seeds

Toasted Sesame and White Bean Hummus

Now I know "hummus" means chickpeas, but really we use the name for anything resembling a beany dip. I've tried many sorts of beans and the white (or white pea bean) really works for me. Instead of the usual smooth tahini, I've toasted sesame seeds, which gives this hummus a little crunch. For a spicy kick I also added some hot sauce. You could easily put more or less, depending on the level of hot that you enjoy. Also, the recipe yields 4 cups, which may seem like a lot, but trust me, you'll go through it fast enough.

Enjoy! Flatbread Recipe Here Unique clay platter by Big Hill Pottery.

Yields about 4 cups

Ingredients

• 2 cups dried white beans • 1/2 cup olive oil • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted • 6 tablespoons lemon juice ( about 2 lemons) • 2 teaspoons hot sauce • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped • salt

Soak the beans overnight. Drain the beans and simmer in water for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain and let cool for 10 minutes. In a food processor mix the cooked beans, olive oil, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, lemon juice, hot sauce and garlic cloves. Whiz until smooth and thick. Add more oil if too thick. Season with salt to taste. Serve with flatbreads or crackers.

Grilled Pesto and Triple Cheese Sandwich

One of my all-time comfort food favorites is the grilled cheese sandwich. No surprise there. This is my second post on that heavy-sitting delicacy. One of the three cheeses here is my own, a homemade goat cheese. Cheese is easier to make than you'd think. You should check it out. The other cheeses are the cheddar and parmesan leftover from my Pinwheel Loaf. Let's hope that one day I am making all my own cheeses. For now, one at a time. The whole wheat bread is also homemade and I'll probably post the recipe here because the results are well worth it -- depth of flavor and a nice crust. Instead of using pine nuts in the pesto, which come most often from the far end of the world, I used sunflower seeds. They're just as good, cheaper, and they grow closer to home. Use any herbs that are available; pesto is also good with parsley, chervil, and even chives.

Enjoy!

Simple Pesto

• 1 cup fresh herbs of your choice • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil • salt + ground black pepper

In a food processor, grind the nuts coarsely for crunchy pesto or finely for smooth. Add the herbs and half of the oil. Whizz until just blended, then add more oil to desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Pesto and Triple Cheese Sandwich

• 2 slices of bread • couple slices of aged cheddar • small handful parmesan, grated • small handful goat cheese • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan. Butter each slice of bread. Put one slice in the pan, drizzle with pesto, then add the cheeses and drizzle again with pesto. Top with the other slice of bread, flip and grill until golden brown. Transfer the sandwich to a baking pan and put in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melting. Eat.

Simple Poppy Seed Buns

Fresh bread gets people excited before a meal, especially when they know it was made from scratch. Here is a recipe for quick bread that's very similar to the one I use for flatbreads and pizza doughs. When making buns, the important thing is to let your dough rise properly; only that creates the soft, moist texture we all want in a bun. Sugar is added to give the bread that definitive "roll" taste. While everything is out of the cupboard, you might want to make a couple of extra batches. Freeze them just after they've cooled, and next time all you will have to do is pop them into a hot oven for 5 minutes.

The dough should be sticky, but not enough to stick to the bowl when you move it around. Because every flour is different, your dough might need more or less water. Use your judgement.

Yields 10-12 buns

Ingredients

• 3 1/4 cups whole white flour • 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water • 2 teaspoons salt • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast • 2 tablespoons sugar • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

In large bowl mix the flour, sugar, poppy seeds, and salt. Stir together the yeast and water and let sit for a couple of minutes. Add the water to the flour and mix with your hands until smooth. If too dry add a couple drops of water. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place (in the oven with the light on is a good spot) for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Take the dough out on a floured surface and cut it in 12 equal buns. Work them gently to give them a round shape. Place them on a floured baking tray and let sit for 10 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the suface. Serve hot.

Watercress Pesto

The peppery flavor of watercress and its juicy leaves are terrific in pesto. Think peppery, lemony, garlicy goodness together with toasted nuts and punchy parmesan. If you want a quick, crowd-pleasing appetizer or a spread for that grilled tomato sandwich, give watercress pesto a try. You even have the option of drizzling some with added oil on your meat or fish. Pesto is versatile, and since the greens and the garlic remain uncooked, it's also very healthy. Enjoy! Yields about 3 cups

Ingredients

• 1 cup pecans (or walnuts) • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds • 2 cups packed watercress • 1 1/2 cup grated parmesan • 3/4 cup olive oil • juice of one lemon • 3 garlic cloves • salt + ground black pepper

Dry toast the nuts and seeds in a pan, shaking, until they're ready. In a food processor, whizz the nuts and seeds until finely shredded. Add all the other ingredients, and whizz again. Season with salt and pepper and adjust to desired consistency with olive oil. Serve with fresh bread.

Quinoa with Roasted Peppers and Sunflower Seeds

Most of the snow is gone so I decided to cook up something that would make a great summer dish - just to herald in some even warmer weather. By now everybody knows quinoa is very healthy. It's not the cheapest grain, but it's worth eating not only for it's nutritional value, but also for it's taste. You can easily add anything to it; vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits or even poultry to make it a main dish. It's usually served cold as a salad, but you can heat it up to replace rice or any other grain. Eat it hot or cold, up to you. Serves 6-8

Ingredients

• 2 cups quinoa • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock • 2 bell peppers • 1 medium red onion, chopped • 1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/2" cubes • 1 cup sunflower seeds • juice of 1/2 lemon • salt + black pepper • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the peppers in half, lengthwise. Put them on a pan, drizzle some oil and roast in the oven for around 30 minutes.

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil and add the quinoa. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.

In a pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.

By now your peppers are probably roasted. Cut them roughly in 1/2" cubes and add them to the pan with the onions and zucchini. In the same pan, add the cooked quinoa, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything.

Serve straight away or leave to cool an hour or so. Top with sunflower seeds.