Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Easy Hummus. And then some.

I know the rest of the country probably realized this a few months ago, but spring is finally here! This week, in fact, it has felt like summer. At least, like a New England summer--which probably also feels like spring to the rest of you ;).

I had no idea how much I liked the idea of summer until I moved up here. Who knew that sunshine and warmth could make me this happy? And with sunshine and warmth come a whole new world of Summer recipes.

For some reason, I always associate hummus with summertime. Maybe it was that one summer in college when I ate tomato and hummus sandwiches for lunch every day. I would walk to the D.C. farmer's market every Saturday and carry piles of fresh produce back to my apartment's closet-sized kitchen. One of the booths there made some pretty awesome cilantro-lime hummus.

Or maybe it is hummus' place as my picnic food of choice. Hummus, crackers, and vegetables make a great lunch after a long hike to the top of a mountain.

But there is one problem. Hummus is expensive. A little tub for $3.50? Now, I'd pay that for good farmer's market hummus; but not so much for plastic-packaged grocery store stuff. So here is how to make your own:

Basic Hummus

All of these ingredients should be in your cupboard already; except for tahini. Tahini is a sesame seed paste, and can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores or in the ethnic food section at your local grocery store. Due to hummus' rising popularity, hummus is now easier to find at your local grocery story. You just may have to ask for help finding it. It has the consistency of peanut butter, and you can leave it out, but I don't recommend it. No, there are no substitutes for it ;). Some recipes call for more than a tablespoon, but I find these too overpowering (tahini doesn't really taste great by itself, but it gives your hummus a good consistency). Use however much you like.

2 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium-large clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or a scant 1/2 a teaspoon regular salt)
pepper to taste
juice from half a lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
optional: tablespoon of yogurt; garbanzo bean juice

Method 1: Dry Garbanzo Beans (recommended. Also, cheap.)
1. Soak 1 1/2 cups of dry garbanzo beans in cold water overnight.
2. Drain the beans and place in a small sauce pan. Cover with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the top, then let simmer for 2 hours until the beans are soft. Drain the beans again, reserving some of the juice this time. Let cool.

Method 2: Canned Garbanzo Beans
1. Open can. Drain, reserving juice.

To make hummus:
1. Place garbanzo beans and minced garlic in a food processor (recommended) or blender (also works, but is more trouble). Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
2. At this point, you get to decide what consistency you want your hummus to be. If it is too thick, add some garbanzo bean juice. For a creamier hummus, add a tablespoon of plain yogurt. If it needs more flavor, add more lemon juice or olive oil. Just taste, and add more of whatever ingredient you want. It is hard to mess up as long as 1) you add ingredients in small quantities, and 2) you don't add too much garlic.

And now, for the fun part: Variations!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a whole red pepper (you can also use half of one, just remove the seeds first) in a metal dish and drizzle with olive oil. You can also wrap it loosely in foil. Roast for about an hour, until the peper is soft an the skin is charred. Place the pepper in a plastic bag, or in a bowl covered with saran wrap. When pepper is cool enough to handle, peel the skin off and remove the seeds. Add the pepper to the food processor with the garbanzo beans in Step 1. I use anywhere from half a pepper to a whole pepper per batch, depending on what I have in my fridge.

Roasted Garlic Hummus
(You can roast your garlic with your red pepper; and use them together if you want)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place whole garlic cloves (not peeled) in a metal dish and drizzle with olive oil. Again, you can also wrap in foil. Roast for an hour, let cool. Peel and add 2-3 cloves to the food processor with the garbanzo beans in step 1.

Cilantro-Lime Hummus
1. Use the juice from half a lime in place of half of the lemon juice. Add 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves.

Mint-Lime Hummus (Or, Mojito Hummus, and my husband calls it ;))
1. Use the juice from half a lime in place of half of the lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves.

What do you like to put in your hummus?

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