Friday, May 15, 2009

Day In Day Out

I have to confess something. I have a hummus habit. It started years ago at Pita Inn, the best place for cheap Middle Eastern food like kabobs, rice pilaf, and falafel. There you can get a hummus plate, the creamy chick pea and tahini blend spread thick as mayonnaise on the plate with a puddle of olive oil in the middle, a garnish of parsely and specks of cayenne pepper sprinkled over it all. I didn't think about it much those days, when I was more interested in the flavorful kabobs of ground lamb or the strips of gyro meat doused in tzatziki sauce. I never expected hummus to be the kind of food one could eat day in and day out.

Fast forward to 2005. I had just started my job at Northwest Airlines in the international route planning group. My group was small, close, and we talked about the food we like all the time. My director had a heart attack a few years earlier and followed a strict diet, but hummus was allowed and was one of his favorite foods. Being the savvy employee that I was, I whipped up a batch one day and brought it in.

That was it. I was the hummus queen. At most offices people bring in cookies, brownies, or other baked goods. I brought in hummus. If in fact I dared to bring in something less healthy, my director chastised me and asked me when I was making hummus again. Even when I was invited over to his place for a cocktail party, I was instructed to bring the hummus. My director was the kind of person who had a very strong opinion about right and wrong and my hummus was all that was right with the world. It was healthy and flavorful, filling but light, and had the perfect balance of garlic and lemon. It could be a snack or a meal, eaten with carrot sticks or crackers or bread.

A bacon cheeseburger, on the other hand, was all that was wrong with the world.

I still think hummus is one of the easiest things to make myself, but others have had problems when using my recipe. I swear it's not a recipe that magically changes ingredients and quantities for the recipient à la Harry Potter, so that only the original owner can make it well (but wouldn't that be cool?). Hummus is one of those amazing foods that is made up of things that don't taste particularly good by themselves. Chick peas aren't bad, though a bit dry and bland. Raw garlic is pungent, lemon juice is not a popular beverage. And if you've never tasted tahini, don't bother. It's a gluey, bitter sesame seed paste. I put all the ingredients into a food processor, adding salt and a dash of cayenne. Olive oil is added in a stream until the chunky mixture turns soft as whipped butter. Then it's packed in a tupperware to take to work, sliding sloppily up the side, crackers stashed in a zip lock bag. My presentation of the hummus is a bit different from Pita Inn's. But it's just as good.


2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 15 ounce can chick peas
1/3 cup tahini
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Mash garlic with salt. Add to food processor, add remaining ingredients through lemon juice. Pulse to blend, then add olive oil in a stream with the processor running. Add a little water at a time until thinned to a consistency you like.

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