Hummus dip has numerous health benefits
One great thing about teaching international cuisine is that I get to scout out of the ethnic markets in our area. There are not many, that I can assure you.
The first time that I walked into an Asian market in my youth (Chinatown, D.C.) I was at a loss for words. The selection of unknown foods and indecipherable labels was staggering. Not much changed when I walked into an Asian market as a young adult. I wasn't fluent in the culture and foodstuffs of the Orient. Now in my middle age. I still don't speak Mandarin, something I've been meaning to undertake, so I have to rely on the miniscule English print on the added labels required to get products through customs.
When we leave what most people think of as Asia (the Orient) we head to India where we are countered with countless new herbs and spices. After this short jaunt we trek over to the Middle East (Southwest Asia) where we see some of my favorite foods.
The perfume of the spices rises above the kitchen as we move into the Middle East, and the food does not tend to be as complex as many Indian dishes. There is still a fair amount of preparation but overall this is a cuisine worth investigating.
Probably my favorite dish to come out of the Middle East is hummus, the ubiquitous chickpea dip made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (sesame paste). You can find everything you need to make this at most local stores. For the tahini, and it is critical for a good hummus, look in the natural foods aisle.
When I make hummus I make it for the week. To me it's just not worth breaking out the food processor for a small amount. Food processors get messy, or I'm lazy, or both.
The health benefits of this dip are many. Extra virgin olive oil is gaining more positive press at every waking moment, chickpeas are great sources of protein and fiber and everyone can do without scurvy, right? That's where the lemons come in.
One of the more popular garnish for hummus is roasted bell pepper. This is simple to do, especially if you have open flame on your stove. If you do, simply place the whole pepper on the flame until it is charred. Turn the pepper over until all sides are done. While it is still hot, simply place it in a size-appropriate bowl or container and cover tightly.
Let it steam for 10 minutes and then peel the skin. Then remove the seed and stem and you have the best roasted peppers money can buy.
Another garnish for our enchanted chickpea chow is an important ingredient throughout the Middle East and Africa; Sumac. No, it's not poison sumac, it's sumac ("soo-mock") and it is a dried and ground tart berry that add a lovely flavor to many dishes including dips, stews and the like.
If you decide that you want to work with sumac, see Mohamed over at the Mediterranean Market on Division Street in Salisbury. He has everything from Turkish Ukler chocolates to gyro meat and what you may need to prepare a traditional meal. Plus Mohamed's service is impeccable. He has always been more than willing to help me work my way through his store.
So with the dip ready to go I start to cut some raw vegetables for serving. This also goes great with pita chips and bagel chips; the choice is yours. As you cook your way through the Middle East, you need to make sure that Hummus plays a starring role in the menu.
Hummus for the Week
4 cans (about 8 cups) Garbanzo beans
1/4 c. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. Tahini, or more if preferred
1/4 - 1/2 c. EV olive oil, or as needed
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Roasted red pepper
Sumac (resource below)
Salt to taste
Cilantro, minced for garnish
Parsley, minced for garnish
Habanero Hot Sauce(recipe follows)
1. Drain the garbanzos and place in a food processor bowl
2. Add the garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice/zest
3. Process until you have a smooth paste
4. Adjust your seasoning and add salt as needed
5. Place the hummus in a bowl and top with sumac and olive oil. The oil can either be drizzled or pooled in the middle
6. Serve with pita crackers or my favorite; fresh vegetables
4 cloves garlic
1 c. Red onion, concasse
Bell peppers, same color as the habanero
1 dozen habanero, seeds and stems removed
1 c. Champagne vinegar
1. Heat the garlic in a small amount of vegetable oil until it starts to roast just a touch
2. Add the onion, habanero, bell pepper and vinegar
3. Simmer for about 10 minutes, covered
4. Carefully place into a good blender and very carefully puree your sauce
5. Adjust the seasoning accordingly, adding sugar if your palate demands it