Monday, April 23, 2012

Hummus, With or Without Preserved Lemons

So much to say today!  First, for any DC people who love to eat and also love to help others, here's a great opportunity to do both simultaneously.  Bring your appetites and your wallets to the lobby of the Washington Post offices at 1150 15th Street, NW, on Thursday, April, 26 from 2 - 6 pm,  where I, along with about 30 other DC area food bloggers, will be holding our local sale for Share our Strength's Great American Bake Sale to end childhood hunger in America.  Share our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign works to surround kids facing hunger with nutritious food where they live, learn and play.  There will be baked goods, both sweet and savory, made by some fabulous local cooks.  Spread the word to your family and friends who work in the area!

Onward!  Recently, I wrote about Sara Jenkins, whose cookbook, Olives and Oranges, I love, and while in NY recently, Maddy and I had a delicious dinner in her East Village restaurant, Porsena. We agreed that her wilted leek appetizer, which was a special that night, was the standout of the evening. We did not have dessert there though, as we headed further east on E. 7th street to the brick and mortar Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. One "Salty Pimp" (a cone filled with vanilla soft serve, dulce de leche, and sea salt and then dipped in chocolate coating) later we rolled ourselves back over to the subway at Astor Place.

We ate a lot of vegetarian meals and even found a local vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Middletown, CT.  We've also been eating many more vegetarian meals at home.  One of Maddy's favorite foods, which she did not even care for until about a year ago, is hummus. 

I've been working on my hummus recipe for a while, experimenting with different chickpea (garbanzo bean) packaging (for you purists, I am sorry to say that I have not used dried, only packaged).  In trying to get away from BPA in cans, I have tried not only canned, but shelf-stable boxed and frozen.  I found these, as well as no salt added canned beans in my local organic market.  So far, I've only seen one brand of organic frozen beans and one brand of boxed, so naturally, they are not cheap.  I hope that as more companies provide BPA free packaging, the prices will come down.  I've also played with preserved lemons in lieu of regular lemon juice so if you have some, here's another way to use them. 

I found that both the frozen beans and the boxed have their uses.  I think that for a nicer presentation, a salad for example, the boxed wins out.  Although the frozen chickpeas did get a little mushier as they thawed, and more of their skins pulled away and required more time to remove, they got pureed in hummus so it didn't matter.  I found that a 17.6 ounce box yielded 9 ounces of chickpeas after draining, while the frozen, which has no liquid, is the full 16 ounces marked on the package.  With so many different brands of cans, the yield will vary, but I am estimating that the contents of the boxed is almost the same as that of a 15 ounce can. 

This is a very loose recipe that you should adapt to your taste.  Consider these amounts suggestions or starting points and taste the hummus after all the ingredients are in.  If it is too thick, it might need more olive oil or lemon juice.  Even a tablespoon or two of warm water.  If it is to bland, a little more tahini, lemon or salt might be in order. 

Many thanks to Maddy for the photo!


(makes a bowlful with enough for many to snack or to provide a side dish or light lunch for at least 4)

1 17.6 ounce box or 15 - 19 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained ( If you can find frozen and would like to use them, use a little more than half of a 16 ounce bag - 9 ounces if you want to weigh them- and thaw before using)

1/2 cup tahini (I have been using fresh tahini from a local Mediterranean market and it is much more delicious than the packaged stuff )

1/3 to 1/2 of a preserved lemon (use more if it's a small one)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons warm water if you are using preserved lemon (otherwise use 1/4 cup lemon juice)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste, obviously avoiding the sharp blade at the bottom of the bowl of the food processor, and add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, etc. as I described in my narrative about the recipe.  I like to drizzle a little olive oil over top and then a sprinkle of ground sumac or paprika.  Enjoy with pita, crackers or vegetables such as carrots, celery or cucumber.