One of the best parts of this blog has been reading and replying to comments from readers; and most recently receiving requests for recipes from friends. Cooking is a way that I connect with people. It’s something that I can do as a gift, or as a way to build a friendship, or to show love to friends and family. Often when I am cooking for someone, I am also thinking about that person while I’m chopping the onions and garlic, stirring the veg in the pan, or tasting for final seasoning. It makes cooking more than just putting ingredients together for a meal, but it gives me time to also think about the person or people that I’m cooking for. Its’ an act of love, not just of eating. So when friends request recipes from me I take it as the highest compliment.
It is therefore a great joy that in a couple of upcoming posts I will be sharing a couple of recipes requested from friends who are distant in geography but close in my thoughts. The first recipe I’ll be sharing is for hummus. Hummus is one of those foods that is super simple to make, irks me to buy premade, and is incredibly personal in how you prepare it. The two greatest influences for me in my hummus was the first time I was taught to make it in Beirut, as well as from my experiences in Turkey. In Beirut, the friend who taught me to make it created an amazingly herbaceous version, speckled throughout with finely chopped parsley. In Turkey I was most influenced by our amazing excavation chef, Necmi, who guarded his culinary secrets dearly, but whose hummus was incredibly silky and redolent with garlic and tahini.
Then there was Iowa… Not a statement that normally follows a genealogy of hummus. But it was in Iowa that I was able to expand my initial anthropology of food course into a series of courses, spanning food production and politics; to the cultural expressions of food and identity. It didn’t make sense to me to teach a course on food and not get to taste or prepare food to share in class. So for those classes, especially, I tried to make sure that I brought food to share with my students, and in a couple of cases (some more successful than others) to make food with the class on campus.
One of the most successful cases of this was with my Food Politics class when we spent one class meeting in the college kitchens making ricotta cheese and pizza dough for our own white pizzas. This isn’t just a “fluff” exercise, but it takes the intellectual side of talking about a subject and makes it real by actually touching, preparing, sharing and eating food together.
For this particular class it happened that I had a couple of students who were lactose intolerant and I didn’t want to leave them out. So I started thinking of the bare pizza dough, fired in the oven, what would go well with it? Hummus… Make the pizza dough into a spiced flat bread, serve it with the freshly prepared hummus and you’ve got a rock star food to share. So that’s what we did; made pizza bianca with the homemade dough and ricotta, as well as a meze of hummus and flat bread. I was greatly impacted by many of the students from that class, and it’s been great to keep in touch with them as they graduated (or will soon!) from college and we’ve moved up north. This recipe was requested by one of those students, but she and her friend were inseparable and therefore I can’t bring myself to dedicate this hummus to one without the “other” (anthro humor there… sorry…). Chelsea and Becca, this is for you ladies.
As you will see with this recipe, basic hummus is a great blank canvas for a myriad of flavors. I’ve added smoked paprika for a little Spanish flare, spinach for some extra greenery in a form that my son will eat (sometimes), or roasted red bell pepper for a different savory taste. The sky (and your imagination) are the limit here, so feel free to whip up a batch and personalize it to your tastes.
2 garlic clove (or more to taste)
2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3-4 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed) paste
3-4 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. salt
Approximately ½ cup olive oil
- Drop the garlic one clove at a time into a running food processor through the feed tube. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil and pulse until the ingredients are mixed but still a bit rough.
- Then turn the processor on and through the tube slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until you get the desired creamy consistency.
- Taste and adjust for seasoning. Blend the hummus again. Taste. Blend. Enjoy!
Click here for a printable version of Marie’s Hummus recipe.