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Hummus: two ways (but not too close together)

February 14, 2012
By Wendy Monro , Simply Food

When I was in high school, my boyfriend Bert's father was from Lebanon. I guess he was from Lebanon way before I was in high school; but, you know what I mean. Bert's mother was Italian. Oh boy, did I get to enjoy so much wonderful food with the Coury family. Marianne, Bert's mother, made the most amazing spaghetti. This wasn't your typical spaghetti with a box of noodles and a jar of sauce. Oh no! This was fresh and homemade. She made her own meatballs and noodles. Marianne created sauce from actual ripe tomatoes.

Marianne taught me that something so simple could really be taken apart and created with delicacy and love to make it magical. We waited for hours smelling her food throughout the house until we could dig in. The waiting added to the enjoyment. Once her noodles, sauce, meatballs, and sausage had simmered and were ready to eat, the layers of flavor were phenomenal.

Marianne also made the most amazing spinach pies. I don't know how she did it but they were triangular pieces of dough filled with onions spinach herbs and spices. Once they cooked, we opened a piece and squeezed in tons of lemon juice. They were divine. I just jumped onto Facebook and asked Bert to please send me that spinach pie recipe. You would love those!!

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Traditional and oil free hummus side by side with vegetables.

Bert's father, Al, made the most delicious Middle Eastern food. While Marianne made foods that I knew of, only better than I had ever tasted, Al introduced me to foods that I had never before eaten. He made baba ganoush, tabouli, and hummus. I was in love at first bite (with the food!). I thought I might have been Lebanese in a past life. Really! I couldn't get enough of this stuff.

The tabouli with all of the lemon juice, parsley, and tomatoes was divine. Baba ganoush was garlicy and creamy and oh so good. I didn't think I liked eggplant. Then, one day, Al made my absolute favorite dish of them allhummus.

What the heck? How had I not discovered this earlier? This was a fantasy in a bowl. I am a huge dip fan. So, I was already intrigued by the idea of a dip of any kind. But, this was more than any old dip. This was unbelievable.

Fact Box

Hummus: (Traditional)

1 16 oz. can of chickpeas

1/4 cup liquid from can

5 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoon tahini

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & Oil Free Hummus:

1 16 oz. can chickpeas

5 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos

3 tablespoons vegetable broth

For both versions: Pour all ingredients into food processor and blend well.

I loved the creamy, garlicy, lemony flavor. From that point on, when I came over to Al's house and a bowl of hummus sat on the counter surrounded by radishes, tomatoes, scallions, carrots and celery, I was in heaven.

Hummus wasn't easily available back then. We are talking twenty-five years ago. Wow, I am getting old! You couldn't find hummus in the market. You had to go to a Middle Eastern market or deli or to someone's house who knew how to make it. Thank goodness, now we can find it everywhere.

The word hummus is Arabic for chickpeas, which is the main ingredient. The correct phrase for this dip is hummus bi tahina. However, I am not about to go around calling it that. I suggest you don't either or you may lose friends. In Spanish, chickpeas are called garbanzos. The origin of this dip is lost because it has been around for such a long time and enjoyed in so many parts of the world. It is one of the oldest foods. It is popular in Israel, Palestine, the Mediterranean, and India.

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I dare to say, it has become pretty popular in Europe and in the United States, but not to the extent as it is enjoyed in Israel.

I read that most Israelis enjoy hummus with every meal. I could probably do that. Then again, Jack always does this thing where he likes only one dish for a long time (right now, it's waffles) and he eats those to death until he doesn't like them any more. I won't do that.

Hummus is a healthy alternative to other dips, which use sour cream or mayonnaise. Also, hummus is usually enjoyed with fresh cut vegetables, which is much better than chips. Hummus is low in fat and high in fiber.

The only high calorie ingredients are olive oil and tahini. However, you only use a small amount of each. Tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds) is mostly unsaturated fat and is also a great source of protein and calcium. Chickpeas, on the other hand, have no saturated fat and no cholesterol. They aid in improving blood sugar levels and help to fight cholesterol. Chickpeas are also high in protein.

Here is the traditional version and an oil free and salt free version to try. The oil free is good on its own, if you don't set it right next to the other one. Really! It's like setting a plain bagel right next to a cupcake.

That's not really fair to the bagel.

Sure, they are both brilliant on their own but one pales in a side-by-side comparison. I liked them both but would probably make the traditional version for guests and the other version for every day eating.

I put hummus on sandwiches, wraps, and add it to salad dressings. Also, you can go crazy with hummus and add flavors like: sun dried tomatoes, spinach, olives, extra garlic, cilantro, pine nuts, and red peppers.

Furthermore, it is so easy to make and takes only minutes. Impress your friends and whip some up for a starter the next time you have some people coming around. Everyone will enjoy it.



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