Food culture has come a long way in a short time, at least in my experience. One of my favorite snack time foods? Hands down its that creamy, beany, flavorful goodness that is hummus. I recall, somewhere between my sophomore and and junior year of college, I returned home to Long Island with my friend Jackie for one of the assorted religious breaks, and we visited a Mediterranean restaurant that she and her mother frequented regularly. I remember looking at the menu, picky palate in tow, peering discriminatively as I thoroughly perused the menu, full of words and flavors I had not yet encountered. I began contemplating the child’s platter, and likely would have ordered it, had I not heard my Mother’s voice ringing in my ear to try something new and “be polite.” Eventually, I picked out a dish that sounded safe, and that had a meat I was comfortable with and none of the exotic spices that made me trepidatious about eating. Of course that dish basically consisted of plain-old, boring chicken.

I remember Jackie and her adventurous Mom ordering a curious dish called hummus. What, I asked, in the good gosh darn is that? Having heard the description only half way completed, I was utterly convinced that, no thank you, but this would not be a dish that I was trying.

Flash forward to today and I wince at that memory. I don’t know what was worse, my lacking sense of adventure, or my unwillingness to even THINK about trying something new. Well, it is amazing how the palate grows, because I am far more adventurous in my tastes today, and adore Mediterranean cuisine, particularly hummus and its close cousin baba ganoush…equally as delicious. Here I have provided a classic, traditional recipe for hummus, adapted from a recipe in the cookbook Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan. So set forth and create, eat and enjoy…after all, as Mom will tell you, trying is just the polite thing to do.

Recipe: Hummus with Preserved Lemons

Summary: A smooth and delicious blend of chickpeas, spicy exotic seasonings, fresh squeezed lemon and earthy herbs.

Contributed by: Joan Nathan, author of the cookbook Foods of Israel Today.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup tahina
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Dash of paprika or sumac
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put the raw chickpeas in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a heavy pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, skim off the scum that accumulates, then simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the chickpeas are soft and the skin begins to separate, adding more water if needed.
  3. Drain the chickpeas, reserving about 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside ¼ cup of the cooked chickpeas for garnish. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the remaining chickpeas with the tahina, preserved lemon, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and at least ½ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. If the hummus is too thick, add more reserved cooking liquid or water until you have a paste-like consistency.
  4. Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread the pine nuts in the pan and stir-fry, browning on all sides.
  5. To serve, transfer the hummus to a large, flat plate, and with the back of a spoon make a slight depression in the center. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and sprinkle the reserved chickpeas, pine nuts, paprika or sumac, and parsley or cilantro over the surface.

Preserved Lemons

Summary: Accompanies the hummus recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 8 lemons, about 1 ½ pounds
  • 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt (about)
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cut off the ends of each lemon. Cut each one lengthwise into quarters, cutting to but not through the opposite end. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt into the cut sides of each lemon.
  2. Put the lemons in a large jar (it’s fine if you have to squeeze them in; they will shrink), and cover completely with lemon juice, using a heavy stone to keep them down. Let sit for a day.
  3. The next day, weigh the lemons down with a stone or, if not covered with lemon juice, seal them with a thin film of olive oil over the lemons. Put the jar in the refrigerator and allow to cure for 2 to 3 weeks. Before using, scrape off the pulp if desired.

Quick Notes

Serve with cut-up raw vegetables and warm pita cut into wedges. Sometimes leftover hummus tends to thicken; just add some water to make it the right consistency.

Variations

You can also add cayenne pepper to the hummus for some extra kick.

Cooking time (duration):30 minutes

Diet type: Vegetarian, Vegan

Diet (other): Low calorie, Reduced fat, High protein

Number of servings (yield): 6-8

Meal type: hors d’oerves, snack

Culinary tradition: Middle Eastern

 

 

 

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