Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hummus, labneh, and Big Macs

I have about a million recipes lined up to post about.  But I have been going back and forth about posting these specific recipes for a couple reasons.  First of all, cooking (or eating) Mid-eastern/Mediterranean food seems to be one of those trendy things people do to make themselves seem all hip and multi-culti.  Second, I have never liked my hummus that much.  But I recently got a food processor (it was cheap on eBay . . . it was yellow . . . it seemed like fate) and now my hummus is SO GOOD.  Not to boast or anything.  If I didn't love it so much, I could have refrained from sharing it.  But it seems cruel that some of you could be making this, and aren't.  And then I thought maybe I would sound less pretentious if I included Big Macs in the title.  Sam's Israeli friend says that hummus is so ubiquitous in Israel that no one on the cutting-edge would dream of serving it.  It's slightly lowbrow---you know; the food of the masses---like Big Macs or something here in the States.

Now, my non-hipster credentials established, on to the recipes.  Hummus is always one of my favorite things to eat, but I like it best when it's smooth and creamy.  But not bland.  The storebought hummus just doesn't excite me.  Sam and I ate at a place called Habibi (good name!) in Portland one time where the hummus was SO good.  I've been trying to re-create it ever since.  And labneh, a Lebanese yogurt dip, is about the simplest thing ever, but it goes perfectly with the hummus.  It adds a nice bright flavor in contrast.  A perfect summer dinner, in my opinion, consists of warm homemade naan, hummus and labneh for dipping, and, on the side, a spring mix dressed with something light and lemony. 

There are few things I've heard as "the secret" to good hummus.  One is to take the skins off the chickpeas (garbanzo beans) before you blend them.  I've tried this and it works pretty well, but it's kind of a pain and (now that I have a food processor) I can get it just as smooth with the skins on.  But if you are using a blender, as I used to, maybe taking the skins off would be worth it.  To do so, you just put your chickpeas in a colander under water.  Rub them between your fingers until the skins start floating to the surface, then skim the skins off with a spoon.  Keep rubbing and skimming until no more skins float up.

The second secret I learned from my sister-in-law: to mix the tahini and the lemon juice together first.  Once they are white and foamy, then add the chickpeas and other ingredients.

If you don't have tahini (it's by the peanut butter in the Harmon's by me; or you can find it at ethnic or Whole Foods-type stores, of course) you can make a Turkish hummus with yogurt instead of tahini.  It has a milder, more prominently lemony flavor, and is less nutty than the tahini kind, but is still quite delicious.

Also, measurements in this are very flexible.  Add more lemon and olive oil to your liking.  I left out the garlic (yes, altogether) because I like the flavors very pure and simple.  But most people do put garlic in hummus.  Try it without at least once so you can see if you like it!  I think a little more salt and a nice strong extra-virgin olive oil deepen the flavors nicely in its place.  Also, fresh mint not only makes a nice garnish, but tastes great with the hummus.  Scoop it right up with your bread.

Hummus
Please do not consider yourself cool just because you eat this

1/2 c. tahini
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 cans chickpeas, drained---reserve juice
1/4 c. olive oil, or so
salt, to taste
[add some garlic if you wish]
paprika or cumin, for garnish
fresh mint, for garnish

Pulse the tahini and lemon juice together in a blender or food processor until frothy.  Then add the chickpeas, olive oil, and salt, and process till smooth.  Add in reserved liquid from chickpeas, or more olive oil and lemon juice, until desired consistency is reached.  Spread in a shallow container and pour extra olive oil into the spoon grooves.  Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with mint.  Serve with fresh naan or pita chips.

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Labneh

1 c. plain Greek yogurt, or 2 c. regular yogurt put in a cheesecloth and drained overnight
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. salt

Mix together, taste to adjust seasoning, and serve as dip for naan or pita chips.


3 comments:

  1. Aha! That's why I liked your hummus so much: no garlic! You're a genius.

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  2. You forgot the sandwich. THE SANDWICH!!!

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  3. Sam. When you speak to your brilliant wife, NEVER use that tone of voice. Mar - I will invite you to dinner some time and you can BRING some of this stuff. Why would I cook if I don't know what I'm getting? And the only huummuuuss I have ever had, I didn't like. It was dark and pasty and tasted gray and yucky. Perhaps I am just a Big Mac person in the end.

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