Hummus served with sliced carrots, celery, and, of course, pita bread, for dipping is a healthy “fast-food” treat and perfect for a New Year’s Day party. The simple goodness of hummus is a reminder that a “quick and easy snack” need not be a product of a fast-food system, with its highly processed, food-like substances, albeit edible. A slice of whole grain bread with a nut butter, an apple, or some carrots dipped in hummus are satisfying fast foods, nutritious and delicious.
The Honest Weight Food Co-op [www.hwfc.com] in my hometown of Albany, NY, carries several brands of hummus. I especially like the hummus prepared by Vegan Creations of Castleton (Columbia County), NY. But at $5.09 for an 8-ounce container of roasted red pepper hummus or $4.49 for an 8-ounce container of sun-dried tomato hummus, I thought the time had come to figure out how to prepare homemade hummus, especially since organic chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are $1.49 per pound.
The priciest ingredient for making homemade hummus is the tahini. My food co-op offers Arrowhead Mills tahini, made from organic dry roasted hulled sesame seeds, at $8.19 per pound, while tahini made from roasted hulled sesame seeds, which are not organic, are priced at $4.19 per pound. Sesame, an annual flowering plant requiring 100 days to mature and a hot climate, is grown for its little seeds. It is “quite possibly the oldest spice known” according to a fascinating description in Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants (National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 2008). Noting that it was first cultivated for its oil and that Egyptian tomb drawing dating back 4,000 years show bakers adding sesame seeds to bread, the entry in Edible on sesame credits the ancient Greeks and Romans for first making a paste of sesame seeds. How wonderful in 21st century America to fill a jar with tahini and think about this ancient food which I will be using to make a hummus dip. Even at $8.19 per pound, I will be using only 4 ounces of the tahini, or sesame paste, at the reasonable cost of just over $2.00 for an organic ingredient.
A potato masher is an easy way to crush the cooked chickpeas. But if time is no big issue, I like to use a mortar and pestle. Still considered the best way of releasing the true aromatic flavors of fresh herbs and spices, this centuries old method of food preparation can be used to crush the cooked chickpeas. I recently purchased a beautiful grey marble mortar and pestle at my local kitchen supply store, Different Drummer’s Kitchen Co. [www.differentdrummerskitchen.com/], at a reasonable price of $13.99 for a mortar (“a vessel having a bowl-shaped cavity in which substances are powdered with a pestle” [Dictionary of the English Language, College Edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1968]) with a 4-3/4″ diameter x 4-1/2″ tall and its matching grey marble pestle. If you don’t own a mortar and pestle, it will be a purchase well-used. (One of the best-received Christmas gifts this past holiday was a marble mortar and pestle I gave to my son’s fiancée.)
1 cup chickpeas (garbanzos)
½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
small garlic bulb or a couple of cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
3-4 tablespoons drained liquid from cooking the chickpeas
Rinse in cold water one cup of chickpeas. Place in a large bowl and cover with water and soak overnight. [Chickpeas must undergo prolonged soaking before cooking.] Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Place chickpeas in a large pot and submerge and cover with cold water. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 90 minutes until soft. Drain the cooked chickpeas while saving the liquid in which the chickpeas were cooked.
Using a potato masher or the mortar and pestle, mash the chickpeas and place mashed chickpeas in a large bowl. After all the chickpeas have been mashed, add ½ cup tahini, the juice of one lemon, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Mince the small bulb of garlic or two large cloves of garlic and add to the mixture along with a tablespoon of sweet paprika. (The paprika will also give the hummus a nice orange/red color.) Add 3-4 tablespoons of the drained liquid from cooking the chickpeas to create the desired creaminess while stirring the mixture thoroughly. This recipe produces enough hummus dip to serve 8-10 guests. Enjoy (FWB 12/28/10).