It’s nearly summer here in Northern California, which means lots of outdoor entertaining. It gets really freakin’ hot here. Temps of 118F/48C are not unheard of, so it’s good to have a few culinary tricks up your sleeve – food that takes little or no heat to prepare and is good cold or at room temperature. This is where a well-stocked pantry comes in very handy.
For some reason, hummus seems like a summer dish to me. Maybe it’s the association with the Middle East – souks, hot nights, eating casually outdoors. You can buy hummus in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, and some of those are good, but they are pricey and not nearly as good as what you can make at home. Freshly cooked garbanzos are better than canned, but sometimes speed is of the essence (along with not heating up the kitchen more than necessary), so use what you have.
Even though this is a versatile dish any time of year, I like to serve this as an appetizer before (or with) a summer outdoor meal – usually on the Summer Solstice, maybe with good olives, baba ganoush, pita breads, and roasted red peppers. It’s incredibly easy with a food processor or blender, or with thorough mashing with a potato masher or potato ricer.
Here, I chopped three large cloves of garlic and put them in the food processor, along with the juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon and one can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (save the liquid). Then blitz for a good 30 seconds.
See those unchopped bits of garlic on the walls of the processor bowl? Scrape those down into the pureed garbanzos. Blitz again.
Pour in some sesame oil – maybe 1 or 2 teaspoons. (This is in lieu of tahini, which is available in well-stocked supermarkets, health food stores, and Middle Eastern markets – if you have tahini on hand, by all means use that.)
After blitzing, taste the mixture.
Here I added salt, pepper, a glug of fruity olive oil, some of the liquid saved from the can of garbanzos, fresh parsley, some minced fresh Anaheim chile pepper, and a lot of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley. Blitz again and taste, and add seasoning as needed. Keep in mind this will mellow as it ages, and that’s it’s easy to add flavor but not so easy to subtract. Go slow.
I like more rather than less fresh parsley in hummus, so mine turns out on the green-flecked side. I scraped it into a bowl and poured some olive oil over.
Variations are limited by imagination. You could add chopped, seeded tomato; chopped olives; more or less lemon; chopped mint and/or cilantro; feta or blue cheese; cooked, crumbled bacon; chopped green onions (scallions) or sweet red onions; diced mango; diced avocado; roasted red bell peppers. Or use another kind of cooked legume such as white beans or cannelini.
Serve this with pita bread, pita chips or other chips, crudite, thinly sliced & toasted baguette slices. This makes a great vegan pita filling with crisp veggies like cucumbers, thin-sliced cabbage, onion, plus yogurt. Or serve it with out dips and spreads for a light dinner.