very blackened. When thoroughly blistered, immediately turn peppers out into a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Sweat peppers for 20 minutes, then use gloves to peel peppers and remove stems and seeds. Roughly chop seeded and skinned peppers.
2. Meanwhile, blitz chickpeas, Tahini paste, and garlic in a food processor. Add water and blitz until incorporated. Add chopped roasted peppers and blitz until peppers are thoroughly puréed and blended. Add lemon juice and salt and blitz again. Add additional salt, lemon, and/or cayenne pepper according to taste.
3. Serve at room temperature, topped with parsley and olive oil.