Monday, January 21, 2013

Hummus - a deliciously healthy Mediterranean dip

Travelling and staying away from the comfort zones of food one grew up with is a nice growing up experience. It expands your horizons and makes you try things you wouldn't normally have tried otherwise. As I look at my repertoire for food (both what I eat outside and what I make at home) I feel blessed to have had these experiences in life. When I first ventured out of home, I hardly ate anything and preferred biting into some non descript stale food over going into a restaurant I hadn't heard of. I am thankful to BH for slowly coaxing me into taking a small bite at a time and now I am confident of experimenting with unknown cuisines. Also I think my inhibition was mainly from being a staunch vegetarian, I was very wary that I wouldn't find veggie choices in most places. In all fairness, it was true to a large degree especially a decade or so back when we first moved out of India. I have had to explain what a vegetarian plate would not have (no meat, no chicken, no fish, no seafood) over what it should have. Things have changed and I notice that people are more aware of vegetarianism and it is becoming an accepted way of eating food after all.

I have also learnt over the years that vegetarian options are available in every cuisine of the world if you are only open to trying something that may not taste like the regular curry you are used to at home. I love Mediterranean food for the plethora of choices it offers, most of it is very healthy (try not to think baklava with layers of philo dough and oodles of butter :-)) and this cuisine has remained one of my favorite eat out options when we travel.

I made some Mediterranean meal at home over the weekend and as usual will share my joy of achieving this restaurant quality, home made dishes with you here.

Hummus is a very popular Mediterranean spread or dip (depending on how you use it) found in almost everyday meals in the region. Depending on the part of region, this versatile dish will have its variations in the ingredients used though the basic ingredient remains constant - cooked, mashed chickpeas. This very healthy, fiber and iron rich dish allows you to customize its taste depending on your pantry supplies and your taste buds. One of the other common names you will see in all Hummus recipes is 'Tahini' or sesame paste which is nothing but toasted sesame seeds ground to paste with olive oil.

If you are trying Hummus for the first time and not inclined to make large amounts of Tahini or are just making a small batch, go ahead and powder the roasted sesame seeds and add it into Hummus while grinding.
What do you need to make Hummus? 
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans/kabuli chana/white chick peas
1 Tblsp Tahini paste (see below for recipe)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic (see notes)
1 inch piece jalepeno/anaheim pepper - deseeded
2.5 Tblsp olive oil - divided use
1 Tblsp chopped parsley
1/8 Tsp baking soda (only if using dry chickpeas)
Tahini paste
  • Dry roast 2 Tblsp of white sesame seeds in a hot pan for 2-3 minutes until the sesame seeds start to glisten with the oil. Take out and let cool. 
  • Grind it into a paste with a Tblsp of olive oil. 
  • If you are making Tahini paste in big batches, you can also microwave the sesame seeds, spread in a single layer in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2-4 minutes with breaks after every 1 minute or so. 
How do you make Hummus? 
  • If you are going to soak the dry chick peas, follow the next 2 steps. If you are going to use the canned, boiled chick peas, skip the next 2 steps. 
  • Soak the chick peas (1 cup of dry chick peas will yield about 1.5 cups of soaked and cooked peas) overnight in plenty of water.
  • Drain the water, wash the soaked peas and pressure cook them until soft (3 whistles in my pressure cooker) with 1/8 Tsp baking soda.
  • If using canned chickpeas, pour out the preserving liquid and wash the peas thoroughly under running water. 
  • Take all the ingredients listed except for olive oil, lemon juice and parsley to a food processor or blender and pulse them until they turn crumbly. 
  • Add the lemon juice and about a Tblsp olive oil and blend it to get a nice soft and thick puree. 
  • At this stage the hummus can be refrigerated in an air tight box for about a week. 
  • To serve, scoop out spoonfuls of hummus into a bowl or plate and pour the remaining olive oil on top and garnish with chopped parsley. 
Notes: 
  • I find parsley to be much milder than cilantro (talk about my Indian seasoned tongue), so I sometimes cheat and garnish with chopped cilantro instead :-)
  • What I have above is a pretty basic version of Hummus and you can jazz it up by adding other herbs such as thyme, chive, mint, oregano or basil and also add other ingredients such as sun dried pepper, sun dried tomatoes, roasted onions etc. Make this dip your own by adapting it to suit your taste. 
  • As you can see from above, the amount of garlic I add is very low given my limited tolerance to garlic. Garlic lovers can bump up this ingredient to make it really garlicky. 
  • Adding a small piece of deseeded jalapeno enhances the flavor and also makes the hummus look pretty with small green flecks contrasting the pale yellow of the chickpeas. 
  • If you like a really smooth textured Hummus, peel the chickpeas and discard the outer covering before grinding them. We like the slightly grainy texture when using it as a dip which is what I did this weekend and hence didn't peel the skin off. 
  • The shelf life of Hummus can be extended by grinding it sans water, use the lemon juice and olive oil instead.
Serving suggestions: 
  • Traditionally Hummus is served with either fresh baked soft pita bread or the baked pita chips as a dip. 
  • Hummus is also used generously in Mediterranean wraps or sandwiches as a spread. 
  • You can serve this healthy dip with your chips or sliced vegetables as an appetizer. 

8 comments:

RAKS KITCHEN said...

Its looks perfect. so tempting, i would love to eat with pita, carrots fingers also a great choice

NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice one. every one must try it. i like it.

Premalatha Aravindhan said...

wow yummy,love it at any time...

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

looks great...
Mint Chutney
Show Your Style to the World - Series
VIRUNTHU UNNA VAANGA

Kannada Cuisine said...

Beautiful presentation Nagashree..

Julie said...

tempting dip,yummy! Join EP event-Nutmeg OR Parsley @ Chef Mireille's Global Creations

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Have been wanting to try it for long..but never tried yet..Looks very good

Priya said...

Love with pita bread and falafels, beautiful and nutritious bread.