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August 6, 2007

Hummus a Tune, My Little Garbanzo Bean


We are told that things are not always what they seem. In fact, we are told that so often that when someone says it, we typically roll our eyes and ignore them.


Yet, it is perhaps in the kitchen where this cliché got its start. Where things of great subtlety and complexity and exotic-sounding names are often made from the simplest arrangement of ingredients.


Hummus, in recent years, has become an increasingly popular import because it is both filling and constructed in no way from the flesh of animals. It is also popular at parties, where the hoity-toity can pretend to be worldly by knowing which crudités are the best to dip into it.


Typically, it is made from garbanzo beans, which are called chick peas when offered in all-you-care-to-eat salad bars. But, if you are throwing a party and wish to impress society’s elite, you can substitute the black bean for the garbanzo (hear, now, the oohs and ahhs!).


We are deeply familiar with the nobility of the black bean. It is a bean that has taken to heart the words of Whitman, “Take your hat off to nothing known or unknown.” It bows to no one, but goes to work with a pride and dignity not readily evident among its fellow legumes.


Lesser-known to people is the equal pride of purpose among the key ingredients of tahini. It is these two fellows, who will form the basis for a new kind of hummus, providing a bridge around the world and bringing together the best of two cultures.


Tahini is what you call sesame seed paste. It will come in a liquid with the viscosity of motor oil, but it will be a lovely off-white rather than black.


Stir together two cups of cooked black beans and a teaspoon of tahini. Crush them together with a potato masher and add them to a food processor.


You perhaps are wondering why it is necessary to first mash them. The answer is as simple as the black bean is quietly strong. The bean-tahini mix will start out thick, and if your food processor is not up to the task, there is the chance that what you will produce is a continuing whiff of smoke rolling out from the motor controlling the spinning blades.


It might be necessary for you to grease the skids, so to speak. Some might interpret this as offering the black beans a bribe. If the beans were to catch word that this was your intention, you might find yourself challenged to a duel – pistols at the break of day, the way any proper gentleman seeks recourse.


You can best accomplish this by adding small amounts of extra virgin olive oil. Do this a little at a time, and stop when the blades are able to pass easily through the beans and tahini. Add a couple of whole garlic cloves (watching them sliced and diced should provide cheap entertainment) and also some lemon juice. Were you to make hummus with garbanzo beans, this would be the extent of it. After finishing, you would grab a pita and crudités and begin to feast.


Here, however, we continue. Add some cumin seeds that you’ve first toasted on the stovetop, or cumin powder. You will also want to add perhaps paprika and shredded red onion.


Shredding red onion is a fairly simple affair. Take a hunk of red onion and run it across a grater several times. In this form, the onion-y goodness will more easily spread.


There are others who might suggest adding some roasted red pepper or perhaps even bits of jalapeno pepper. As with all things, the sky is the limit concerning substitutions – it is better to try and fail than to live life with your tail tucked between your legs. Feel the freedom!


Make sure that while combining these things, the hummus remains somewhat liquid. It should be thick enough that it can hold a cucumber slice end on end, but not so thick that one bite’s worth will – upon hitting your stomach – form a ball of concrete. Use olive oil to achieve desired consistency, making sure to add only a little at a time.


Once this is achieved, you have finished. The name might be intimidating, but the process by which it is produced is simpler than changing the oil in your car. Throw things into a food processor, and let electricity and sharp blades do the heavy lifting.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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