Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a nice time surrounded by people you love during the holidays. : ) I don't normally make NY resolutions because I don't like succumbing to the pressures of making resolutions just at the beginning of a year. I prefer making resolutions throughout the year which, in my experience, results in a higher success rate. But I found myself at the brink of the new year with a lot of blogging to catch up on. There is still the last leg of my October trip I'd like to finish documenting. So i resolved to stop slacking and start posting more often!
So here I go, my first post for 2007. I decided to start with a food post, particularly food which I included in the feast my sister and I prepared for us to enjoy as we ushered in the new year.
After I graduated from university, I went on an extended vacation to the US and Canada. I had never had more than a 2 month vacation since I became a kindergartener at the age of 4, so I was really looking forward to this hiatus. Since I finished with a double degree, wasn't it only fair that I also got a double vacation? Of course! So I went away for 4 fabulous months! I stayed in the Bay Area for a little over a month, with side trips to LA & Lake Tahoe, before making my way north to Vancouver, BC where I visited my sister and her family for the remaining 3 months. Needless to say, these were some of the best months of my life and when began my little romance with this beautiful city.
My sister is a stay-at-home mom so we spent a great deal of time together. Much of this time was enjoyed in her kitchen as she prepared dinner for her family. I tried to watch and learn from her while I balanced her then 7 month old son on my hip or painted and colored with her 3 year old daughter on the breakfast table. Because I didn't write anything down, I forgot most of what I learned.
Except for these two dishes...hummus (creamy chickpea dip) and baba ghanoush (creamy eggplant dip). I don't remember if I tried them for the first time that time, but I vividly remember happily eating either one at least twice a week either as an appetizer or as a side, and even sometimes as our main meal and always with some pita bread.
I've only bought hummus once, from a supermarket in London. Blech. That was the last time I had store-bought hummus. No matter how lazy or tired you are or, what's that? You're a kitchen-virgin? Have no fear! Not only are these delicious and healthy, they're unbelievably easy to make. I make hummus quite often at home, sometimes eating little else for a week.
There are countless variations to hummus, in fact I probably don't make it the same each time. I just throw everything into the blender and add a little of this and a little of that to taste. Every country in the Middle East, Northern Africa and along the Mediterranean has their own version of this ancient dish as well.
I prefer to use roasted garlic instead of raw garlic because the taste is nuttier and sweeter. However, when I'm in a rush or making it at someone else's place, I just use raw garlic which makes it delicious nonetheless. And since I'm a garlic fiend, I put lots of it. So for starters, you can use this recipe and tweak it as you please. The kitchen is your playground, and this hummus is your ummm, oyster!
1 can garbanzos (chickpeas, canned or cooked - I buy Molinera)
2-3 tbsp. Tahini (sesame seed paste)
6 cloves of crushed garlic (preferably roasted)
juice of 1 lemon
4-5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt or to taste
1/4 cup water (optional, if you like a smoother and more liquid consistency, though I usually just add more olive oil and lemon juice to achieve the consistency I want)
fresh parsley or olives
Mix everything (except parsley and paprika) in a blender. Pour in a bowl, drizzle with some olive oil then sprinkle with parika and garnish with either olives or parsley. This is best eaten scooped up with warmed pita bread but you may also spread them on melba toast, crackers or french bread. It is also excellent as a vegetable dip.
For some variety, I like to substitute the garbanzos with black beans or fava beans and adding some chili powder or cayenne for a little kick. This will produce a dip similar to ful medames or simply ful, one of Egypt's national dishes. You may also add peeled roasted red peppers or kalamata olives to the basic recipe for a more Mediterranean or Greek flavor.
To make Baba Ghanoush, use the same ingredients as the recipe for hummus above but substitute the garbanzos with 4-5 small (or 2 large) eggplants. What you do is, first pierce the skin of the eggplants and broil them until they're black on all sides. Place them under cold running water while you peel the skin off, then mash the flesh before combining it with all the other ingredients. Serve in a bowl drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, paprika and garnish with parsley or an olive.