Hummus is one of my all-time favorite condiments, perhaps also considered an actual food. I look forward to my weekend toasted bagel with a schmear of hummus. (What! No cream cheese?) A bowl of hummus, a basket of fresh pita bread triangles or toasted chips, a glass of Cabernet – that’s all it takes to make me happy after a long day of work. Oh, let’s add another bowl of assorted, salty olives (pits in, please).
Whenever I go to my local specialty market, I check out the hummus in the refrigerator section to see if there are any new flavors besides the basic and the organic. I mostly enjoy the plain, the chopped olive and the roasted red pepper varieties.
Most likely you are already familiar with hummus. But, for my readers who are not, the main ingredients are chick peas (garbanzo beans), tahini (ground sesame sauce) and seasonings. If using unseasoned tahini paste (simply ground sesame seeds, instead of sauce), you will want to increase your seasonings. Tahini sauce is usually seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, citric acid, salt and water. What you’ve got is a healthy, nutritious, and satisfying vegetarian dish. You can enjoy it as an appetizer, a bread spread (instead of butter or margarine), even as a sandwich filling. Just load on more veggies.
There is also a Biblical tale to the savoring of hummus, or of simply plain chick peas, a favorite of Queen Esther. Living in Persia with her husband, King Ahasuerus, she adhered to a strict vegetarian diet in order for her meals to be Kosher. Through the bravery of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, and the assistance of her loving husband, they were able to foil the attempt of the evil Prime Minister Hamman (Haman) to exterminate the Jews of Shushan (formerly Persia, and now, Iran).
Since this month welcomes Purim and thus honors Queen Esther, I decided to dedicate this column to hummus. For my readers who must make homemade Hammantaschen, those lovely triangular shortbread-like pastry cookies, filled not with hummus, but instead with moyn (a poppy seed mixture, another Queen Esther favored ingredient), or a fruit or jam-like mixture, such as apricot, strawberries or cherries, refer to my past OCJL columns, March 2006 and March 2008.
Hummus is a very simple dish to make. It requires only a few ingredients and the use of a food processor or blender to puree.
MY BASIC HUMMUS
This hummus is simple to make in a food processor. Enjoy it as a dip with pita bread and/or crudites or as a sauce. It will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
One heaping cup canned chick peas (garbanzo beans), reserve the liquid from the can*
One half cup tahini sauce (sesame seed sauce), available in the refrigerated section of most specialty markets
Two large cloves garlic, chopped
One half cup *reserved liquid combination from canned chick peas, plus water
One fourth cup olive oil
One tablespoon fresh lemon juice
One teaspoon Kosher salt
One teaspoon ground cumin
One eighth teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For garnish: Additional olive oil and ground paprika
Accompaniments: Pita bread triangles and/or chips and/or crudites of your choice
Place the chick peas, tahini sauce, garlic, chick pea/water combo, olive oil and lemon juice in the body of a food processor, and puree for a few seconds/minutes until smooth. Add seasonings to taste. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time. Place in a serving bowl and pour a small “pool” of olive oil in the center, then sprinkle paprika over the top. Serve with pita bread triangles and/or chips and/or crudites.
Note: You can add several ingredients to change the flavor of your hummus. For example, try one half cup jarred (and drained) roasted red peppers, or pitted black and green olives. Add when you are processing.
Yield: Approximately two cups.
TOFU AND HUMMUS HYE-ROLLERS
These marvelous roll-up vegetarian sandwiches, with a layer of my thicker version of hummus, can be served in pinwheel slices as an appetizer or cut into halves, thirds or fourths as a main dish sandwich. I like to accompany them with a dipping sauce, such as the preceding thinner basic hummus, soy sauce, Ponzu Sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite bottled Middle Eastern or Asian salad dressing.
Two cloves garlic
Two and on half cups canned chick peas, drained (reserve liquid)
Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Two tablespoons tahini sauce
Above recipe for hummus spread*
Six ounces firm tofu
One half pound hot-house cucumber (approximately one half to one third, skin on)
One cup shredded carrots
Twenty-four pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half vertically
One tablespoon sesame seeds
Two sheets lavash bread, nine by eleven inches, or two large flour tortillas
To accompany: My Basic Hummus sauce, your favorite Middle Eastern or Asian salad dressing (bottled), Ponzu Sauce (recipe follows) or simply soy sauce.
In the body of a food processor, place the garlic, chick peas, lemon juice and tahini sauce, and blend until smooth, less than one minute. If mixture is too thick to use as a spread, add a little reserved liquid from the canned garbanzo beans. Set aside. This can be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature for easy spreading.
Prepare all the ingredients for the filling: Thinly slice tofu into approximately ten strips, one inch wide, three inches long, one eighth inch thick, and place in between layers of paper towels to dry. Lightly brown on both sides in a small skillet with a little hot sesame oil. Remove and set aside. Thinly slice cucumber into twenty-four strips, place on paper towels to drain.
To assemble sandwiches: Place each lavash bread on a sheet of waxed paper. Evenly spread hummus over to make a thick layer. You may have a little hummus spread left over; reserve. Horizontally lay out the remaining filling ingredients in rows: Cucumber, tofu, carrots, then olives. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. Carefully and tightly roll up each lavash, starting with the heaviest part of the cucumber, as if assembling a pinwheel. Wrap tightly in the waxed paper, then in foil, and refrigerate until serving time.
The hye-rollers can be made a day in advance, wrapped, and refrigerated.
At serving time, slice into thin pinwheels for appetizers, or thicker for sandwiches. Serve with a sauce if desired.
Yield: Two roll-up hye-rollers, approximately sixteen regular slices, or less if made thicker. This recipe will serve four to eight people depending upon the course.
This simple Japanese sauce is excellent as a dipping sauce for the Tofu and Hummus Hye-Rollers. All you basically need is soy sauce and fresh lemon juice. If you wish it spicier, add some wasabi paste (powdered wasabi horseradish diluted with a little water) and a little minced greens or scallions.
Two thirds cup soy sauce
Juice of four lemons (or two thirds cup fresh lemon juice)
Combine soy sauce and lemon juice.
Yield: Approximately one and a third cups sauce.