Pass the Hummus

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sundried Tomato Pita Chips

I peered into my refrigerator yesterday, famished and needing sustenance of some sort. Greens? Puhlease... I was hungry - the kind of hungry that causes habibi to retreat for cover. The fridge stared back, daring me to find something edible. A mostly-empty bottle of balsamic vinaigrette, a carton of feta, and a tub of moldy Greek yogurt greeted my hungry eyes. The shelves nearly shouted, "Ha! You won't find anything to eat in here. Give up and order pizza!"

Pizza sounded appetizing, but this was now a personal challenge. I did have a few loaves of pita bread and an old jar of sundried tomatoes hiding in the back of the refrigerator. The tomatoes were packed in oil and last for months. Viola! Pita chips with chopped sundried tomatoes. These baked chips make a great snack to serve with a salad of mixed greens, crumbled feta cheese, and a mostly-empty bottle of balsamic vinaigrette.

2 pieces pita bread (approx. 6-inch diameter)
1/2 TBL extra virgin olive oil
pinch dried oregano
pinch dried basil
pinch garlic salt
3 TBL sundried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
1/2 TBL oil from the sundried tomatoes

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Mix olive oil, oil from the sundried tomatoes container, oregano, basil, and garlic salt in a small bowl. Chop the sundried tomatoes and keep separate from the oil mixture.

2. With a knife, cut around the entire edge of the pitas forming four rounds. Brush the pita rounds with the oil mixture and use scissors or a knife to cut the pita in half, and then into four triangles.

3. Place the pita triangles on a baking sheet (oil side facing up) and sprinkle with the chopped sundried tomatoes. Bake for 6 minutes, or until the edges of the pita are golden and have curled up slightly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lentil Soup (Shorbat il-Adds) (شوربة العدس)


Well, it was supposed to snow in DC. And I was supposed to get off from work because Washington is really just a southern city that shrieks at the first dusting of snow. Unfortunately, the flurries are few and far between. I should lounge in my apartment wearing pajamas, have habibi bring me hot chocolate with little marshmallows, and watch trashy 'who's the daddy?' talk shows in spite of mother nature. Don't judge me - this is what I do for fun:)

But it's still really cold outside and wintry weather calls for a big bowl of hot soup.
There are so many lentil dishes in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. This lentil soup is really just mix of favorite vegetables, lentils, broth, and spices. As an added benefit, lentils are high in fiber, B-vitamins, and protein. Feel free to add or subtract other vegetables to the soup depending on what you have on hand.

1 medium onion, diced
1 TBL olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 ripe plum tomatoes (or 2 regular tomatoes), seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 cups dried French green lentils*, rinsed
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 TBL tomato paste
salt and pepper

Serves 6-8. *You can use brown lentils - just simmer them for 15 minutes instead of thirty. Don't substitute red lentils; they will turn to mush before you can say baby it's cold outside.

1. Saute the diced onions and olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot or dutch oven for 10 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden brown. Sprinkle the ground cumin over the vegetables and stir until you can smell the cumin toasting, about one minute.

2. Add the carrots and bay leaf to the pot. Immediately pour in 2 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth and simmer until the carrots begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and celery (and any other quick-cooking vegetables you want to use, e.g. squash, peas). Pour the rest of the water and broth along with the rinsed lentils into the pot and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. The lentils should be soft, but not falling apart.

4. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste; stir to incorporate. Discard the bay leaf before serving.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Hummus bi Tahina (حمص بطحينة)

Hummus is perhaps the most well known Middle Eastern meze (appetizer) in the West. In Arabic, the word hummus simply means "chickpea", and Hummus bi Tahina translates to "Chickpeas with Sesame Paste". I'm particular about my hummus: chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. That's it. I avoid 'fusion hummus' at all costs: bright pink roasted red pepper hummus, avocado hummus, and even hummus with wasabi and ginger. Hummus is at its best when you let the chickpeas do all the talking.

My basic version relies on chickpeas and tahina for its flavor, with added lemon juice and garlic for a more complex taste. You can always add more garlic or use less tahina if you like. I prefer the convenience of canned chickpeas, but if you want to use dried (and have a few extra hours on your hands) by all means use those. Hummus is usually served with fresh pita bread, falafel (chickpea fritters), or grilled eggplant, but crackers and raw vegetables (carrots, red peppers, broccoli) are popular accompaniments outside of the Middle East.

1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (liquid reserved)
1/4 cup tahina* (sesame paste)
3 TBL lemon juice
1 TBL chickpea liquid
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Serves 4-6; *Tahina can usually be found in the international aisle of large grocery stores or in specialty stores ( e.g. Whole Foods)

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Add an additional tablespoon of the chickpea liquid or olive oil if the hummus is too thick. Refrigerate at least half an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Try adding one of the following as a topping for hummus:
  • Pine Nuts - 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted for 30 seconds in a dry skillet, or until fragrant
  • Chickpeas with oil - 1/3 cup whole chickpeas and a drizzle (1 TBL) of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pomegranate Seeds - 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds - how to cut and de-seed a pomegranate
  • Fresh Tomato & Basil - 1 small tomato, diced and 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped