Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mediterranean Flair Humus...

Humus. Who doesn’t like Humus? It makes a great appetizer especially at pot lucks or parties, it’s a perfect late afternoon snack when you need that little something but want to keep it healthy, it’s a great spread for sandwiches, and I’ve even been known to thin it a little and mix it into my salad for a healthier kind of dressing. It’s great on the go too, but the absolute best thing about Humus is that it’s quick, easy, nutritious and vegan! That’s right, humus is and has always been vegan. So next time an anti-vegan tells you he or she doesn’t like that weird vegan stuff you always eat, ask them if they like humus.

Interestingly many cuisines try and claim humus as a regional dish that’s been a staple since ancient times. However while chickpeas, lemon, sesame and garlic have all been consumed in the Middle East for Millennia there is no specific evidence to point us to the actual birthplace of what we consider to be a ‘traditional’ humus, also known by the name hummus bi tahini. Pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini does not seem to appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and Levant. (751-1258) While the earliest known recipe for a dish similar to hummus bi tahini dates back to the 13th century Egypt, it is described as a cold chickpea puree with vinegar, pickled lemons, oil and herbs but no tahini or garlic.

Though regardless of where humus may or may not have originated, it is and has been a beloved staple throughout the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean for a very long time, and it’s popularity in the west is growing.

Maybe it’s because I’m part Greek, and grew up with humus, but to me it seems so strange to think that amongst average white Americans humus wasn’t part of the culinary fabric until the end of the twentieth century. That makes it a relatively new idea for a lot of people and the enthusiasm shows. Personally I love watching culinary trends, I find them so interesting and often humorous, particularly when something I’ve eaten for a long time suddenly because ‘popular’ in the culinary world. Humus is definitely one of those things, in fact I can’t think of a single cook book that I own that doesn’t include at least one - and sometimes multiple - recipes for humus. Humus seems to be at every party these days, and it appears to be one of those universally loved non-threatening foods that can be equally enjoyed by both the very young and the very old alike.

I find it so interesting that according to market research conducted in 2010, humus consumption in the United States increased by 35% in a period of 21 months. That’s a lot of humus! And as much as I love the stuff, with that much humus floating around it can get a bit tired. Which is why I like to jazz up the dish by adding in different seasonings and flavors. Sure it’s not ‘traditional’ to included roasted red peppers or olives in humus but it’s fun, not to mention delicious, and sometimes even the best loved things - be they food, or your own
personal style - can benefit from a make-over every once and a while.

This afternoon I found myself hungry and craving humus, so I decided to take some traditional components of Mediterranean cuisine and mix them in with my chickpea puree for a heightened flavor profile. Now the color of the end result may not win any awards for beauty, but flavor wise this dish kills it! Seriously, if you like olives and sun-dried tomatoes as much as I do you need to give this dip a try pronto!

Never be afraid to try new things even if they seem out of the ordinary.

Mediterranean Flair Humus

1 15oz Can Chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1-2 Tbsp Tahini
1/3 C Pitted Kalamata Olives
1/3 C Sun-dried Tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1-2 tsp dried Basil (or fresh if you have it, I didn’t)
2-3 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
Sea Salt to taste

- Reconstitute sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl of warm water for about five or so minutes. Reserve a little soaking liquid before draining.

- Combine chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, paprika’s, and basil in a food processor. Process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. If your humus is too thick and you need help getting things moving add in a little of the liquid from your reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes. It adds a great flavor!

- Give sun-dried tomatoes a few good squeezes over the sink to remove excess liquid, then add them to the food processor along with the kalamata olives and a dash or two of salt. Puree until mostly incorporated, but not entirely smooth. It’s nice to leave the olives and sun-dried tomatoes a little chunky for texture. Taste for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed.

- Serve on a platter alongside pita, or other flatbread, carrot sticks, celery and other raw vegetables. Enjoy!

PS: And tomorrow I’ll be back hopefully with my recipe for tonight’s dinner. You see it’s my husband’s birthday week, and one of the dishes he requested I prepare for him is a vegan ‘beef’ stroganoff. A childhood favorite of his that he hasn’t eaten since going vegan. I told him I’ll try my hand at it, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, as well as my own research as a guide, and we’ll see what I come up with. Hopefully it’ll be out of this world fantastic, as I wouldn’t want to disappoint my birthday boy.

1 comment:

  1. I love humus! I guess it's also b/c I'm part Greek but I find it hard to even imagine not having this as a staple at one's parties. lol - M