So what is this thing called hummus, and what in the heck is tahini? Those were just 2 of the questions I asked Mr. C the first time he took me to his favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. (Having just recovered from raising and educating about a dozen (or so it seemed) children, I hadn’t had a lot of time or disposable income to go out to any but the most inexpensive of restaurants.) In fact, the only ethnic restaurants I patronized, and then on an infrequent basis, were Mexican, Chinese, or Italian (pizza).
So here I am in a restaurant with this guy I hardly know and he orders some of the best food I ever tasted. Well, I’ll tell you what – his choice of restaurants was one of the contributing factors to my falling head over heels in love. That and the fact that he was pretty darn cute, played the piano, and in casual conversation had mentioned those three little words every girl longs to hear – medical and dental! (He must have been paying attention to one of the comments made by Kaetche, one of the Fabulous Fenderskirts during one of their concerts. She often alluded to the fact that “I love you” was almost passé. What woman really wanted to hear was “medical and dental”.)
Anyway, it was Mr. C who really taught me to appreciate the many delights offered by some of the ethnic restaurants in the Seattle area. And as I discovered fantastic new foods, I would buy cook books (those were the days before internet) and try to duplicate the dishes in my own kitchen. And of course I would try them out on Mr. C. That was almost 24 years ago, and the poor guy is still my number one
human guinea pig victim food tester.
But of all the foods I tried early on in our relationship, it was hummus that first captured my taste buds. And since then I must have prepared hummus at least 75 times. It is just a wonderful appetizer, goes beautifully with all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, and is easy and economical to prepare. And all the main ingredients are super foods in their own right.
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are full of protein and fiber. (Black beans are good for us too!) Tahini (sesame seed paste) is loaded with copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin B1, and fiber. Garlic is an excellent source of manganese which helps contain essential enzymes and antioxidants that assist with the healthy formation of bones and connective tissues, bone metabolism, calcium absorption, and proper thyroid function. Garlic contains 17% of the daily value of vitamin B6, and 15% of vitamin C, along with goodly amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. And last but not least, extra virgin olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid which is considered a healthy dietary fat.
So next time you want to do your mouth a favor as well as your entire body, whirl up a batch of any one of the three hummus recipes given below. They are all delicious and ever so easy to prepare.
Before I go any further, I would like to share a trick I recently learned about fresh garlic. If you are using fresh garlic in a recipe, but would like to reduce a bit of the “bite”, warm the peeled garlic cloves in a small bowl covered by milk. You only want to warm the cloves in your microwave, not cook them. Then remove the cloves from the milk and slice or mince according to your recipe. You will find that the flavor is still there, but the bite has mysteriously disappeared.
- 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and liquid reserved
- juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste and for drizzling
- 3-4 T. tahini (either purchased or homemade) – see recipe below
- 2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- dash Sriracha or to taste
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. paprika, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley, garnish, opt.
- kalamata olives, opt.
In an electric blender or food processor, process the garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, garlic, Sriracha, salt, and paprika until smooth and creamy. Add reserved liquid from garbanzo beans if consistency is not as creamy as desired. Add more lemon if not tangy enough or more olive oil if it seems like the hummus needs more depth of flavor. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The hummus can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.) Serve on a flat plate garnished with parsley, a light sprinkling of paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few kalamata olives. Warm pita bread is great with hummus as are Pita Chips (see recipe below).
ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS
- 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 roasted red pepper, or more to taste
- 3- 4 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1½ T. tahini (either purchased or homemade) – see recipe below
- 1 small clove garlic, rough chopped
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- dash Sriracha
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
In an electric blender or food processor, puree the garbanzo beans, red pepper, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, Sriracha, and salt. Process the mixture until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The hummus can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.) Sprinkle with paprika before serving.
SPICY BLACK BEAN HUMMUS
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1 T. tahini
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped
- 1/8 tsp. Sriracha hot chili sauce (available in almost every grocery store)
- extra virgin olive oil
Place garlic in food processor; process until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, black beans, jalapeno, and Sriracha. Process until very smooth. Place mixture in small bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with Pita Chips (see recipe below) or I like Stacy’s Simply Naked that can be found at Costco.
Note: I found this basic recipe in Cooking Light. I made a couple of slight modifications, because that’s what I do, but the “bones of the recipe” remain untouched.
- 1 c. toasted* sesame seeds (plain old fashioned white hulled sesame seeds)
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil, or more if needed
- half a pinch of kosher salt, opt.
Place the cooled sesame seeds in a food processor. Whirl for about 3 minutes or until the seeds make a crumbly paste. Add the oil and salt; process until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add more oil if a thinner tahini is desired. Store the tahini for up to a month in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Use in any of your favorite recipes.
*place the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Toast the seeds until they are lightly colored (not brown) and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Cool completely before using.
- 6 pita breads
- 1½ tsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- pinch cayenne
- 1½ tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each of the pitas into 8 triangles. Combine the granulated garlic, salt, cayenne, cumin, dried oregano, and olive oil in a medium sized bowl. Add the pita pieces and toss well; spread out on a sheet pan. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan once during cooking. Cool and serve.
Note: If baking ahead, store in an airtight container. If they get soft, warm then just before serving in a 350 oven for a couple of minutes.