Since the pushing of healthy eating habits and finding alternatives for snacking, many items that used to be a "luxury" have now become an all-consuming fad; such is the case with Hummus. Hummus is a puree of garbanzo beans (a legume) also known as chickpeas in the United States and England, or Ceci beans in Italy. Their origin can be traced back to the Middle East, as far back as 3500 BCE; so they truly cannot be called a modern "fad" food item. The other main ingredient needed to make hummus is Tahini; a sauce made from the puree of toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. The other ingredients that go into the making of hummus? That is a matter of taste.
Tahini has a very nutty scent and flavor to it and can be substituted for peanut butter which is great news to folks with a peanut allergy. If you can eat regular peanuts, then adding a dollop of Tahini to your PB&J brings out an awesome richness of peanutty taste and flavor. For baking, think about adding Tahini to a recipe calling for peanut butter; and don't forget its wonderful addition to Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months in an air tight container. Since oil is used in the process, it will rise to the top and solidify under cold temperatures. Simply let the Tahini come to room temperature, mix the oil back in until you have a smooth sauce; sort of how you would work with the all-natural peanut butter spreads that are on the market now. Tahini can also be frozen in air tight freezer containers or bags, but after six months it needs to be discarded.
How to Make Tahini
3 cups sesame seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F; spread the seeds onto a clean jelly roll pan (baking sheet with a 1/4 inch around it); place into oven for 5 minutes. Stir the seeds around and toast for another 5 minutes, but do not allow them to get brown in color.
Put the seeds into a food processor or blender; add 1/4 cup of oil and begin blending on high. A paste will form; switch off the appliance and scrap down the paste with a rubber spatula. Turn the appliance back on and slowly add in the remaining oil until a smooth sauce begins to form; sort of like a smooth peanut butter consistency; not all the oil may be required.
Makes 2 cups.
We have our Tahini, let’s continue on to making Hummus. I'm going to give a basic recipe that can be used as a dip for toasted pita chips (Stacy’s is a great brand), or even a base sauce on a pita pizza (recipe will be given). This basic hummus can be a simple canvas for making many types of dips by adding roasted red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, diced green onions, diced chile peppers, chopped herbs and the list goes on and on. If entertaining and serving several varieties of hummus, don't just garnish each type with a teaspoon of an ingredient to identify its type. Place a small bowl of the ingredient next to the bowl of hummus and let guests add to a plate with their portion of dip. A garnish will be gone by the third guest, and how will anyone be able to identify the flavors then? Also think about having slices of toasted French baguette besides the traditional pita chips, so guests can make their own version of a bruschetta. Now onto the making of Hummus...
How to Make Hummus
1 (16 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup Tahini sauce (or 1/4 cup if using a Tahini paste)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Mash the beans slightly and place inside a food processor or blender; add the Tahini, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Set speed on puree and blend until desired consistency is achieved (slightly firmer than a sour cream dip is best); add more oil if needed. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the appliance if necessary.
Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.
Note: During the puree process, a tablespoon of a flavoring ingredient can be added such as diced tomatoes, roasted red bell pepper, chopped herbs, etc.
Some folks enjoy a chunkier hummus, some, like me, enjoy a smoother consistency. If you’re not sure which you prefer, make a small portion of both and do some taste testing.
I gave you a tease before about making a Pita Pizza, and here's the information I promised to give you. Normally a pizza dough is made with a leavened bread which rises because of yeast, but it can also be made from an unleavened bread such as a tortilla, Navajo Fry Bread or pita bread. As a base sauce, the traditional red tomato sauce can be used or pesto, but I've found that hummus makes an interesting take on a pizza. By pureeing tomatoes, red bell peppers or basil into a hummus, you can turn the traditional brownish coloring into the illusion of a red or green sauce; and have the flavoring too.
How to Make a Pita Pizza
1 Pita bread (standard size to be cut apart, or single serving size)
1/4 cup Hummus (traditional or flavored), 1/8 cup for smaller pita
Now here's the fun part; the rest of the ingredients depends on what you want on it. If using any meats or poultry, it must be precooked. Don't add too much of any one ingredient, you want just enough that each item will be tasted when biting into the pizza. I created one with diced tomatoes, diced goat cheese and spinach leaves; just a 1/4 cup of each spread around on a standard sized pita went a long way.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Spread hummus over pita; spread other ingredients over all, but not entirely to the edge. Place the pizza directly onto the center rack of the oven and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges of pita darken.
A standard pita can be cut into fourths; a small pita eaten as is.
There is my adventure into the Middle Eastern world of Tahini, Hummus and Pita Bread; don't be afraid to have your own adventure. Enjoy!