Kaholo: a new DevOps tool – Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve written a technical post. We’re in the midst of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, and being confined to my home is giving me a lot of time to practice some old tech concepts (such as Chef/Puppet and Ansible), to try along with some slightly newer things such as Kubernetes, Terraform, and my latest find: Kaholo!

About these posts

While Kaholo itself is simple to use, the evaluation is complicated because it involves several platforms and tools that are typical of popular development environments.

As a result, I decided to create a series of blog posts instead of one long one. Today I will introduce the basic concepts and principles, list the “ingredients”, and introduce my evaluation strategy:

  1. Introduction to Kaholo, my evaluation goals, and the tools I chose
  2. Installing & Configuring Kaholo, and Installing plugins
  3. Creating a sample project in Gitlab, triggering a build on commit, and triggering Kaholo on build success
  4. Designing & Testing our Kaholo pipeline + Conclusions

Part 1 – Introduction to Kaholo

The promise behind Kaholo is “DevOps Automation, with less coding/scripting”. The platform comes with a bunch of plugins for existing platforms such as Amazon’s AWS/EC2, Google Cloud Compute / GSuite, Kubernetes, Terraform, Slack, Gitlab, Github, Git, NewRelic, and others.

You can either host an instance on your own infrastructure, or you can have the Kaholo team run an instance for you. I chose to host my own for the purpose of this evaluation. As part of my evaluation I’m going to design some useful pipelines using a visual editor. I will then run some of those pipelines manually, and have some of them trigger from Gitlab (Source Control with CI/CD) and Observium (Monitoring tool).

This is the main pipeline I plan to evaluate with:

  1. Announce on some DevOps Slack channel that a successful build was detected and a deployment is being attempted
  2. Email the same message to the product’s release manager (me!)
  3. Fetch the built packages and put them on some bucket (maybe in a Google Cloud Storage bucket?), or push them to a private or public package repository server
  4. Execute a script on one or more remote servers to install this latest package from the repository
  5. Potentially erect a Google Cloud SQL instance of PostgreSQL or MySQL
  6. Take the details of that DB instance and store them in a CSV file (Kaholo has a CSV Writer plugin)
  7. Load a test SQL dump into this new database instance
  8. Configure the software on the remote servers to connect to that new database instance
  9. Apply some firewall policy to those instances based on the type of software we installed (maybe we’re opening port 443?)
  10. Create a DNS record with the name of that branch or build in CloudFlare via API (no CloudFlare plugin yet, but I’m writing one)
  11. Run the software on all of those remote servers
  12. Perform some basic sanity test (run a script, check output)
  13. If the test fails, roll back everything we did so far and email the release manager + slack the DevOps team that the build didn’t deploy successfully
  14. At this point we’re successful, so email the release manager with the details on how to connect to this new instance + Slack the DevOps team the same details

The scenario above is not complicated to write for anyone with basic scripting skills. However there are some advantages to doing this with Kaholo.

Here’s a list of the ones I can think of (that matter to me):

  • Lots of useful, easy to use plugins to talk to everything on the internet
  • A repository of all of your pipelines, everything in one place
  • Proper logging of every step, every time a pipeline runs
  • New engineer in the team? they can run pipelines from day one!
  • Revision history on pipelines (code, configuration, design, etc)
  • Easy to duplicate and modify pipelines for new scenarios (even for people who are less comfortable with scripting)
  • Visual pipelines are easy to read and understand by the entire DevOps team, as well as the engineering team (and maybe even by leadership!)
  • Kaholo implements an encrypted “vault” concept where important credentials and API tokens are stored safely
  • Kaholo also has a scheduler / calendar, so you can schedule pipelines! (cleanups, reporting, renewing LetsEncrypt certificates, etc. It can all be fully automated!)
  • IAM lets you create users & groups, so you can share the right projects/pipelines with the right team members
  • You can still write code within Kaholo (in JS), if you need to implement complex scenarios
  • A clear and simple dashboard showing pipeline statuses
  • I can host it myself, on my own internal infrastructure (security, customization & control)

Ingredients

For this evaluation we’re going to play with the following tools:

  1. Kaholo Server – DevOps Automation
  2. Slack – Team Chat
  3. Observium – Monitoring Tool
  4. Vagrant – Virtualization Wrapper for OSX
  5. VirtualBox – Virtualization Software by Oracle
  6. Gitlab – Source Control, Issue Tracker & CI/CD
  7. Bash scripting, SSH, etc.
  8. CloudFlare – DNS & DDoS Mitigation
  9. Hetzner Cloud API – To create / destroy VMs on the fly

Preparation

For the Kaholo server I created a 4.90 EUR / Month VM with Hetzner, running Ubuntu Server 18.04 Bionic (2 vCPU, 4gb RAM, 40gb SSD).

I set it up with nginx-full, certbot (for the LetsEncrypt SSL cert), mongodb, and of course Kaholo Server and Kaholo Agent.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – I will explain how to install Kaholo on your own instance, complete with Copy & Paste commands so you can be up and running in minutes.

On the practice of OM

Those closest to me know that I’ve always been on an iterative path of self development and improvement. It is important for me to grow as a human being. I want to grow academically, but also emotionally and socially. I know this will make me a better person, and being a parent to two incredible young children motivates me further. I want my children to grow up with a more enlightened father, and I hope this helps them as they grow up in an ever changing and evolving society. OM is the study of Orgasmic Meditation, but ultimately it is the study of the masculine and the feminine energies we all embody, how those energies function, and how we can harness those energies to become more balanced, happier human beings. In this blog post, I will attempt to analyze and break down what OM means to me, and perhaps through my insights you may figure out what OM means to you.

Yesterday I summed up OM as “A modern inter-personal interaction language for a more connected and enlightened society”, and I think this is so far my best description of what OM is.

The name’s all wrong! Or is it?

When you first learn about OM, you might mistakenly think it’s a simple meditation protocol where a man strokes a woman’s genitals. There’s a lot more to it than that!

The team at One Taste have masterfully combined a number of philosophies and disciplines to form a new cohesive multi-disciplinary practice that helps people master the interplay between masculine and feminine energies, between people (not just between men and women), to achieve an “Orgasmic Centered Life”. So this isn’t about achieving a physical, genital orgasm, and if that’s what you were hoping for you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It’s more about aligning with your desires, so you can be whole and happy and content.

On the other hand, re-defining the word “Orgasm” to mean something that’s more encompassing and fulfilling is probably the right thing to do because after all, relationships aren’t all about sex and genitals, and if that’s how you approach your relationships, you’ll eventually have none.

The protocol in a nutshell

Let’s get this out of the way first. This protocol is documented elsewhere, including plenty of videos on YouTube. The protocol is very simple and lasts 17 minutes in total. There’s 2 minutes for prep, 13 minutes of stroking, and 2 more minutes for grounding (coming “down”). Here are the steps:

  • Prepare in advance: Two nitrile gloves & the “One Stroke” lube
  • Prepare in advance: The nest (one pillow for her head, two pillows for her legs, a small soft towel for her, to be placed under her pelvis, and a folded towel for you to sit on, to raise yourself from the ground)
  • Help your lady into the nest and assume the position: Your left leg above her abdomen and your right leg under her right leg.
  • Start your timer: The first step will last no more than 2 minutes.
  • Grounding: Announce to your lady that you’re going to touch her thighs, and when she approves, place your hands flat on her things and press down gently.
  • Noticing: During the grounding step, you also perform the “noticing” step: Look at her genitals and describe what you’re seeing. A short and simple description (5~15 seconds) is enough.
  • Gloves & Lube: While maintaining contact with her legs/thighs, put on your gloves and dip your right thumb and left stroking finger into the lube. A pea size is enough, don’t overdo it.
  • At this point the 2 minute timer should ding, and you move to the stroking step.
  • Stroking: Announce to your lady you’re about to touch her genitals. Once she consents, you gently insert your right thumb into her vaginal opening and press very gently downward. Your thumb will remain here for 13 minutes, and you won’t move it. Just maintain constant, light grounding pressure. You then use the fingers of your left hand to spread open her labia, uncover the hood to reveal the clitoris, and start gently stroking from her clitoris down, until your finger meets your thumb. You start stroking from 4~5pm from the clitoris (slightly down and to the right of the clitoris). You use “down” strokes, which means you apply pressure while going down, and you then slide back up with almost no pressure (but without lifting your finger – you maintain constant contact). An “up” strike is the exact opposite: You apply the pressure while stroking upward, and go back down the minimal pressure. Which ones do you use? You will know when you’re in touch with how your lady’s responding to your strokes.
  • Noticing: Notice the dynamics and your own emotional and physical sensations while stroking. You can gently describe what you’re feeling to your lady, she will thank you to acknowledge you sharing. She may do the same, say thank you to acknowledge her sharing.
  • After 13 minutes the timer should ding again. You spend the next minute doing down strokes going as low as possible, and one more minute doing grounding: Take your thumb out, gently, and place your right hand on top of your left hand. Now press as hard as you can inward (covering, and applying pressure on the entire area).
  • With the last 2 minutes well spent, you pull the towel from under your lady (she will lift her pelvis to allow you to take the towel). You then fold the towel in half, place it on her labia and pull gently upwards to wipe the lube. Once done, open the towel and fold it the other way, and let it rest on her genitals.
  • Remove your gloves and place them aside, and help your lady up. The OM is now over. The lady will thank you, thank her back.

Remember to:

  1. Keep it professional. This is a strict protocol, do not change things up, and don’t try to add things to it. Don’t offer hugs unless it is requested. Imagine you’re a masseuse at a SPA, and you enjoy the experience.
  2. Prepare everything in advance so you don’t have to delay or pause the OM. This includes putting phones in airplane mode, setting up lighting, making sure the environment is cozy and silent and that there are no other interruptions, etc (maybe lock the door to your room).

Some personal history

My very first encounter with self development texts happened before my 20’s, during the BBS era. I was exposed to all kinds of documents which I found on other BBS or that were uploaded to my BBS. Some were kinda silly (how to get high from the stuff inside banana peel), some dangerous (how to build bombs), but some were very interesting (how to invoke an out of body experience, how to achieve lucid dreaming, how to meditate). So even as a teenager I seemed to know right from wrong, real from fake, and I intuitively knew what would help me grow as a human being.

I was also very lucky to have smart, inspiring adults earlier in my life. They saw me, and they helped me directly and indirectly. Some of them were very smart about how they advised me, but I can only recognize this in retrospect. Bottom line is: I got lucky.

I first found out about OM from a Ted Talk by Nicole Daedone about 5~6 years ago. I was married to my second wife at the time, and my daughter was not yet born. I knew I wanted to learn more about it, but my circumstances kept me away from investing in my personal development.

Recent personal developments

I was engaged to be married 3 times, managed to marry two of my fiancés, and produced two offspring. Becoming a father is easily one of the most amazing things that have ever happened to me. I always wanted a family, I knew I would love it, but nothing prepares you for the emotional and mental explosion that is parenting. You think your heart can love from 1 to 10 and then you discover it can go to 15.

On the other hand, being a parent can be very demanding and even harmful mentally if you don’t know how to balance family, work, and personal time. My recent divorce and the ensuing custody arrangement put me in a place where I have more time to myself. I spent the first few months just healing and finding myself again. It allowed me to go back to focusing on self development, and I was able to do an ITO (Intro To OM) course, as well as attend a coaching circle with Eli Block.

A brief history of “stroking”

When you take a deep dive into the human condition you start noticing repeating patterns of behavior. You start seeing psychological conditions, how various situations affect humans on various levels (be it long term / short term stress, or even long term / short term happiness). You also notice how time and experiences  have a powerful effect on people, pushing them to grow and mature.

We owe a debt of gratitude to so many intelligent, patient human beings throughout history who’ve spent years studying humanity and producing amazing works. From the authors of the various religions, to Tantra, Ayurveda, and even Pick Up Artists. They all researched human psychology and came back with useful recipes that make advanced social tools more accessible, and allow humans to evolve into a  more enlightened society.

But what is a “stroke”? Here’s an example: A few days ago my daughter was watching Disney’s Tinkerbell. In the movie, Tinkerbell is drawn to the Winter kingdom. She eventually crosses, despite stern warnings from her community not to do so. She encounters a winter faerie while visiting the Winter Kingdom. I had an inkling that it was Tinkerbell’s sister, but I wanted to see if my 5 year old daughter caught on to it as early as I did, so I asked her: “Who do you think this other faerie is?”, and she responded “I think it’s her sister maybe”. Me asking the question is a stroke, and my daughter responded to the stroke (and surprised me, with the depth of her connection to the story that was unfolding on the screen in front of her).

I’m happy to say that we seem to be evolving from a society where men almost never stroked women, to a society where men are now more interested than ever in learning how to stroke women, and where soon, everybody will understand the importance of stroking, and do it with everybody around them by default (men on men, women on women).

Many books have been published recently that touch on the various aspects mentioned above:

If you decide to read the books above, I urge you to read them slowly and to pay close attention to the details and the various scenarios depicted. You can either learn from those books for a couple hundred dollars, or you can pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend courses and learn first hand from experienced teachers & coaches.

The problem OM is facing

Imagine a man who was raised Christian, maybe even Catholic. Maybe that man was raised traditionally, and sexuality is a taboo subject. Now imagine I go to this man and tell him the following: “You’re going to put gloves on your hands, a woman is going to take her underwear off and lay down in front of you. You will sit above her and stroke her genitals gently for 13 minutes. When you’re done, you both go on your merry way”. What will that person tell me? And this isn’t just with men, I’ve spoken to women about OM, and they looked at me like I was some new age psycho.

It would have make the practice more socially acceptable if OM makes an appearance in popular media, appears in books, articles, and if famous celebrities start practicing OM and tell the world about how wonderful it is. Imagine if Oprah covers OM in one of her shows.

Except it’s not that simple. The OM has to be contained, as an experience (hence “the container”). You do the practice, and you do not add anything. You don’t make small talk, you don’t hug, you don’t even touch each other beyond perhaps a handshake when introducing yourselves. You stick to the protocol, and you keep it “professional”.

To understand all of the above, you have to attend an ITO course (Intro To OM), and maybe a few circles. It’s not expensive; many of the sessions are free, and the ITO itself cost me $100.

Conclusion

I honestly believe everybody should do this, both men and women. You will benefit from this even if all you’re doing is attending a few free meetups, and paying for (and attending) an ITO course, it will set you back around $100 (not including transportation costs). For a life changing experience, it’s a tiny price to pay. You will learn a whole new language for relating with the people in your life.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me. If you want to add to the list of books above, make corrections, point out mistakes, etc, please let me know.

Cratejoy vs. Subbly – An up to date comparison: 2018

Popularity of subscription box businesses has been evidently on the rise lately. Keeping that in mind, it is no big surprise that more and more people are searching for the ideal solution i.e. services that will help them fuel their entrepreneurial machine, turn their brilliant and unique idea into reality, and ultimately skyrocket their business to unforeseen heights.

Diving even deeper into “subbox” waters and researching the subject on “what ecommerce platform is the best solution for subscription box entrepreneurs”, it struck me as a surprise that most of the articles popping up on the first page of Google are pretty outdated. With this industry changing on an almost daily basis, articles that are more than a year old now (some of them even dating back to 2015!) just won’t be of any use for those who are deciding what route to take – today.

So, I guess it was back to basics for me. I decided to take it back to the old school and manually go through all the on-boarding steps on both platforms, as well as test plethora of functionalities and features offered by both of these services. Here is what I found out. I did so as if I were starting a subscription box myself.

First Impressions and On-Boarding

First of all, I must say that I was extremely surprised to see the live chat widget on Subbly site even before I decided to give it a try. The Chat widget is there on the homepage and, although the message is automated, there was an actual person currently active that responded to my query. It feels really good to be able to have a chat with a real person willing to provide more insight about what they offer and how much it costs. I believe that being available to your customers at all times is very important when building a relationship with a prospective customer, and also might be a great sigh of relief for people who are new to subscription boxes.

Needles to say, even after I enrolled for the 14-day free trial Subbly offered, the chat widget was still there and the support team was equally responsive and willing to help. As the icing on the cake, at some point they even offered to jump on a call if that would help me overcome some problems quicker. Way to go Subbly!

On the other hand, Cratejoy has pretty straightforward on-boarding where it takes you through a couple of steps of product creation, store registration and site design and connecting a payment processor so you can go live with your store. Although you’re pretty much on your own from the very start (no chat widget, although generic pop-ups has been triggered when I visited certain areas of my Cratejoy admin), they have an extensive knowledge base. That’s really nice and helpful, but I guess I fancy speaking (chatting) with the actual real person more than reading through chunks of text to possibly find an answer to my problem.

Designing My Store

I believe that many of us that opt for going with one of these two ecommerce solutions want an out-of-the-box solution for their problems, and that includes a nice and clean website builder feature that will make your life easier. Both Subbly and Cratejoy feature drag-and-drop site builders with a couple of ready-made templates. All you have to do is choose the template that resonates with your style and to change the imagery and wording to it.

Although Cratejoy offered more themes than Subbly (somewhere around 10 against 5 themes that Subbly offers). However with that said, one thing I liked on Subbly was the ability to get easy modifications made to my site. For example, I was really fond of one theme on Subbly, I just didn’t like the layout of the footer, and I wanted that changed. Subbly gave me the opportunity to seek help from their developers that were willing to help me out with changing design of certain parts of my site. So, literally, I modified the stock theme in a way that it stands out from the sites using the same stock theme in a way that website visitors really couldn’t see the similarity and pattern. In other words, I managed to overhaul my site’s looks using just 3 modifications, so it became much more cleaner and ‘’how I wanted it to be’’.

After much hustle, I managed to receive a response from Cratejoy’s customer support team on my inquiry whether someone was able to modify my theme I chose on their site. However, they just offered to give me contacts from web design agencies they work with. Since I didn’t want to spend more money on it, I settled with what was offered by default. It’s probably worth mentioning that both website builders give you access to the code, so those of you who are familiar with a little bit of HTML & CSS can probably work your way around.

Creating Products

Here comes the important part of anyone that has clear vision of how their business should work. Since we’ve put visuals aside for now, we can move onto the part where we actually build our core product offering that will ultimately generate profit and lift our business off the ground.

Product creation panels are somewhat different on Subbly and Cratejoy but are both very intuitive and straightforward, so literally anyone can easily build their products. However, there is one really big difference between those two services and their capabilities. Although they both give you the opportunity to create subscription-based products, Cratejoy only gives you the opportunity to choose monthly billing and shipping period for your product. As for Subbly, it gives you the option to build your business over weekly, biweekly, monthly, bimonthly, quarterly or even products that renew on an annual basis.

This can really prove to be a game changer especially for those which core product is renewing on a quarterly basis. If you’re one of them, Cratejoy is unfortunately out of the game for you.

In the terms of possibilities to upsell and cross-sell, it was really nice to see Cratejoy’s Add-ons app on their app store, which give you the possibility to offer one-off product as a supplement to subscription product to the prospective customers on the checkout. Really nice supplement and something that can boost your revenue in a way.

On the other hand, I was introduced to brand new feature on Subbly that was released literally weeks’ ago as I was informed by their customer support team. A feature called the ‘’survey builder’’ enables you to easily and out-of-the-box create a survey for your product. With that being said, you are not only able to make your checkout flow through the series of different survey questions on the checkout, but the answers can even alter the final price of the subscription that the customer pays. In other words, the customer can customize their subscription and it can increase your average order value.

This feature really gives you the opportunity to allow your customer to “build-a-box” and gives enough flexibility for you to upsell and customize your offering to a great extent. In just few steps, I was able to offer my potential customers with an array of different sized t-shirts made out of cotton and with or without elastane with different prices depending on the options what they actually chose on the checkout. Quite neat.

Marketing and Other Apps

One of the biggest concerns right? How can I grow my business?

This question is something that was taken really seriously at Cratejoy’s obviously. After thorough research of their service and what they have to offer I came to a conclusion that their main focus and priority is running a marketplace, where all of the Cratejoy customers can list their products. This is really nice solution for bringing traffic to your site in the early stages of your business. However, that comes with a price which is really not negligible. For every transaction that comes through the marketplace they are taking additional 11.25% out of every transaction (initial transaction and every subsequent one, up to the day until customer decides to cancel his/hers subscription). When added onto 1.25% and .10 cents they regularly take for their services, that adds up to 12.50% and .20 cents per every transaction conducted through marketplace. It’s definitely a nice way to get traffic early on, as I already mentioned, but I wonder how will this reflect on my business long-time when my profit margins are already low enough.

Going across the street, Subbly doesn’t offer a marketplace where your store will be listed for the web crawlers to stumble upon. What they do offer is a number of marketing tool integrations (they do offer integration with Zapier which is all that you need more or less). Cratejoy is good at this also. Their app store offers solid number of apps you can integrate to your store such as Carthook for abandoned carts or Picreel.

One thing worth mentioning here is that Subbly has built in referral tool feature which is free for everyone to use and is already included in the price of the plan, whilst Cratejoy charges for it’s referral tool an extra $99. Subbly takes additional fee of up to 5% for every customer referred using their tool, which compared to other external refer-a-friend tools is actually quite good.

How Much Does This All Cost?

Finally down to pricing, part that’s probably the most important to all of us starting out on a tight budget. Truth is, you can run your business on both of these platforms while staying lean and bootstrapped and within your profit margins.

Initial plan on Subbly with all the features included in it comes at 29$ a month fixed. On top of that, they take 2% transaction fee on behalf of Subbly service and additional expense for Stripe service fees (their payment processor).

As for Cratejoy, their plan will cost you $39 a month fixed, accompanied by 1.25% and 10 cents plus Stripe’s fees, which can grow up to 12.50% and 10 cents per every transaction if you decide to take marketplace route.

Possible additional charges account for 5% transaction fee for every customer referred using Subbly’s built-in referral tool, or you can pay one-off payment of $99 if you decide to use the referral tool on Cratejoy.

Final Verdict

Although general consent on the Internet is that Cratejoy is a bigger and better solution than Subbly, I can’t help but concur that Subbly is growing at a very fast rate throughout the last year. Hence my statement from the beginning that outdated articles are simply not enough to shed enough light on pros and cons of using each service separately. And no doubt even this article will be outdated by the time this is posted due to the rate that Subbly is changing from what I can see.

And while Cratejoy stays focused on promoting their marketplace as the best possible channel for subscription box owners to market their product on the Web, and no doubt it works! It is apparent Subbly is determined to build a great and user-friendly platform with equally great customer support.

Honestly, it depends on your goals, but I see pros and cons for both. I like Subbly’s energy and drive, from my research they are bootstrapped which is super impressive. Cratejoy is a safe bet for starting out but I am thinking the support and longevity of your business might be better with Subbly.

The Miracle of Hummus

Over the years I have tasted various styles of Hummus around the world. Enough styles to know that when someone asks “What exactly is Hummus?” the correct answer is “It’s complicated”.

The typical person will tell you Hummus is made out of chickpeas ground into a paste. The more experienced foodies will tell you it also contains sesame paste (“Tahini” in the US and in Arabic speaking countries, “T’hina” in Israel).

Some adventurous souls will even try to make it at home, cooking the chickpeas until soft and then processing them in a food processor. They think the secret is in the lemon, or maybe it’s the garlic… or the cumin?

The truth is that it’s really not as simple as that. Hummus is one of those elusive dishes with hundreds of recipes, most of them zealously kept family or even trade secrets (think the Coca Cola formula). Many will pursue the ultimate Hummus recipe the same way some pursue the ultimate life partner, the ultimate beer, the ultimate high, the ultimate startup that will make them billionaires and change the world, the ultimate adrenaline inducing experience, etc. We are all obsessed with replicating at home that miraculous flavor and texture that we’ve all experienced at various legendary Hummus restaurants around the world. I say legendary because while many middle eastern restaurants sell Hummus, it’s very likely you’ve never really tasted even decent Hummus. This is especially true if you bought Hummus at the store (I have tried it, and it never tastes even remotely good, once you’ve had the real deal).

And as with every adventure to find the holy grail of something, the field is rife with rumors, theories and small pieces of a larger puzzle. A friend who heard from his friend who once used to work with another guy who used to work at one of those legendary Hummus restaurants. Some piece of the puzzle will be revealed, but it will take a grand effort to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. To further complicate the matter, every legendary Hummus restaurant has its own distinct style. Indeed the mature Hummus connoiseur knows not to argue about style, and instead focus on quality. It’s almost like arguing which supermodel looks better – they are all supermodels.

This blog post is place holder for my own humble efforts to demystify the process of preparing the ultimate home made Hummus, and if possible, In the style you prefer.

What I learned, so far

Not all chickpeas are the same

I learned that for years, I’ve used the wrong chickpea. Turns out there’s a specific type of chickpea all the best restaurants use. The pea is smaller, smoother, and its skin thinner.

Although I manage to get those peas at my local persian supermarket, Amazon sells those peas as well:

https://www.amazon.com/Cheese-Store-of-Beverly-Hills/dp/B00CMX51S4/

Soaking technique matters

You need to soak the chickpeas in water with sodium bicarbonate for 24 hours before cooking. This will soften the skin around the peas, and eliminate that “gritty” texture you feel on your tongue when processing non-soaked peas.

The water you use matters. The same principle that applies to rice, certainly applies to legumes; if you use water high in chlorine, your peas will have the aftertaste of chlorine. So if you can, try to use filtered water when soaking your legumes.

The secret of the Onion

Some will peel a medium sized onion and drop it whole into the pot to cook along with the peas. Supposedly the sweetness from the onion infuses into the peas, enhancing their flavor.

The “holy ratio”

Unbeknown to most, the name Hummus is actually misleading because you see, in terms of ratio, Hummus is really mostly Sesame paste with some amount of chickpea paste. For example in my last experiment, I used a ratio of 70% Sesame / 30% Chickpea.

Some of this confusion is due to an unfortunately common misconception about sesame paste. If you mix sesame paste with water, it will dilute and remain a liquid. However if you add the proper amount of lemon and mix vigorously, the oily paste you thought was liquid becomes a solid.

The sesame matters

Since we established a good Hummus is really more Sesame than Peas, the quality of the Sesame paste used is critical, more so than the type of pea. At the very least you need organic sesame paste without any additives & chemicals. It should be minimally processed and non-heated (processed cold).

And as there are many types of peas, there are also many types of sesame seeds and it may take some searching to find the manufacturer that “does it” for you. A good sesame paste will have a very faint aftertaste that reminds you of cooked eggs.

Cooking the peas

It’s much simpler and faster to cook peas when they are properly soaked. You can either cook the peas in a regular pot on a low flame (making sure they are always covered in water), or you can use a pressure cooker.

When using a pressure cooker, you will usually not need to cook the peas for more than 40 minutes from the moment high pressure is achieved. This is because a pressure cooker will typically reach a temperature of 120ºC (depending on your altitude relative to sea level), and because the high cooking pressure forces the hot liquids into the core of the peas, producing a uniform softness across the pea.

When using a regular pot, you may want to check every 10 minutes after the first 45 minutes (every pot and every stove are different). The pea should “melt” under the slightest pressure, but not completely disintegrate when touched or picked up with a spoon.

Shakshuka: minimal, easy, yummy.

Hi again! it’s me and my whims again. and this time, how to make a delicious Shakshuka (oriental fried tomato+egg dish) with what you probably have in your house. well, except for maybe tomato puree. go get it.

 

Now, when I cook, I usually prefer to work harder but make smaller portions. the dish is much better when cooked in small quantities because it’s easier to control and fine tune, every little thing counts: the cookware, the spices, the technique. let’s hope you enjoy this dish at least as much as I do:

 

To serve 2 you’re gonna need:
Firstly, you’re gonna need a tin pan, about 8″ in diameter. yes. tin. it sears it all real good. if you can’t get one just use any pan. don’t use a pot.

 

Ok, now the ingredients:
1 large clove of garlic. finely chopped
2 ripe (!!) chubby tomatoes, gutted and diced (as in, take out the inside and throw it away. that’s 1/2 of the secret to the taste…)
2 eggs
100% natural tomato puree (not paste, not sauce, not juice. puree).
Fresh black pepper
Salt
Sugar
Paprika
I also add Sriracha sauce or Jalapinio pepper, to spice things up. you don’t have to tho.
alternatively you can add goat cheese, feta cheese, or even sausages. I don’t.

 

Here’s how it happens:
pour a thick layer of olive oil (don’t be cheap!) to the pan, fire on max. this thing is going quick & painful (for the pan…)

 

let the oil warm up, then throw the garlic in. let it fry for 10 seconds, or at least until you sense that they would imminently start burning (don’t let it brown! it ruins the dish).
throw the thinly diced tomatoes and stir until they start to soften and add 3 tea spoons of paprika.
Add in the tomato puree, the trick here is to have the tomatoes “swim” in puree, but not disappear. the tomatoes need to be visible so their fresh taste won’t go away. trust your eye on this.

 

then let it simmer while occasionally stirring. add a thin layer of black pepper (freshly ground of course), salt to taste (don’t be shy), and then a brave 3/4 spoon of sugar. stir over and over again (not continuously but with a sense of commitment).

 

once the sauce is bubbling and the mix is thicker than it is runny, give it a swift spill of olive oil (make a line shape), and finally, the egg. DON’T MIX IT. leave it whole. then let it simmer for ~5 more minutes with the egg inside (or until you reckon the egg is done). if you like a well cooked yolk, cover the pan throughout this interval. make sure your final result is thick and aromatic, borderline burnt (but not really). I recommend eating it directly from the pan with white bread.

 

now you have a surprisingly minimalistic yet delicious oriental Shakshuka.

 

I’ll post a picture later on.