A 7500 Year Old Snack

I believe you can make anything you can buy — better and cheaper — which informs my penchant for deconstructing commercial products and rebuilding them to my own taste. Living around the world has provided many opportunities for experimentation. In France, North African restaurants offer an abundance of new dishes to taste and learn. Three categories that stand out are couscous, tagines, and snacks — my favorite being hummus. Long before it was widely available in American supermarkets, I was making my own and loving it for its taste, ease of preparation and health benefits.

The main ingredient for hummus has many names. Depending on your culture, you will call them himmas, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chiche or chana. They are available dried, canned and ready-made at delicatessens. They are eminently adaptable for use in soups, stews, salads, and appetizers.

This 7500 year old legume is rooted in the Middle East, although India produces more than half of the 9 million pounds grown each year for world consumption. In ancient times, this humble bean was thought to be medicinal, useful for increasing sperm count and breast milk; encouraging menstruation and reducing kidney stones. In Europe, ground chickpeas were brewed during WWI as a coffee substitute. High in dietary fiber, they are a healthy carbohydrate choice for diabetics and a favorite of vegetarians.

I prefer to cook my chickpeas from scratch, but that takes a long time. You have to cook them until they are very soft and then process them while they are very hot in order to end up with the smooth consistency that is most appealing to the palate. Using the canned version is quick and easy, especially if you want to whip up something instant for guests.

The other key ingredient in hummus is tahini — a paste made from sesame seeds and olive oil. Although I have made my own, it is better to buy it prepared as crushing the seeds is tedious. You will find it in Middle Eastern markets, sold in jars.

I usually make my hummus in a big batch and divide it into small plastic containers — some to eat now and some to freeze for later.

Hummus & Pita Chips

HOMEMADE HUMMUS

Ingredients

2 cups dried chickpeas (cooked soft) or 1 can garbanzo beans
1 cup juice reserved from cooking or can
2 tbs garlic (crushed)
4 tbs lemon/lime juice
2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbs oil (olive)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika

Directions

PUT all ingredients except paprika (in order given) in blender
PROCESS until creamy
GARNISH with paprika
SERVE with toasted pita chips, crackers or good bread

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