Saturday, September 1, 2007

Pita and Hummus

We are having the traditional end-of-summer cookout on Labor Day weekend and we are going vaguely Mediterranean. One of the appetizers (mezze?) is going to be pita and hummus. The nice thing about both of them is that, even if you buy them, they usually don't have soy in them (read every label, every time.) We buy whole-wheat pita, but we make our hummus. It's just too cheap when you make it, and too darned expensive when you buy it.

Here's a hummus recipe I use. It is sort of a mix of several I have seen. The best hummus I ever ate was in Israel, and I have been seeking that flavor ever since.

Hummus bi Tahini
2 cups cooked chickpeas (cook a bunch ahead of time and freeze them in 2-cup lots, or use canned, but fresh is better)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (can use more, up to 3/4 cup)
1/2-3/4 cup tahini
3 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch cayenne
water or chickpea cooking water
olive oil for serving
paprika, zaatar*, or chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Combine all ingredients in the blender. Add enough water to process (1/4 cup or slightly more). You can make the hummus a little soupy because it is going to stiffen up as it sets. I like it when it is made a day ahead.

In Israel, I had it smeared on a plate, with a circular ditch in it. They put a little olive oil in the ditch, then sprinkled half with paprika and half with zaatar. Most cookbooks tell you to sprinkle it with chopped fresh parsley, and sometimes they say sprinkle with a few reserved chickpeas.

*Zaatar is a dried herb/sesame seed blend. You can probably get it in Mediterranean markets, and Penzey's carries it.

For anyone who is interested, here's the whole Labor Day menu:

Grilled chicken
Orzo salad***
Romaine salad with:
Mayo Caesar dressing
Basbousa (semolina and coconut cake)
Pistachio shortbread
Apricot sweetmeats
Stuffed dates
Mint Iced Tea

**Labne is yogurt cheese. You make it by draining whole-milk yogurt overnight in a sieve through cheesecloth or coffee filters. Serve it with pita the same as the hummus--olive oil and paprika or zaatar. One time we found goat-milk yogurt at Trader Joe's and made labne from that--it was really good.

***I highly recommend the Orzo salad from It calls for 12 oz of orzo, but I just throw in the whole 16-oz box. I don't much like capers (see the post on Tartar sauce) but they seem to work in this recipe. I also recommend cutting back on the oil, almost by half.

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