September 24, 2012
The word “double” in the name of a recipe always elicits a sense of mischievous anticipation and entitlement from me. I feel like I’m 6 years old again and allowed to eat dessert before dinner. Please allow me to demonstrate this sentiment with a little experiment. First, read this list of food items:
- Fudge Brownies
- Apple Pie
- French Fries
They’re all decadent, universally loved foods, right? Your mouth must be watering. Now read this list:
- Double Fudge Brownies
- Double Cream Brie
- Double Crust Apple Pie
- Double Fried French Fries
See my point?
The word “double” serves a twofold (or double) purpose: it implies more of something—and who doesn’t want more fudge in their brownies or cream in their brie?—and it can also introduce a little mystery and variety to an otherwise plain-sounding dish. “Double” Fudge Brownies might just be extra fudgy brownies, but they could also denote two kinds of fudge, maybe a fudgy brownie with a fudgy frosting. Double Cream Brie is made with a higher ratio of cream to milk and it’s doubly creamy in flavor and texture. The “double crust” in an apple pie recipe might promise nothing more than twice as much crust, but the actual result is so much more. At least my mom’s apple pie is—the bottom crust is soft and absorbs the flavor of the filling and the top crust is flaky, crispy, and browned.
And if you don’t get excited by the thought of double-fried French fries (twice-fried at different temperatures), just make them. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
My favorite kind of “double” recipe is one that uses one ingredient in two different ways or two different forms, like this Double Mushroom Pasta. I can’t take all of the credit for this recipe; it’s an adaptation of a Marcella Hazan dish. The “double” comes from the use of fresh button mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms give the sauce its quintessential mushroom flavor, while bits of reconstituted porcinis add an incredible earthy, meaty quality that highlights the bright acidity of the tomatoes (so it’s best to use good tomatoes such as San Marzano). In fact, this sauce reminds me a bit of the Zuni Café Cookbook’s Pasta with Braised Bacon and Roasted Tomato Sauce.
There are two tricks to the double mushroom sauce: One is to brown the onions in order to give the sauce some caramelized sweetness, and the other is to use whole canned tomatoes and crush them by hand so they’re still a bit chunky. Since nothing is pulverized you can taste each ingredient separately. The end result is perfectly balanced and not overly mushroomy—in my opinion of course—but if you’d like a more pronounced mushroom flavor, you can always add some of the porcini soaking liquid with the tomatoes. If you do this you may need to cook the sauce down longer to get rid of the excess liquid.
Lastly, a friend of mine introduced me to “thin” whole wheat spaghetti, which I think is infinitely better than regular whole wheat spaghetti because it doesn’t have a grainy texture. You’re welcome to use any kind of spaghetti but I wouldn’t substitute another type of pasta because spaghetti absorbs liquid well.
But wait, don’t go anywhere yet!
Since this is an entry entitled “doubles,” I have double the recipes for you today. The other recipe is a Double Jalapeño Hummus, and the idea for it was also borrowed from someone else: the anonymous genius behind the cilantro-jalapeño hummus at Trader Joe’s. I could (and sometimes do) eat half a container of this stuff in one sitting. It’s especially good with carrots.
The “double” in this recipe comes from the use of jalapeños in the hummus itself and the cilantro-jalapeño topping. I make the hummus like a traditional hummus, but use lime juice instead of lemon and add jalapeño. Then I make a topping with cilantro, jalapeño, olive oil, lime juice, and a scallion. The spice level of this recipe will depend on how hot your jalapeños are, and if you’d like more heat you can leave the seeds in the peppers (or just use more jalapeños!).
A general note on hummus: I’m always searching for ways to make perfectly smooth, thick, and creamy hummus like what I ate in Syria, and unfortunately the only method that works is to peel the chickpeas. As you can imagine, peeling chickpeas is not an enjoyable task. Sometimes I think Middle Eastern housewives came up with the most tedious recipes (stuffed grape leaves the size of my pinky, for example) just to keep themselves in the kitchen away from their husbands.
Anyway, I’ve tried adding baking soda to the chickpea cooking liquid, per Silvena Rowe’s suggestion, but I found this gave the hummus a weird aftertaste. A recent method that I thought up is a good alternative to peeling the chickpeas: Instead of throwing everything into the blender at once, keep the tahini aside and add it at the end when the chickpeas are as smooth as you can possibly make them. Reserving the tahini allows you to add more water to the chickpeas so that they’ll blend more easily. When you add the tahini at the end, it will react with the acid from the lime juice (or lemon juice) and thicken the hummus.
Double Mushroom Pasta
Pour several cups of boiling water over the dried porcinis and let them soak for 20 minutes. Drain the porcinis, roughly chop them, and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a wide frying or non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh mushrooms to the onion and sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid. Add the hand-crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until the mushroom flavor permeates the tomato sauce.
Boil the pasta until al dente, drain it, and mix it with the sauce. Let the pasta stand for about 5 minutes before serving so the pasta has time to absorb the sauce. Stir in the parsley and serve with scallions for garnish, if desired.
Double Jalapeño Hummus
For the hummus: Combine the jalapeno, garlic, and lime juice in a blender. Blend on high for about 30 seconds. Add the garbanzo beans and turn the blender back on. Gradually add just enough water to process the beans until smooth. Add the tahini and process again. (Adding the tahini at the end will give the hummus a smoother, thicker texture because it allows you to add more water initially. Tahini thickens when combine with something acidic like lime juice.)
For the jalapeño topping: Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and turn the blender on. Gradually add the oil, and a little water if necessary, until the mixture is smooth.
Serve the hummus in a bowl and make a well in the center for the jalapeño topping.