My love affair with hummus began many years ago, and shows no sign of abating. As with many Americans, I first encountered it as a luscious spread or dip, served with pita bread. But over the years, I have not only discovered it can be served in myriad ways, I’ve even come up with some of my own ideas.
Hummus is, at its most basic, a smooth amalgam of chickpeas and tahini (a paste made of ground sesame seeds) brought to us by most of the countries of the Middle East with a few from North Africa thrown into the mix. Many of us also add some garlic, lemon, salt, and water or oil. Arguments can ensue when discussing the various additions, methods, and garnishes. There can be fights to the death about canned versus dried chickpeas, peeled versus unpeeled chickpeas, not to mention garnishes of cilantro, olive oil, pine nuts, and paprika. My version includes freshly cooked unpeeled chickpeas, tahini, salt, lemon juice, garlic, and water. But let us stay above the fray, and talk about other ways to use this incredible concoction other than dumping it into a bowl.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
First off, I need to say that I have absolutely no objection to the bowl. You can swirl the hummus so the top is uneven, and drizzle some great olive oil on top. And then, you can go even further and top that with some toasted pine nuts and/or a very light dusting of the paprika of your choice, if you want.
But hummus isn’t just a dip, it’s also a multipurpose ingredient. One day, I wanted cold sesame noodles but something made me reach for the hummus instead of the phone. Hummus thinned with chicken broth and soy, tossed with cooked noodles, and garnished with peanuts and scallions worked as a great substitute. And a real benefit is that thishummus-sesame noodle concotion can be served cold or hot.
Watch: How to Make Smoky Cauliflower Hummus
I’m generally a very basic Irish guy when it comes to my mashed potatoes. But one night, inspiration struck, and I folded sauteed mushrooms and hummus into a batch of mashed potatoes, and a family classic was born. These are hearty and deeply flavorful. I can’t say I understand why the combination works, but it really does.
Then, a truly crazy idea hit. I mixed cooked (or thawed, and squeezed frozen) spinach with hummus, pine nuts, and a few gratings of nutmeg, and used that mixture to stuff pounded chicken breasts which I then rolled (and sealed with toothpicks), salted, peppered, and floured, dipped in egg, coated in panko, and sauteed until gorgeously browned. I sliced them into rounds and wow. This was way beyond sauteed chicken breasts.
And my final wacky hummus idea was a variation on a beef stir fry that I made with thin strips of steak and trimmed broccoli rabe, in a sauce of onions, beef broth, tomato paste, and of course, hummus. I served it over orzo.
All I’m trying to say to you is that hummus need not be the end. It can be the beginning of so many great, new meals. The chickpeas and tahini not only thicken dishes, they add an exotic deep flavor to anything they encounter.
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