Cooking over a fire is something I’m just starting to learn about. One of my first large format cooking experiences was helping my partner Silver smoke half a pig for a friend’s wedding in Maggie Valley, NC. I had never smoked a whole animal before, or learned how to sustain a fire for 24 hours to produce coals to keep the smoker hot. Since then, with Silver, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to cook with fire—these are some of my favorite experiences of cooking. There is so much visceral memory attached to these moments for me. The smell sticks on you for days, you can feel how your muscles move and change squatting over the flame, tears streaming from smoke getting in your eyes.
We decided the other day to build a fire in the backyard and set up a little station to cook flatbreads and jar up some kumquats. I made a hummus with lemon that Silver had preserved about 6 months ago to eat with the bread, recipes from Alice Water's My Pantry cookbook. Mostly it was just fun to congregate around the fire, learn a few things from Silver, and try something I’ve never done before. They came out a little closer to crackers than flatbread, albeit delicious and inundated with the taste of smoke and coal. Bread always seems like something you have to try and try again, but the process is always fun. We happened to have the kumquats and I thought it would be nice to mimic the lemon preserve process, we’ll see how that turns out in a couple weeks!
Makes 16 flatbreads
2 c whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ c warm water
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk together, the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the water and oil. Knead briefly to form a soft, moist dough. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 16 balls. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 6x3 inch oval.
Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook two flatbreads at a time until they start to brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until browned in spots on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Wrap the flatbreads in a clean kitchen towel while still warm to let the breads moisten from the steam.
Just before serving, use tongs to hold each flatbread briefly over an open flame, turning until lightly charred on both sides. Serve warm.
Hummus with Preserved Lemon
Makes about 2 cups
¾ c dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 onion, halved
1 carrot peeled and halved
A few garlic cloves, peeled but whole
1 dried chili (optional)
¼ preserved lemon, rind only, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
A large pinch of cayenne pepper
Drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and put them in a pot with the onion, carrot, all but one of the garlic cloves, some salt, and the dried chili, and enough fresh water to cover the chickpeas by an inch or more. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chickpeas are quite tender, 1 to 2 hours. Allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, carrot and chili. Reserving some of the cooking liquid, drain the chickpeas.
Make the hummus with a mortar and pestle, such as a big Japanese suribachi, or use a food processor or blender. If using a mortar and pestle, pound the remaining garlic clove and a pinch of salt into a smooth paste. Add the preserved lemon and pound the lemon until the lemon has completely mixed together with the garlic. Add the chickpeas and mash until they are broken up. Finally, add the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne. Mix together until smooth, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary.
Taste for seasoning and add more salt, cumin, or lemon if needed. When ready to serve, garnish with olive oil and a sprinkling of toasted cumin or cayenne.