Recently I found myself in a lively, 20-minute conversation with two friends about — of all things — hummus. If that sounds like a long time to talk about a Middle Eastern spread that is little more than mashed chickpeas mixed with tahini, lemon juice and an herb or two, consider the versatility of hummus. |
You can serve it on its own with slices of pita bread or raw veggies and have a refreshing snack. Thinned with a bit more lemon juice, hummus makes a quick dressing that enlivens a chopped salad. You can even substitute it for mayonnaise on almost any sandwich and both your heart and tastebuds will rejoice: loaded with protein, fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, hummus is among the healthiest of spreads, and it will perk up almost anything.
In fact, one of my favorite sandwiches is a combination of whole grain bread, pickled beets and shredded carrots. That alone doesn't seem like much in the way of a meal, but spread the bread with hummus, and suddenly you have a light, filling lunch that — especially in summer heat — can be transported anywhere without fear of something spoiling.
Once a food item few were familiar with outside of health food stores, hummus seems lately to have gone mainstream in a big way. I noted that I had recently seen it listed among the snack items at a movie theater. My friends had come across it in gas station convenience stores and in cases at coffee shops. And you don't have to look far among food blogs or magazines these days to find variations of hummus containing minced basil, roasted garlic or smokey chipotle peppers — to say nothing of other mashed bean dips getting labeled as hummus.
"I think it's a testament to the likability of hummus," I told my friends. "If you put out a dish of mashed peas and mint, who is going to eat it? But if you call it hummus, apparently people will line up to try it. It's like a magic word to persuade finicky eaters."
One of my friends confessed to having been a bit of a picky eater herself growing up, but hummus was one of the few foods she really liked. As a result, they always had hummus in the house — her mother made it for her. "Ooo, how lucky! A mother who made fresh hummus!" we cooed.
Our other friend started to glow. A mother herself, she now regularly makes hummus for her children. "Someday," she said, in dreamy tones, "Perhaps my children will have this very conversation, saying 'We were so lucky, our mother made us hummus!' "
And maybe that's the greatest virtue of this spread — it's so easy to make, any mother could do it. Or father, or brother. Or sister, aunt, uncle, family-friend or neighbor! Nothing but praise would follow. Ready to add yourself to that list? Here are a few recipes to get you started.
2-3 medium cloves of garlic, sliced
A large handful of parsley
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups cooked chick peas
6 tablespoons tahini
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Optional: cayenne and a little cumin, to taste
Place garlic, parsley and scallions in a food processor or blender and mince. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and salt. Puree to a thick paste. (You can also do the mincing and mashing by hand. The hummus will have a coarser texture, but that can be nice, too.) Season to taste, if desired, with cayenne and cumin. Adjust the salt to taste. Transfer to a tightly lidded container and chill.
Recipe source: "The New Moosewood Cookbook," by Mollie Katzen
Mediterranean Chopped Salad
1 ripe tomato, preferably on-the-vine
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 rib celery, sliced crosswise
1 large scallion, white and green parts, chopped
1/3 cucumber, preferably unwaxed, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup prepared hummus
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 oil-cured black olives (or more to taste)
On a cutting board, vertically slice off one side of the tomato. Turn it 90 degrees and cut off another side. Repeat, leaving a square core. Turn the core on its side and slice off the bottom. Discard the core. Chop the remaining tomato and scoop it into a bowl, including the juice and seeds. Add the bell pepper, celery, scallion, cucumber and onion.
For the dressing, add the hummus and lemon juice to the chopped vegetables and mix with a fork to combine. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the parsley, add the olives and serve.
Recipe source: "12 Best Foods Cookbook," by Dana Jacobi
Quick White Bean "Hummus"
1 can butter beans, cannellini, or other white beans, rinsed and drained well
1 1/2 tablespoons quality olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced rosemary, basil, tarragon or other herb(s)
Pinch of lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree to a thick paste. Serve chilled.
Minted Pea "Hummus"
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups shelled peas, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoon tahini
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (spearmint)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the peas and the water, cover and bring to a boil. Let this cook 5 minutes, then drain the peas and onions.
Put the peas and onions into the bowl of a food processor and add all the remaining ingredients. Pulse until you have a rough puree. Serve chilled.
Recipe source: Simply Recipes
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