27 July 2010

How to eat hummus

Side update: I'm still having issues with the heat, because when the oven gets turned on at work, the temperatures skyrocket, and no matter how much water I drink, I go into mild heat exhaustion, and I start shaking, and my head gets light and floaty, and my muscles get really weak. Once I'm on the subway in the air conditioning, I'm fine. It's been persisting for about a week and change now, and I don't rightly know what to do about it, save not go into the kitchens, which isn't an option. If anyone's got any suggestions, feel free to weigh in.

Now. Onto how to eat hummus.

With a spoon.

The end.

I'm only teasing. Irma asked in a comment what to do with hummus, and/or different ways of using the stuff, aside from just putting it onto pita bread. I had a couple of suggestions mulling about in my head, so rather than just replying to the comment, I figured I'd just answer it here, in a new post.

First off, here is my little blurb about how to get perfect hummus every time. If you've got any input for that recipe, feel free to weigh in. I went extremely detailed and slow, because a lot of times, the recipe will be vague, or so rushed in its eagerness to show you how simple it is that people aren't going to be able to reproduce your results. That's just not right.

For starters, let's talk about different ways of using the hummus all by itself. I really wasn't joking when I said I could cheerfully eat it with a spoon. I can, and do so regularly (someone has to taste the hummus to make sure it's perfect, right?) at home and at work. Sometimes, it's nice to just appreciate something for what it is.

Vegetables. Vegetables are a perfect excuse to eat more hummus. Break out the carrots, celery, cucumbers, apples, pears, broccoli (steamed or raw), cauliflower (steamed or raw), beets, or anything else that comes to mind, and try it with your hummus. If you're making hummus with nice fresh herbs, like dill, or basil, or oregano, it's especially delicious with apples, pears, or other sweet but firm fruits, so that you get that contrast of the crisp, juicy fruit, and the salty, creamy hummus. Yes, I know that pears and apples are a fruit. Moving on.

Breads. Pita bread is excellent with hummus, but it's not your only option. While I'm here, let me make a sideline note about pita & hummus. You will find that your eating will be ten thousand times more pleasurable if you simply toast the pita bread with a little bit of oil before eating it. If you're doing like 20 or 30 pitas, just brush them with oil, and toast it in the oven, until it's lightly browned (about 10 minutes), and warmed through. Otherwise, heat up a skillet, drizzle in just a tiny bit of oil, and lightly fry the pita on each side until it's toasty and brown. Then, slice it up into triangles, and serve immediately. The pillowy steam that escapes the pita bread will make it so much nicer to eat, and you'll soon find yourself out of pita.

But aside from pita bread, try other breads. Often, when you go to the store, you can get day old bread for cheap. Take it home, and lightly sprinkle on a bit of water onto whichever slice of bread you want to eat. Then, fry as you would the pita bread, but use a touch more oil. Then, slice the slice of bread into strips, and dip away. Pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, baguettes, or any other dense, hearty bread works great.

While we're on the subject of breads, let's talk sandwiches and wraps. What better bread spread can you think of than hummus? It's high in protein, and lower in fat than those margarines and other rich dressings (like vegan mayo, etc.), while still having plenty of taste to boost the sandwiche's prospects. This is also a great spread for when you want to make a wrap of some kind. Think of it. Just a generous dose of hummus, cucumber, spinach, olives, and maybe some red onion and salt, and that's a wrap! Soooo good.

On to more advanced techniques. When my friend Mikeypod came over for Thanksgiving one year, he brought some pita from this place in Brooklyn that makes it fresh every day. They were like eating clouds. I split one open lengthwise, so I had two circles. I smeared both with a thin layer of hummus. I sandwiched them back closed, so that the hummus is on the inside. Then, I sliced them into triangles. I then dipped it into my bajji batter (it's in the book), and deep fried them. You heard me. Mind you, it's not something I'd do nowadays (or if I did, I'd make only a very small batch), but it was a special occasion, so I decided to splurge a little on the calories. What ended up happening was that the batter sealed the traingles well from the oil, so that the triangles started to puff up into fat little pillows. When they were golden brown in both sides, I served them piping hot. It was so much fun to eat those little pockets.

Of course, one must never forget hummus dressing. Essentially, it's just hummus thinned out with water until it's as liquidy as you want. You can do it with the store bought stuff or home made, depending on how much space/time/appliances you have. If you want it to be better still, dump it in the blender, and drizzle in a bit of extra olive oil as well as a bit more garlic and salt, and then add the water, with the blender going on medium speed. This will ensure that it's as smooth as possible. Try it some day over mixed greens, or other vegetable or bean salads, and you won't be disappointed.

My mother likes to stir into hummus some cabbage, carrots, and diced dill pickles, to make a sort of a cole slaw without the mayo. Try it some time, and I'm sure you'll love it as much as we do. She did it the first time, because I had added too much salt for her liking, and she wanted to eat those raw vegetables anyway.

When it's just for me and Steve, I like to make hummus really spicy, by adding a fair bit of chiles to it. When you do such a thing, an excellent way to serve it is as a canape. Just get some cucumber slices, pipe on the hummus, and top it with a little spray of dill. The presentation looks so cute to see all those little slices of cucumber with their hummus hats. The same works with zucchini, summer squash, tomato, or any other vegetable you can get into nice little rounds. If you felt like it, you could also do this with rounds of toast, but the vegetables are already in that adorable shape.

Hummus is excellent on crackers, especially if you do a cracker, a thin layer of hummus, a slice of vegetable, another thin layer of hummus, and then top it with a slice of tomato, a dollop of hummus, and a bit of cilantro or parsley. Again, it's a bit of work, but it looks so fetching. The fat in the hummus will protect the cracker from getting soggy, but it really should be eaten as soon as possible.

I know that others will have plenty of their own ideas, so feel free to weigh in if you wish. Hope this helped, Irma!