Anne Freeze: Hummus — versatile, healthy

March 25, 2009

Anne Freeze -

 

First, a correction and some amplification on my last column: Thank you to Scott McKenzie, of the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute, and local restaurateur Sarah Labensky for noticing my mistake on the author of "Larousse Gastronomique." It was Prosper Montagne who penned the first edition of this work. Auguste Escoffier wrote the preface. I''d also like to add Sarah''s book, "Webster''s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts," to my list of reference books. My copy has just arrived, and I''m looking forward to opening up to any page and learning a new term or technique. 

 

 

 

Eating smarter  

 

I was in Athens, Ga., a week ago visiting old friends. Lili and Harvey have always been very health conscious and fit, but are more so since Lili was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago. She told me they were trying to get away from eating cheese as a late-afternoon snack and wanted to go to more lean alternatives. So, we decided to make hummus while I was there. 

 

Hummus is a versatile and easy dip to make. It is Middle Eastern in derivation, but has become more mainstream in the last few years. It is available ready-made in grocery and specialty stores, but I encourage you to try your hand at making it. The difference is huge in the taste of freshly-made hummus versus packaged, although the packaged is still good enough. Either way, hummus is delicious as a dip for warm pita bread, or for cut-up veggies, or even as a spread for a vegetable sandwich. 

 

 

 

Build from basics 

 

The basis for all hummus is chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. Most recipes also use tahini, which is a paste similar to a nut butter made from sesame seeds. It is available locally at our health food store and other local markets. But hummus can actually be made with or without tahini. In the "Dictionary of Culinary Arts" listed above there is a definition for hummus followed by "hummus bi tahina." The fun part is the addition of other ingredients like roasted red peppers or fresh spinach or olives. My favorite version is simply with fresh lemon and garnished with a sprinkle of olive oil, fresh chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts. 

 

To make this you will need a blender or food processor. Lili had a blender with an unusually wide base, and it worked perfectly. I made some yesterday and my more standard-size blender didn''t fare as well; the mixture kept getting stuck at the bottom of the container. So, next time I''ll use my food processor.  

 

You will find two recipes for hummus with today''s column. There are thousands. I would take the basic one and make it first. See how you like the flavor. Do you like tahini? If not, then leave it out next time. Is it too thick? Then add some water or olive oil. Want a kick? Add cayenne to it. That is the joy of this. 

 

A dollop of plain yogurt will make the hummus, with or without tahini, more creamy. Other suggested additions to the basic recipe include roasted red peppers, fresh spinach or feta cheese, kalamata olives, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. You can also substitute black beans for chickpeas.  

 

I hope you enjoy these. Happy spring. 

 

 

 

Hummus  

 

 

 

2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained 

 

2/3 cup tahini 

 

3/4 cup lemon juice 

 

Two cloves garlic 

 

1 teaspoon salt 

 

Parsley 

 

 

 

Source: "The New York Times Jewish Cookbook"  

 

 

 

Hummus with yogurt 

 

 

 

1/4 cup yogurt 

 

One can chickpeas 

 

1/2 cup tahini 

 

1/2 cup lemon juice 

 

Two to three cloves garlic 

 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

 

2-3 tablespoons of water, if needed 

 

Three to four mint leaves 

 

Chopped parsley for garnish 

 

Olive oil for garnish 

 

Paprika or cayenne pepper for garnish 

 

 

 

Anne Freeze, a self-professed foodie, was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She is a volunteer for The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market in Columbus. She can be reached at freezeinator@gmail.com.