If it is Wednesday it must be food day, and an *H* food at that. This week I am deviating from my pattern of trying new food, in that I am providing the tried and true of my life, hummus.
The first official event where I tasted hummus was a huge Lebanese feast for my graduation from high school. Ha, just kidding. The feast was provided by my then-boyfriend’s mom for his graduation, which was my event too. It just so happened I met his extended family for the first time at this meal. I met my BFF there, but that is another story.
I still remember vividly the food I had never seen or heard of before. My primary gaff was taking a big serving of what I thought was ambrosia (whipped cream with coconut and canned fruit cocktail) only to have it taste like a mouth full of pool chlorine and something slimy. It turns out this was plain yogurt with cucumber bits and dried mint, Luban and kheyot. I nearly puked it back onto my plate. It was embarrassing then but eventually became classically funny in the family’s retelling. Now luban and kheyot remains one of my favorite dishes and one I couldn’t get enough of when pregnant.
Despite my grandmother showing my sisters and I how she made bread, rice pudding,
cookies, and the like without mixes, my own mother considered herself anything but a slave to domesticity. She was a fifties housewife who took pride in keeping up with all the innovative, easy preparation meals of the day, like ambrosia. This was the era in my own mind of beige and white food served with varied Jello™ dishes.
Despite being married for only 10 years, these 30 years since I have preferred Middle Eastern menus to my childhood’s processed foods. My one criticism of my favorite standard Middle Eastern dishes (especially those my MIL served): yogurt, flat bread, hummus, baba ghannouj, fatayer, and the ubiquitous rice pilaf; all the food is white, beige or otherwise blah looking. My only recourse is to heap vegetable crudités, beds of swiss chard, piles of fruit, etc. to feed the eye.
Despite a monochromatic color palette, one of the finest things about the Lebanese meal, in my own mind, is the great diversity of dishes all served in smaller bowls with an ample supply of flat bread, which serves as an implement to scoop food, roll food, wipe lips, clean the plate, etc. One of the advantages of this approach to serving food, called mezza, is the array of bowls allow small leftover servings to appear okay, not too tiny, odd or out of place. Great for the no waste kind of challenge.
These days does anyone need to be told that hummus is a creamy puree of chickpeas and tahini (sesame seed paste) seasoned with lemon juice and garlic? It seems the ubiquitous dip is known by all. As I said, my initial introduction was when it was a popular spread and dip throughout the Middle East, yet virtually unknown in the mainstream US diet.
Hummus can be served as part of a mezza platter; with bread or vegetable crudités for dipping; as a spread or filling for pita, flat bread, lavash or Turkish pide bread; or as a tasty, creamy alternative to butter in sandwiches. A spoonful or two of hummus can also be added to Middle Eastern or Greek-style pilafs and stews to add richness.
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
14 oz (400g) canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
PLACE all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Serve with olive oil drizzled over top.
Variations: If you like a spicier hummus, add a small red chili (chopped or dried flakes) or a pinch of cayenne pepper, or try a little cumin for a more authentic variation.
Tip: Prepare extra quantities of hummus—it can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week and frozen for up to 3 months. I fixed it daily one summer when I needed to carry a lunch and had no access to refrigeration. My view was, if Bedouins prepared and carried hummus in the desert, I could carry it around without worrying about refrigeration.
I actually prefer to soak chickpeas and then cook them until soft. If the chickpeas are old or tough this can take some time. Therefore, I pulled the crock pot from the shed and let them cook for hours. I will be trying a solar oven as soon as I make one or buy one.
more Lebanese recipes . . .
Now, my idea of playing with my food – my sense of humor – would be to serve the crudités like these images that were passed around on email.
Flickr hummus image