Lately, my life has been a series of several easy, uneventful days, followed by full weekends of good company, a decent amount of stress, and excellent food. The reason behind this particular full weekend extravaganza was Bailey’s graduation from Cal Poly. Cristy flew in from Seattle on Thursday, so Mom, who always has Tartine on the mind, decided that we would pick her up from the airport (in San Jose) and then “stop by” Bar Tartine, Tartine’s restaurant, and Tartine itself. At Bar Tartine we shared several platters of bread-related meals and one candied beet mimosa. While I enjoyed my food in silence, I got to listen to Mom and Cristy’s soulful banter back and forth: “Sometimes you just have to do it. You gotta drive up here to eat. You have to live”; “This is the life right here”; “This is what it’s all about. Good food is all you need.” I expected to hear an, “Amen!” from one of the tables nearby. Bar Tartine is a place for flavor experimentation—we had some kind of chickpea spread with olives and paprika, a lamb and chipotle aioli sandwich, and something with fresh peas and goat cheese. Ultimately, my favorite part was the first course, Country Sourdough bread with lots of kefir butter. Simplicity often wins out.
Friday saw the O’Regan caravan heading down the 101 to San Luis Obispo. For once, we didn’t pack a lunch, which led to short tempers until about 9 PM, when we ate dinner. My Mom decided to bring half of our home kitchen to their rental house, down to her favorite mug for coffee. Dad almost threw the lamb burgers into the creek because they set the barbecue on fire, like they do every time. “I’m never making these again. Never,” he repeated.
Saturday began with a bit of a melt-down due to a high-stress breakfast situation (in a family full of foodies, meals can get a bit tense), during which the bottom of the oven got a good dose of melted butter and set the fire alarm screaming. I think the mantra on Saturday was, “Less stress, more mimosas, and more fun.” The graduation itself lasted only about half an hour, which was lucky because the place was packed and felt like a convection oven. Bailey had her moment, looking like Dumbledore with her black robe and long hair, and then we ventured back into the heat for a couple pictures. A few cocktails, some tasty crostini, and some affogato ushered in a lovely afternoon. Dinner was a splendid affair, complete with fancy champagne, delicious greek food, and guitar music that made my dad repeatedly refer to Antonio Banderas.
Our Saturday night ended with an outdoor fire. Jonji and Dad had foraged for the wood earlier, a piece of which had ended up bouncing onto my foot. Luckily, the creek was nearby for me to ice my foot in and babble condolences in my ears. By 9 PM, several of us ended up standing around the fire, watching the embers glitter for an hour before calling it a night.
Another item on Mom’s list of food blasphemies is buying hummus—she makes her own, of course. Her version is a creamy blend of chickpea confit and lots of garlic. Seriously, do not make this for a first date because you will not get a second one. This hummus is divine on squishy pita bread warmed in butter and oil. I have a hard time eating anything else when this is served during dinner.
The following two recipes must be given together because the hummus is impossible without the chickpea confit. Confit (pronounced con-fee) is not, as it may appear, a sister program to CrossFit, but simply something cooked in oil: in this case, chickpeas. You may be daunted by such an extensive recipe, but these two recipes complete the greek salad that we usually pair them with. They’re also great as appetizers, with crackers or pita.
5 cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in cold water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
cloves from 1.5 heads garlic, peeled
20 black peppercorns
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
olive oil, about 1 bottle*
Drain the soaked chickpeas, add them to a large pot, and cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Add 2 tsp salt, 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until softened (the time depends on the freshness of the dried chickpeas, so start checking early and keep cooking as long as you need). Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Make the confit once the chickpeas are cooked and somewhat cooled. Drain the chickpeas and pour into a heavy bottomed pot. Stir the peeled garlic cloves, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp salt, and 20 peppercorns in with the chickpeas. Pour enough olive oil (or a combination of oils) over until it just covers the chickpeas.
Cook in the oven, covered, for one hour.
Note: Sometimes I use a combination of olive oil and grapeseed oil, which works well and saves a bit of money.
Chickpea Confit Hummus
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 handful basil leaves
3 cups chickpea confit, drained (save the oil!)
1 cup olive oil from confit
Melt a tbsp or two of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Lightly caramelize onions in pan until slightly charred. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
In a food processor, blend the lemon juice, garlic, minced shallot, and 1 tsp salt. Let this sit for about 10 minutes, then add the caramelized onion, 1 tsp ground cumin, and handful of basil and pulse a few times. Add chickpea confit and blend. While hummus is blending, 1 cup of oil from the confit into the food processor a steady stream. Blend until totally smooth.
To serve, either eat it as is, or swirl it in a bowl and top with a few spoonfuls of confited chickpeas and a few spoonfuls of oil. This hummus is especially good with buttered, warmed pita or cucumber slices. Enjoy!