Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Hummus Heaven: The Best Hummus Recipe Ever

20141027_172324

It doesn’t get much better than good hummus.

Sadly, even with a simple ingredient list of chickpeas, sesame, lemon, garlic, oil, and spices, hummus is surprisingly hard to get right. Most variations of this quintessential Middle Eastern dip are not bad, per se, but they do seem to miss the mark ever so slightly. Be it too raw-garlicky, too sour from a heavy-handed squeeze of lemon juice, too bitter because of tahini-overload, or unappealingly thick and chunky from undercooked chickpeas, there are just so many ways to go wrong.

I say that it is time to do hummus some justice.

After a good deal of research, I can say with confidence that my hummus recipe is the best I have ever tried. This is not your run-of-the-mill, Average Joe bean paste in a month-old tub. No, this homemade hummus is worlds beyond anything you can buy in a store. It is perfectly balanced, velvety-smooth, and mouthwateringly savory. And on top of that, it is infinitely customizable! Like the sound of roasted red pepper? Sun-dried tomato? Or how about roasted garlic and freshly-cracked black pepper? Hummus is your blank canvas.

You can serve the hummus warm or chilled with anything from baby carrots and celery to multi-seeded crackers. Or, go the extra mile and make some homemade pita for a truly authentic appetizer platter. You really can’t go wrong with this hummus.

So, what are you waiting for?


Hummus Heaven: The Best Hummus Recipe

October 31, 2014


Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, or about 4 cups of cooked chickpeas, with the cooking liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (the juice of about one lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

20141027_164005(0)

Empty the chickpeas and liquid into a microwavable bowl. Stir in the baking soda until it has fully dissolved. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. When time is up, leave the bowl in the microwave with the cling wrap still attached to steam the beans even more.

You may be wondering what baking soda is doing in a hummus recipe. You see, as I was researching techniques to use in my perfect hummus recipe, I came across multiple sources swearing by the addition of baking soda to the cooking liquid. The idea is that the baking soda makes the water less “hard,” which yields beans that are creamier and significantly less starchy on the inside.

Upon testing this method, I found that the gritty, starchy canned beans quickly became soft and smooth, which is exactly what we want to keep our hummus velvety-smooth.

20141027_164527(0) 20141027_164922

Pull out your food processor or blender. I find that the food processor delivers smoother, more even results.

As the chickpeas are cooking in the microwave, blend the tahini, garlic, and lemon juice together before adding beans. The acidic lemon juice “loosens up” the tahini, which helps it integrate into the hummus better. And blending the garlic early helps to break it down completely, which means that you won’t end up with a bites of hummus with unwelcome raw garlic punches.

20141027_165945

Toss in the chickpeas, leaving the cooking liquid behind in the bowl. Blend until the chickpeas are completely broken down into paste.

If you are making some kind of variation like roasted pepper hummus or caramelized onion hummus, blend in the ingredients for your variation now.

1/4 cup at a time, add in the leftover cooking liquid until the hummus is completely smooth. I used about half of the reserved cooking liquid, but this can vary. The dip should be able to stand on its own, but it should also be very easy to spread. Somewhere between pasty and drippy is what you are looking for.
20141027_170036 20141027_170203

Now, add in the spices. Smoked paprika and cumin are my spices of choice because they complement the chickpeas’ earthiness and the tahini’s nuttiness perfectly. However, feel free to add whatever spices you please!20141027_170503 20141027_170721

Fats are an integral part of hummus. While somewhat unusual, I opt for a combination of olive oil and cold butter (or ghee). I find that some takes on hummus are, quite frankly, too heavy-handed with the olive oil, which leads to a drippy, loose texture and a greasy mouthfeel. So instead of using 4 tablespoons of olive oil, I substitute 2 of the tablespoons with cold butter. I take the butter directly from the refrigerator and blend it right into the hummus. This creates a lovely “whipped texture”, which is slightly lighter than what you may be used to. And the creaminess is unparalleled.

Now is the time to taste the hummus for salt. I usually add anywhere from 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on how salty the chickpeas originally were. Definitely don’t be shy with the salt, as it truly brings out the layers of flavor that this dip has to offer.

20141027_172324

Dig in and enjoy! Or, if you are feeling fancy, plate the hummus with a variety of toppings. Here I used toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a few dashes of smoked paprika (sprinkled over the tines of a fork to create the stripes!), and one or two pinches of dried oregano that I have rubbed between my fingertips to release the aroma. Feel free to top the hummus however you want, with anything from caramelized onions to roasted peppers to a dusting of cracked black pepper! Or, keep things simple and serve this delectable hummus on its own!

For the ultimate platter, serve this hummus with warm, homemade pita! Enjoy!

And don’t forget, if you like this recipe, please consider giving back to the Syrian community by donating to The After School Special’s fundraiser for UNICEF’s Children of Syria charity, which helps Syrian children in need. Thank you so much!

Syria Donate Button

{click the UNICEF button to donate to The After School Special’s fundraiser for children in Syria}

Breaking Bread — Homemade Pita

Bread is arguably the most important food on Earth.

At the dawn of civilization, humans started grinding grain into flour, mixing the flour with water, letting the dough ferment over time to develop flavor and improve digestibility, and forging the dough into hearty loaves to sustain their families through another day.

Since its conception, bread has played a vital role in the rise and fall of tribes and kings and empires. Bread is the bare minimum that a family needs to survive, and thus, throughout history, whenever people have not been able to attain their daily loaf, uprisings surely followed suit. In fact, bread is so important to the people that it serves as the the cornerstone of the Magna Carta and the French Revolution, both of which paved the way for the democracy of the modern world.

It is safe to say that without bread, society as we know it today would not exist.

Because bread is so important to daily life, there is a never-ending list of idioms and sayings that pertain to the subject. One of the most common is the simple phrase of “breaking bread.” This phrase means so much more than simply tearing a loaf of bread apart. “Breaking bread,” at its simplest, means to share life. Especially in today’s world, some people are far more fortunate than others. This is why it is important that whenever anyone physically breaks bread, that person should think about how fortunate he or she is to have the blessing of life and consider how to share that gift with others in need.

This is why I want to share this recipe for homemade pita, the main type of bread in Syria as well as the rest of the Middle East. Many people have never baked bread before, which is truly a shame. Baking bread is nothing short of magical. And luckily, Pita is a perfect place to start! This bread is soft and delicious, and each piece has a large pocket in the middle, making it an excellence choice of bread for a light sandwich or wrap. Pita is also wonderful brushed with olive oil and baked into chips to dip into hummus, baba ghanoush, or any other spread of choice.

The best part about making pita is that it only takes about two hours, most of which is idle time. And the smell and taste of fresh bread is truly incomparable! Enjoy!


 

Homemade Pita

October 26, 2014


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 – 1 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar or honey
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt

 

20141023_165636

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Then drizzle in the olive oil and pour in 1 cup of water. Stir until all of the flour is moistened. If the mixture is too dry, add in the extra 1/4 cup of water.

Once the dough is neither wet nor dry, knead it for five to ten minutes to mix the ingredients evenly throughout the dough and to work the gluten.

20141023_170444

When you are done kneading, the dough should look something like this. Not completely smooth, but it should hold together and stretch well, and it should not stick to your hands.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with a towel dampened with warm water. Let the dough rise for 90 minutes.
20141023_183450

After 90 minutes have passed, the dough should have doubled in size, and it should look puffy and shiny.
20141023_183610Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured surface.

Look at that gluten development! Thats what creates the large bubble in pita.
20141023_183858Cut the dough into eight roughly even pieces.20141023_184117(0)

Shape the pieces into balls. Be sure not burst the bubbles in the dough too much. Cover the balls with the damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the oven at 400F.20141023_185804After 20 minutes, the dough will puff up again.

Isn’t it just so beautiful?
20141023_190330Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough out until it has a diameter of five to six inches and a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
20141023_191017

Transfer four disks at a time to a parchment-covered baking tray. Bake for three to five minutes until the pita puffs up and starts to look golden brown.20141023_193404

Nice and puffy!
20141023_192036

If you time the recipe perfectly, you’ll serve the pita nice and warm as a dinner side, and your family or guests will call you a hero for the rest of your life.
20141026_093341

But if you aren’t making the pita to go with a big meal, or if you have some leftover, pita makes for great toast. My favorite way to eat toasted pita is with a light smear of tahini, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios and a pinch of flaky sea salt.

Perfection.

Don’t forget, if you like this recipe for homemade pita, please consider “breaking bread” by donating to The After School Special’s fundraiser for UNICEF’s Children of Syria charity. Your every donation, small or large, makes a big difference a child in need. Thank you so much!

Syria Donate Button

{click the UNICEF button to donate to The After School Special’s fundraiser for children in Syria}