Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Heavenly Hummus and Perfect Pitas
The first time I ate Hummus...I HATED it...I was in New York City and wanted to try something different. So, near the U.N. building, I stopped at a street vendor and bought a Hummus Pita Wrap thinking that since I liked pitas and I loved Baba Ganoush (roasted pureed eggplant) I would like the hummus. In retrospect maybe I should have asked more questions because what I had expected was a sandwich with something like Falafel and some hummus as a condiment, instead I got a grilled pita full of a course and smoky warm hummus and nothing else. I really think it was the discrepancy between what I expected and what I got that made it so bad but it was years before I gave Hummus another try. When I finally did...It was like finding nirvana!
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (save some of the packing liquid)
1 1/2 tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)
4 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. adjust the thickness by adding packing liquid from the beans a tbsp at a time. I find about 2-4 tbsp is about right. Serve in a dish with pita bread for dipping. If you'd like you can drizzle some olive oil on top and add fresh herbs of your choice.
Now that you know the basics just go crazy with it. Hummus is, in my humble opinion, the middle east's answer to sour cream. Americans use sour cream to make every conceivable type of snack dip and hummus can be used the same way. It's a great protein filled base for just about any flavor you can imagine. Caramelized onion hummus, roasted garlic hummus, olive hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, sun dried tomato hummus, basil hummus, hummus with pine nuts or just a dash of smoked paprika. Almost anything you can think of will be a good match. It also goes great on sandwiches, is delightful paired with roasted vegetables and couscous and is terrific for holding tabbouleh in a pita. Speaking of pitas, my favorite way to eat Hummus is as a dip and nothing beats pita bread for dipping.
A few months back I decided to try baking my own bread. I'd gotten an old Southern Living annual cookbook and it had a whole section on bread. I tried a couple loaves and did alight but it wasn't until I found The Fresh Loaf website,thefreshloaf.com, that I really got going. This forum has tutorials and a warm, welcoming community that will critique your work, offer suggestions and answer any question no matter how silly you may think it is. It was there, that I found the initial recipe for this pita bread. I have adjusted it by adding spices but the basics remain the same.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey or sugar
2 tbsp olive oil, butter, or shortening
1 tsp each paprika, onion powder, dried basil (optional)
2 tsp yeast (or 1 packet)
Start by dissolving the honey in a half a cup of hot tap water then add the yeast and allow to proof for 5-10 minutes or until foamy. (You don't HAVE to add the honey here but the sugar in the honey helps the yeast to develop and I think it makes it easier to combine with the dry ingredients if the honey is dissolved) In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and spices. make a well in the center add the yeast water mixture. Add the rest of the water and the oil. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a board and knead for about 10 minutes. (You can use a mixer to make this I just choose to make it by hand because I do not have a heavy duty mixer and I like to gauge the dough's readiness by the feel of it. If using a mixer, combine the ingredients in a mixer and once combined you can turn it out and still knead by hand or you can let the mixer do it for you which would be medium speed for about 10 minutes) Place in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough then separate it into 8 pieces. roll each piece into a ball and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. Prepare your oven by moving the rack to the lowest shelf and place your baking stone or cookie sheet on it. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll each ball of dough flat on a lightly floured surface. (You can let the rounds sit for another 15 minutes or so before placing in the oven but you don't have to.) When the oven is ready rub a bit of oil on your hands and pat each pita round a couple of times as you place them in the oven. Depending on the size of your baking surface you should be able to bake 2-4 at a time. Place the pitas on the hot surface and quickly close the oven door. bake for 2-3 minutes on each side. (I usually watch through the window and after the pita has puffed and gained some color I flip them with a pair of tongs.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
**Note** In the past I have let the pitas cool completely before cutting them and later have had difficulty getting the pocket open. When I cut them while the pitas were still hot all the pockets remained open so it might be a good idea to halve them while they are still hot.