|nontraditional hummus plate on thrifted Heath Ceramics|
Hummus is one of my favorite summer meal options. I can spoon it into a half-pint canning jar and take it to work, dipping veggies at lunch. I can do the same thing at home if feeling lazy, or I can put a dollop on top of a large salad. Mixing cooked legumes with raw greens and vegetables is what summer food is all about for a vegetarian or vegan, and it's also a good option for meat eaters who want to skip the meat a couple meals a day.
The key to flavoring most beans is cumin. Cumin's a wonder spice, earthy and complex, perfect when paired with garlic. I spice up my hummus with (a lot of) cumin, a little paprika, Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. That's it, but adding the cumin and paprika isn't traditional. I got the cumin idea from the hummus recipe in Linda Fraser's Vegetarian: The Best Ever Recipe Collection, which, by the way, contains many tasty dishes and shouldn't be judged by its cover.
|chickpeas with spices in food processor|
The paprika is my own idea (surely not original). Since many people sprinkle paprika on top of hummus for color as they do for deviled eggs, why not mix it in? It works. Trust me. I use a pinch of paprika in salad dressings a lot, too. My friend Jeff claims paprika doesn't have any flavor, but he's so wrong. Just ask my Czech-American friend Dan or any Hungarian. Maybe Scandinavian-American Jeff's just using old paprika. Many of our baby-boomer parents have faded orange paprika sitting in their cupboards that's as old as we are. Don't use that old musty stuff. Buy the bright, brick-red fresh stuff. (And do buy spices in bulk to save money). Paprika's a fun spice, too. It's just dried ground sweet peppers, sometimes smoked. Use it often but in small quantities. End of speech.
|hummus ingredients before food processing|
In the past, I often cooked my own garbanzo beans, but that does take time and planning ahead for the eight hours or more of soaking and another two hours of cooking. I don't often have that kind of time anymore, even on weekends. So it's much easier to pop open and drain a couple cans of chickpeas, dump them into the food processor, grind or sprinkle in the spices, drop in a couple cloves of garlic, squeeze in a half or whole lemon, spoon in some tahini, start up the food processor, and then drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil—good to go. The hardest part is the washing up, and even that's not difficult if things are just given a good soak first.
|drizzling olive oil into food-processed hummus|
|Joyva Sesame Tahini can|
Here are a few extra tips. The jar or can of tahini—which is just ground roasted sesame seeds—should always be kept in the fridge to prevent rancidity, it being a seed oil. Stir it well before refrigeration since the oil tends to separate, leaving a thick paste at the bottom. The hummus itself will keep for a week in the fridge, though in my world it disappears well before that. I've also experimented with adding canned artichokes or roasted peppers or herbs like parsley to my hummus, but blending in veggies tends to water the hummus down, so it's better to keep the vegetables and greens separate. You'll still be eating lots of veggies, as long as you're not dipping only pita bread into all this hummus, but that's no fun, and the Middle Easterners who first came up with this food combination would be shaking their heads at you.
|orange and yellow sweet bell peppers|
Recipes for hummus abound on the Internet, so this post isn't a recipe, other than the tip to add cumin and paprika. I just want you to start making your own hummus, rather than buying it premade. Your wallet, taste buds, and party guests will all thank me.