Friday, August 17, 2012

How Do You Like Your Hummus?

The very idea of eating a delectable beige bean spread on a warm soft flatbread conjures pictures of mounds of spices, shapely pierced metal lanterns, colorfully woven rugs, and bright material hanging as room dividers.

Five simple ingredients blend into a creamy delicious dip. Many people buy it already made in a container. Although convenient, I have found that store bought hummus tends to add more ingredients than necessary. Plus, those tubs can be expensive for such a simple nutritious meal or snack.

Can you make this exotic dish at home? Yes. Is it easy? Very. Are the ingredients hard to find? Shouldn’t be. I live in a small town and am able to find everything I need in my local grocery stores.

Chickpeas (also known as Garbanzos or Ce-ci) can be easily found in the canned bean aisle of your grocery store. They may also be in the latin or ethnic section. Their dried counterpart is harder to find. I buy dried chickpeas in my local Metropolitania’s Indian store.

Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. My local Walmart doesn’t carry it, but I did find it in the ethnic section of a real grocery store. It is reminiscent of natural peanut butter where the oil will separate and will need to be stirred before using. Tahini also has a long shelf life, so don’t panic if all you can find is a 16 ounce jar.

If for some reason you can’t get tahini, then you can always use a couple tablespoons of regular peanut butter.

The other ingredients might be already in your pantry. All you need is garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and water.

You will get roughly 2 to 3 cups of hummus from these proportions: 2 cans (15 oz or so) chickpeas, ½ cup tahini, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of ¼ of a lemon, and a ¼ cup of oil.

This is something that needs a food processor or blender. I’m sure that it was originally made in a mortar and pestle.

First, drain and rinse the chickpeas. That eliminates all the extra salt and can flavor. Dump into your processor bowl. Add the tahini. I pour from the jar and say, “That looks to be enough.” Usually, I use about a ¼ of a 16 ounce jar. You may use less or more to your taste. Throw in your garlic. If you don’t have fresh, you can use granulated or powder. Garlic can also be added to your taste. Squeeze a little lemon over top. Then, drizzle in the olive oil. I would start with less. More can be added later. Pour in a little water (a couple of tablespoons). Pulse a few times, then check the consistency.

You are looking for a smooth paste that isn’t runny. Taste for salt. Add if necessary. If your hummus is too thick, add more water. This is not an exact science. Taste as you go and add more lemon or oil or garlic as your tastebuds dictate.

When it is done to your satisfaction, transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle a touch of olive oil on top. Spoon onto a plate and serve with warm pita bread.

An easy way to warm your pita is to place the rounds directly on an oven rack, then turn it on to 200F. When it comes up to temperature, they are ready. Stack them and wrap in a towel or cloth napkin to keep warm.

Hummus and pita bread with a vegetable side like sautéed broccoli can be a great meal.

Want to spice up the basic hummus? Blend in roasted peppers or roasted garlic. Add spices like cumin or paprika. Play with flavors. See what you like.

Exotic foods made at home can transport you to a faraway land all in the comfort of your own kitchen.

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