a food blog by samwellsphoto.com
March 13, 2015

Hummus is awesome, but it can be expensive. The ingredients are so cheap and the process is so simple, that I refuse to buy it at the store. Plus, if I make it, I get the luxury of leaving out the ingredients I can’t pronounce. I’ve been experimenting with different hummus recipes, and this was one of my favorites. I roasted a big tray of bell peppers and garlic to use throughout the week, and used some for this recipe.

If you have a pressure cooker, you can cook your beans in half the time. I like to overcook them a little so they become creamy when blended in the food processor.

  • 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup roasted bell peppers
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1/2 caramelized onion
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  1. Soak beans overnight. Drain water and rinse beans. Cover beans with fresh water. Bring to boil and reduce to low heat. Cook for 40 min.
  2. Roast peppers in an oven at 350 for 30 min. Put in bowl and cover with clear wrap and let cool. The clear wrap will trap steam and separate the skins from the meat of the pepper. Peel off skins. (you can also buy jarred roasted peppers)
  3. On low heat, caramelize onions until golden but not burnt. You can add the garlic with the onions if you don’t want to roast them in the oven.
  4. In food processor, blend garbanzo beans, roasted peppers, garlic, onion, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth. Add a little more olive oil or lemon juice if it’s too dry. Season to taste.
  5. Top with leftover roasted peppers and caramelized onions. You can also sprinkle smoked paprika on top for more flavor.
March 2, 2015

Every Fall I tend to get a little carried away and I buy a ton of pumpkins and squash. They are so cheap and they last the entire winter if you take care of them properly. This year I got some unique ones I’ve never tried before. One memorable one was called Musque de Provence. I bought a huge 15 lb one at the farmer’s market for $8, and it turned out to be the most delicious pumpkin I ever ate. I tried to find more to photograph, but all were sold out. I ended up getting a ton of different varieties, and we are eating the last of them this time of year.

It might seem a bit overwhelming cooking a huge pumpkin because then you have to eat a huge pumpkin, but don’t worry because it freezes perfectly. Just cut it into chunks and boil it in a huge pot. Then puree the chunks and pour into wide mouth mason jars. One quart is perfect for pumpkin soup for 2 people, and 1 pint is the perfect amount for making bread or pancakes. Freeze and use over the next few months. Do NOT freeze standard mouth jars because they break easily, and definitely do not freeze 1/2 gallon mason jars because they definitely break. After several mistakes, I only freeze liquids in a quart and pint wide mouth mason jars.

Storing them is very important. You need to keep them in a cool, dry, and dark place with plenty of airflow in between. Make sure to check over the entire surface for areas that might rot or are already rotting. If you suspect anything might go bad, just eat it as soon as you can to keep the rest clean. I don’t have a root cellar in CA, but if you have one, I’m jealous and you should use that to store them.

Here is the recipe for 15 small pancakes.

Dry

  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardomom

Wet

  • 1.5 cup milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl
  2. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Combine the dry with the wet. Don’t over mix. Less mixing the more fluffy they will be
  4. Let sit for 10 min.
  5. I found that a cast iron pan makes the best pancakes, but any pan will do.
  6. Top with honey and roasted pumpkin seeds.
February 14, 2015

My good friend Serge is obsessed with well roasted small batch coffee, and he is constantly seeking out the best roasters and brewing techniques. Many factors contribute to brewing the perfect cup of coffee. The coffee beans, ratio of water to grinds, method of brewing, and time all contribute to extracting the subtle nuances of each different coffee. All the unique tasting notes come from the place where the coffee is grown. What the French call terrior [pronounced ter-wahr], a term used to describe unique characteristics in wine attributed to the place where the grapes are grown, can also be applied to coffee or any food in my opinion. The climate, soil, flora, and growers all impact the final flavor so it is important not to destroy those flavors by over roasting or badly brewing techniques. This is what small batch coffee sourced from a specific region is about – tasting the terrior.

Different brewing techniques will accentuate different flavors in the coffee. For this post, we will demonstrate the Aeropress using Left Roasters Kochere from Etiopia.

Serge guided me through his process and shot amazing photos along the way. If you want to see his incredible photography, check out his Instagram account @utmostcreative.

First measure out 19 grams of coffee. Set your coffee grinder to medium, and grind.

Pull the Aeropress to level 4. Add grounds. Pour 185 degree water in a circular motion to just cover the grounds. Wait 15 seconds for the grinds to bloom. In a circular motion, fill to the top of the aeropress. Brew for 1 minute. Add filter to filter cartrige and wet the filter.

Add cartridge and flip the Aeropress onto the cup and press.

We paired this coffee with some sourdough bread with melted brie and blueberry jam.

I’ve been making semi sweet oat snacks to curb midday hunger for my wife and I, and it has been a fun experiment to find our favorite combinations. My goal was to have a snack that wasn’t too sweet made with high quality oats, flax seeds, and chia seeds. Here is one I came up with that I like.

These are very quick to make because you don’t need to bake them. Total prep is less than 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups organic oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp ground chia seed
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Optional – 1 tbsp mate powder for energy

Here’s how it’s done

  1. Pour oats, honey, molasses, chocolate chips into mixing bowl.
  2. Add hot water
  3. Mix together. The chocolate chips will start to melt
  4. Add ground flax and chia seeds. Mix more.
  5. Form into whatever size and shape you like. If they are not holding together you can add more molasses. If they are too runny, then add more oats.
  6. Put in fridge to set. Store in fridge.

 

 

 

January 24, 2015

Dashi is a Japanese broth that is the base of miso soup and many noodle soups. It is a relatively simple process with minimal ingredients, but the technique makes all the difference. If you are interested in cooking Japanese food, this is a good one to learn.

 

January 17, 2015

It might be safe to say that my wife and I are addicted to tea. We drink tea every day, and when I work from home I drink tea all day long. I’ve always known that drinking a wide variety of teas is good for my health, but I never fully understood the healing power of tea until I stumbled on this TED talk about anti-angiogenisis. To sum it up, foods that have anti-angiogenic properties regulate the excessive production of blood vessels, which prevents many diseases like cancer, obesity, heart disease and more. Here is the link to the TED talk Can we eat to starve cancer by William Li for more information.

All my friends know we drink a ton of tea, so they always bring me something new to try. One tea company my friend Serge told me about is the Art of Tea. Their green tea with pomegranate will melt your face it’s so good. Mate is probably one of the best all around teas for your health, and I’ll mix it with other herbs like mint, lemon grass, bay, or thyme for added health benefits and flavor. For me, Mate has the same caffeine effect as coffee, but it keeps me alert longer and makes me less jittery. I’ve been drinking Guayaki loose leaf for the last few months and I really like it. It’s all organic, fair trade, and they even have a bio-dynamic line I want to try.

Green tea is good for your health on so many levels. If you have funky breath, green tea helps because it kills bacteria and lowers acidity in your mouth.

If you can afford it, I would recommend drinking mostly organic teas. If you have space to grow, I would definitely recommend growing some teas yourself. lemongrass, bay, and lemon verbena are very easy to grow.

My chef friend Mikel and I made this video to teach people how to create their own recipes based on common techniques found in various cuisines around the world. Check it out.

January 3, 2015

A few years ago I planted 5 different varieties of guavas, and this year all 5 produced fruit in almost overwhelming quantities. As of right now I have 3 varieties of tropical pink guavas and two varieties of pineapple guavas. Each has its unique flavor and fruiting season. One of the trees was so fruitful that we ended up making guava juice and jam, we put them in smoothies every morning, froze a bunch for later, and we even made one gallon of guava wine. One tree started producing ripe fruit back in October and I just picked the last two ripe guavas yesterday.

Here in southern California, we can grow most subtropical fruits (depending how cold the micro-climate gets). Local rare fruit nurseries are the perfect place to see what fruits grow best in your specific area.

To make guava nectar, just add guavas to a blender with a few cups of water and puree. Strain the puree through a fine strainer and drink. You can also make lemonade and add the nectar to it to make a guava lemonade.

Just when I thought the harvest was done for the year, the other variety started setting fruit again, so we will have more in a month or two. We will basically have guavas for most of the year.

Although pineapple guavas are my favorite variety to eat, I love the deciduous bark on all the tropical guavas. The bark sheds and reveals a new layer of color and the bark remains smooth.

Guava trees can handle heavy pruning, so I prune my trees often and aggressively. I want them to stay small and pick-able. All fruit comes from new growth, so pruning only increases yield as you get twice as many shoots from every cut point. They grow fast so it’s best to stay on top of the pruning.

December 24, 2014

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to visit all types of markets. Nothing educates me more on a culture’s cuisine than the local markets where the ingredients are sold. Industrialized production, storage, and shipping of food has pretty much homogenized our food selection in supermarkets. We get food from everywhere in the world, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if I want bell peppers in the winter, but we are pretty much sold the same things all year. On top of that, some of the most interesting fruits and vegetables that don’t travel well get left out of the system because spoilage rates are too high. Going to local markets gives me a pulse on what is grown in the area and there’s always something unique I’ve never seen before.

This is the only floating market I’ve ever seen, but I guess everything is floating in Venice, so it only makes sense.

Crossing the border from Spain to France shows the drastic change in bread making styles. Bread was sold by the kilo at this market in Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Below shows all the classic spices at the same market.

I found that French markets were all merchandized perfectly. Everything was organized, and then systematically reorganized all day as things were sold. Their pride in their merchandize is definitely shown in the details.

Fish markets prove how diverse food is around the world. It’s an awakening experience to see how much fish displays in the US consist mostly of fillets from large fish, while most fish markets around the world consist of smaller fish. Cooking whole fish is one of my favorite things because the flavor from the bones and skin is indescribably good. All my deep sea fishing friends think I’m crazy when I ask them to bring back some mackerel, sardines, or small bi-catch that they use to catch big game fish. Identifying fresh fish is the secret to cooking epic fish, so use your senses to pick the best. Look for clear eyes, a neutral fresh sea smell, firm texture, and a fresh slime coat on the skin. If anything is fishy, don’t buy it. No amount of spices will ever cover up funky fish. If the fish is good enough, cooking it with salt and drizzling it with extremely good olive oil is the only thing you need to do.

In Costa Rica I found this street fruit stand shown below selling Rambutan, and the photo above shows this giant market compound that sell food, fish, meat, and produce everyday.

Some beautiful colors you can’t find in a supermarket found at a farmers market in Santa Barbara, CA.

One of my favorite markets to visit up near Moss Landing, CA. It was kiwi season, so we got 10 giant kiwis for $1. We ate so many, and went back for more.

Below is a market on the streets in Buenos Aires where we got some of the best cheese of my life. Argentina is known for its high quality beef, and from high quality livestock comes high quality cheese.

December 12, 2014

When we were in Germany a few months ago, I was lucky enough to get invited to shoot photos of an historic bakery in Gengenbach that has been making traditional wood fired bauernbrot, which is farmer’s bread. It’s a simple loaf made with natural leaven, wheat, and rye flour. It isn’t pretty like a fancy French style loaf with huge air pockets in the crumb and a perfect crust, but it is packed full of flavor and is a staple bread for many Germans. They make over 1,000 loaves a day from this bakery to sell at markets and at the bakery. The most impressive part of the bakery is that all the bread is made by two men that split a 12 hour shift. One starts at midnight firing up the ovens, mixing dough, shaping, and then baking around 500 loaves, and then the next guy comes to pull the loaves out, fire up the ovens again, mix more dough, shape, and bake several more batches.

This place was incredible. This handmade style of wood fired baking has long been replaced with modern commercial bakeries that pump out homogenous loaves lacking any semblance of a soul. If bread could have a soul, this bread had it. Every aspect of this place gave me a glimpse of how life was here for generations. The giant millstone out front still stands after a great fire devastated the town in 1689, and I couldn’t even imagine how many loaves came from this place since it was first built as the monastery bakery in the 1400’s.There were 6 dual layer ovens. Each oven holds 70 loaves, and the bread takes an hour to bake. The baker has a sequence of firing, mixing dough, shaping, loading and unloading each oven one at a time as he moves down the row of ovens. It takes perfect timing to make sure he doesn’t over bake or under bake any batch. The system was so efficient that the baker didn’t even look stressed – even though he was juggling 5 labor intensive processes all by himself. And he also made 70 flat breads in between baking the bread to add another layer of complexity.

The baker had to load all 70 loaves as fast as he could so they would all bake evenly. Without looking, he would grab one off the rack and tossed it two feet onto the small peel and shoveled it into the oven so they almost touched. I couldn’t believe how quickly he pulled this off without messing up once.