Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hummus bi Tahini

As the economy worsens, I perceive that more people are cooking at home and working with less expensive ingredients. A dish I have made for many years, hummus, is inexpensive, tasty, and healthy. It is also something that we make a lot of at Donderos' Kitchen, both for retail and for catering.

The recipe below is the way I have taught the dish at Evening at Emory international cooking classes for a number of years. It was influenced by the way a friend, who is a skilled Turkish chef, made it. This is similar, but not identical, to the hummus we make at our business in Athens. (Eventually I'll put our trade secret recipes out in a Donderos' Kitchen cookbook, but we're not there yet.)

'Hummus bi tahini', literally in Arabic 'chick peas with sesame seed paste', is a favorite appetizer and snack throughout the Middle East. It has become popular in the US over the last 20 years, especially among vegetarians, and now shows up here too on snack and appetizer tables. For real Middle Eastern hummus (and there are numerous styles there), a variety of garnishes are used, from drizzled olive oil and chopped parsley, to the spice 'sumac', to pomegranate seeds, to spiced meat, in order to vary the presentation.

Hummus is typically accompanied by warmed flat bread, such as pita. But thinly sliced baguette or strips of raw vegetables, while non-traditional, also serve well. In addition, hummus can be used spread thickly in sandwiches along with grilled, lightly salted vegetables. The recipe serves six. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen.

Hummus bi Tahini Kazim/Tim

1 (15-16 ounce) can chickpeas, or 2 cups unseasoned home-cooked chickpeas
1 medium sized clove of garlic
3 rounded tablespoons tahini (from Middle Eastern or health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon oregano, crumbled between the fingers
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice plus more to taste (frozen or bottled is OK)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Olive oil plus oregano, chopped parsley, paprika, or sumac, for garnish

Drain the chickpeas if canned, rinse twice with fresh water and drain. For freshly cooked chickpeas, do not rinse, but just drain with slotted spoon, saving liquid for use as needed. In a food processor, chop the garlic first, then add the chickpeas, tahini, seasonings, lemon juice and olive oil. Process, pulsing frequently and scraping down the sides of the container with a spatula, until the hummus has a creamy, slightly pasty consistency. If too thick, add a little cooking liquid (if freshly cooked chickpeas) or water. Check taste and add lemon juice and/or salt if needed. (If making a larger quantity than one recipe, the preparation can be done in several batches and the batches mixed together in a bowl.) Store cold in zip-lock plastic bags or a plastic-wrapped bowl. Hummus will keep 4-5 days in the refrigerator*. Before serving, taste and add salt and/or lemon juice if needed.

Serve spread out on a platter with the edge of the hummus raised like a low birds nest and the center hollowed out slightly. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with paprika, minced parsley, or other toppings of interest. Accompany with flat bread, such as pita, preferably warmed.

*Note: Hummus freezes well. Thaw overnight in refrigerator (or in the microwave, being careful not to overheat the edges). Eat within a day or two of thawing.


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