Sunday, August 3, 2003

Serve it this week: Hummus

By Angela Stephens
Gannett News Service

Hummus is a Middle Eastern appetizer dip that seems more exotic and complex than it really is. And, if you are too timid to make your own (please don't be), many natural food stores as well as some well-stocked grocery stores stock prepared versions.

Hummus is a pureed mixture of garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), lemon, olive oil and garlic that is usually served with freshly baked pita bread triangles or lavosh crackers, but also can be offered with a raw vegetable platter.

The mild, nutty taste of the garbanzo beans and tahini truly can be addictive. And, it's obviously perfect vegetarian fare.

Hummus joins dishes such as baba ghanoush (a roasted eggplant dip), tabbouleh (a salad of parsley, tomatoes and bulgur wheat) and stuffed grape leaves as the "mezze" or appetizer segment - and to me the best part - of a classic Middle Eastern meal.

Hummus isn't confined just to the appetizer course, either. It makes a tasty spread on bagels, or you can use it instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches and veggie burgers.

Variations abound. Some versions add herbs and spices such as cumin, cayenne, mint, a little chopped green onion or even yogurt.

One of the best hummus recipes I have tried adds a bit of a Southwestern zing to it. Control the heat by adding more or less of the chipotle (canned smoked jalapenos) in this version.

Southwestern Hummus

1 teaspoon crushed garlic, or more to taste

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt, to taste

Cayenne, to taste

1/2 cup tahini (available in some groceries and most specialty food stores)

1/2 to 1 dried chipotle chili (rehydrated in hot water, water reserved) or 1 chipotle from can of chipotle in adobo sauce

Paprika for garnish

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend to desired consistency. Use water from rehydrating chipotle if needed to thin. Serve topped with a little olive oil and paprika or cayenne. Makes about 2 cups or eight 1/4-cup servings.

Chips, Dips & Salsas (Northland Publishing; $9.95)

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Serve it this week: Hummus

Get to it!