Spreading it on real thick: Hummus gains popularity

Patti Murphy

Food becomes a lot more interesting with a little something spread on top. Toast without butter is dry. A bagel without cream cheese is just not as appetizing.

One healthy, though often overlooked, topping is hummus, a traditional Middle Eastern spread. Made primarily of chickpeas, lemon, tahini (sesame paste) and spices, hummus has a smooth, subtle flavor and is typically used as a dip with pita bread, crackers and vegetables. It also goes well on sandwiches and bagels and as topping on broiled fish, chicken and baked potatoes according to Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a major manufacturer of the product.

Hummus is on its way to becoming the next salsa, proclaimed Bruce J. Rubin, Tribe’s general manager. Rubin added that the spread contains no saturated fats, cholesterol, hydrogenated oils or sugars and is high in protein and fiber.

Three local restaurants offered to hand over their recipes in an effort to elevate hummus above its spicy, Mexican rival.

Traditional hummus courtesy of Hanan Najjar, owner of Athar Restaurant, 149 N. Addison Ave., Elmhurst

Ingredients:

32 oz. pre-cooked chickpeas

2 tsp salt

Juice of 3 lemons

1/4 cup tahini

Instructions:

Open two cans of chickpeas and drain water. Boil fresh water and soak chickpeas for 45 minutes. Mix water and chickpeas in food processor or blender until very smooth. Add tahini, lemon juice and salt and mix.

Spread on a plate, garnish with olive oil, paprika and parsley.

Lentil hummus courtesy of Mike Barys, chef at The Grapevine, 9 W. Hillgrove Ave., La Grange

Ingredients:

4 cups pre-cooked brown lentil beans

1 cup liquid from lentil beans (liquid will have a thicker consistency than water)

1 tbls lemon juice

3 tbls roasted sesame oil

3 cloves fresh garlic (chopped)

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tbls fresh cilantro (chopped)

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of Cheyenne pepper

Instructions:

Open two cans of pre-cooked lentils, drain one and retain the liquid of one can for processing. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a food processor and mix for one and a half minutes until smooth. Add cilantro and mix for 15 more seconds.

Roasted red pepper hummus courtesy of Sean Eastwood, chef proprietor at Isabella’s Estiatorio, 330 W. State St., Geneva

Ingredients

1 roasted red pepper

1/4 cup tahini

1 can (15 1/2 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small garlic clove roughly chopped

1 tbls water plus more as needed

1/2 tsp coarse salt

pinch of ground cumin

pinch of ground nutmeg

Instructions:

Fire roast one red pepper until the skin blisters and is blackened. Place red pepper into a plastic bag and let steam for about 10 minutes. Soften the tahini in the microwave for about 10 to 20 seconds to allow the paste to become more pliable.

While the red pepper is steaming, mix the remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set 1 cup of the hummus aside.

Remove red pepper from the bag and peel the skin off. Cut red pepper in half and remove the seeds and pulp from the inside. Slice the pepper into long strips. Mix the pepper strips and the 1 cup of the hummus mixture set aside in the food processor — blend into a puree.

Mix the puree back into bowl and season to taste.

Option: For a spicy roasted red pepper hummus, add 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper.

Elmhurst Press