Hummus and The Lebanese Connection
We love hummus, and we eat it quite often.
But it wasn’t always that way. At least not for me.
For me — believe it or not — there was life before hummus.
I did not start to eat hummus until after I met my wife. Though, of course, when I first met her she was not my wife. She was just my friend. She then became my best friend — I don’t know if hummus played a part in that — and, eventually, she became my wife.
My wife Char is of Lebanese descent. Her paternal grandparents came to the United States from Beirut in the early 1900s. Her father is one of 9 children and her mother (who is of Creek Indian descent) is one of 6 children. That’s A LOT of family. And ain’t family what it’s all about?
Anyway, Char is who got me to try hummus for the very first time. And I am so glad that she did!
Hummus: It’s a Side, an Appetizer… It’s Even a Full Meal!
Hummus is a staple in our house. We make it all the time. Hummus is simple to make and delicious to eat.
We have served it as an appetizer, as a side, and even as a full meal.
Frequently we bless our friends and parish family with hummus… when we are asked to provide a dish for some parish ministry function or when we are invited to a party at a friend’s house. It’s gotten to the point that we are expected to bring hummus.
I like that.
At home, though, we usually make hummus as a side dish. We might be making Kousa Mashi (Lebanese Stuffed Squash) or grilling lamb chops, or rolling grape leaves. Whatever dish it may be, hummus just seems like the perfect side.
During Lent, though, we can usually be seen whipping up a batch of hummus on Fridays. There’s no meat in hummus, so it’s cool for Fridays in Lent (or for any Friday throughout the year!). So, yes, we have even had hummus as our meal. And we weren’t disappointed either. Frequently I refer to our hummus as “yummus” because, yeah, it is that good.
And don’t be afraid to “kick it up a notch” with the cayenne! It’s awesome!
- 2 cans of chick peas, rinsed OR 30 ounces of dried beans that have been prepared beforehand (see below)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of tahini
- juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (to start)
- 1/4 cup of water (to start)
- several cloves of garlic (I usually use 4 to 5)
- kosher salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Put chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water, and olive oil in a Cuisinart or food processor.
- Process until it becomes the consistency of hummus. You will probably need to add more olive oil or water. Just do so slowly.
- Taste. Taste. Taste. You don’t want the hummus too thick or too runny. Make it to your liking. Also, add as much salt and cayenne as you like. Once again, add it slowly. You can also start adding salt and cayenne when you first add ingredients to processor. Just make sure you pulse it before serving.
- Place hummus into a round flat dish. Drizzle liberally with extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with chopped parsley.
- Serve with hot pita bread.
Preparing Dried Chick Peas for Hummus
If you would prefer to use dried beans over canned, the follow these simple directions for a 1 lb bag of dried chick peas:
- In a large glass bowl, soak the beans overnight. Make sure that there is enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches.
- Drain the chick peas and rinse. Add to a large stainless steel pot and cover again with water (twice the amount of water to beans).
- Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer until beans are softened, about an hour.
- Remove from heat, strain, and allow to cool.
- The chick peas are now ready to use to make hummus.
Making Pita Bread
When you are among Lebanese folk, the word “pita” doesn’t usually come up in conversation. At least not in Louisiana. Usually, the Lebanese refer to it as “Arabic bread,” and that is just A-OKAY with me. I love this stuff!
However, I have to confess that making “Arabic bread” is an act of love. It takes time. And it takes effort, as you will soon see below.
If you have one, you might want to try the pita bread on The Baking Steel. Doing so would cut down on bake time and it would give the bread a crispier outer texture.
However, the recipe below does not assume that you are using a Baking Steel.
PITA BREAD INGREDIENTS:
- 5 lbs of all purpose flour (we prefer King Arthur)
- 5 heaping tablespoons of sugar
- 5 heaping teaspoons of kosher salt
- 2 packets of yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cups of warm water (approximately)
PITA BREAD DIRECTIONS:
- Dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F) for about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to the yeast and water (this kickstarts the fermentation process, activating the yeast). After activation (about 10 minutes) add the olive oil to the yeast and water).
- In a large bowl (or a large stand mixer) combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture, then add a small amount of warm water at a time until all the flour is combined. Knead until smooth.
- Cover with a heavy cotton kitchen towel, or plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours.
- Punch down the dough.
- Flour a work surface, and begin to form balls about 4 inches in diameter with the dough.
- Cover again and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Roll out the individual dough balls into circles about 1/4 inch thick.
- Bake in batches in the hot oven for about 10 minutes. You want the undersides to be light brown.
- Place bread under the broiler for about 30 seconds to lightly brown the top.
- Remove and let cool on a wire rack.
- Continue the process until you have gone through all the dough.
This recipe yields A LOT of pita bread! After cooling, it can be stored in the freezer wrapped in aluminum foil or in plastic zip-top freezer bags. It can be re-heated in foil in the oven when ready to use.
What About You?
Like hummus? Like pita?
I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below!