A Good Snack

Perhaps you’ve heard this before. If you’re looking for a healthy snack idea, here’s a great one. It takes only a few minutes to make and it never lasts long in our house.

It’s hummus. hummus4This ancient dish has been around in the Middle East and Southern Asia for centuries. But if you buy one of those expensive tubs of the stuff in the grocery store, you should be forced to run 10 laps around that store. It’s so easy to make, there’s really only one excuse: no food processor or blender.

Without these tools, making hummus is a bit of a chore. And you never get the consistency you want. It can be done, of course. People were doing it without electricity for hundreds of years. But it’s a bit of work.

So, we’re going to assume we’re all in the modern era and have some sort of chopping or blending device around the house. Let’s gather together the ingredients in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.

Hummus is essentially a chickpea diphummus-for-real. You can adjust the taste according to what you like: more garlic, less olive oil, whatever. Just load the stuff up in the food processor and let it go until you get the consistency and smoothness you like. And it’s easy to make in large batches for a party.

While you’re at it, you can also make your own pita chips. They’re baked, not fried. That means all of this is a lot healthier for you than almost any other snack you can name, especially the ones you pay all that money for in the supermarket.

It’s best to start on the pita chips first because they take a little longer. Preheat the oven to 350°F and get out a cookie sheet. Get a package of pita bread, or pocket bread it’s sometimes called, and cut the rounds into eight wedges. You can stack them up to do it quicker, just keep it to about 4 or less at a time. Lay the wedges in a single layer on the cookie sheet, keeping just a little space between each one. You’ll have to do it batches, so that’s why we start on this first. Pop the sheet in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Test them for crispness. Don’t leave them in too long, they become so hard you can’t bite through them. Take them out just when they start to get stiff. Let them cool and then put them into an airtight container. I like a zipper storage bag.

While those are in the oven, get the hummus ingredients together.

  • A 15 oz. can of chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. If you can’t find them in the canned beans section of the store, look in the ethnic food aisle. In my house, I get two cans, it goes that fast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil. How much? Depends on your taste and the quality of the oil you have. The stronger the flavor, the less you’ll want to use. You can also use regular olive oil or even some other oil, like the manufacturers do. But the flavor changes, so keep that in mind. A milder oil will yield a milder flavor hummus. I’d start with about a quarter cup per can of beans. But keep the bottle handy, you may want to add more.
  • Lemon juice. And don’t go cheap and buy one of those disgusting little plastic lemons. I’ll admit, sometimes lemons are amazingly expensive out of season. In a pinch, you could use bottled RealLemon juice, but you’re really better off just buying a single lemon. It may cost a dollar, but the taste difference is profound.
  • Garlic. If you like the taste of roasted garlic, take a few heads and put them in foil and stick them in an oven (about 350) for a half hour or so until the whole house smells wonderfully garlicky. You should do this the night before or earlier in the day so they have a chance to cool to room temperature before you squirt the contents into the work bowl of the food processor. If you use fresh, unroasted garlic, be sure to chop it fine first. Four or five cloves should do it, but you can use more or less according to your taste. Using garlic powder in this instance is not cheating and may actually work better.  About a full heaping teaspoon is where I would start, less if you don’t like garlic breath.
  • Cumin. I love this spice. Not only does it add a marvelous fragrance to the dish, but a little bit of a spicy kick that compliments the garlic perfectly. I usually start with about a half-teaspoon and then see what it tastes like.
  • Other spices you might like, such as paprika, basil, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon. Think aromatic spices over peppers, although a little heat won’t hurt. Use small amounts at first, maybe just a pinch or two at a time. Remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it out.

You’ll notice my measurements are not exact. This just isn’t an exact science. This is one of those dishes you just have to taste as you go and adjust accordingly. If you use your taste and your heart as well as your brain, you’ll do just fine.

  1. First open the cans of beans. Get out your stainer or collander and a mixing bowl. Pour the cans into the strainer which should be over the bowl to catch the liquid. Normally, I don’t save the liquid from a can of beans because it’s usually yucky. But in this case, it might come in handy. Set the bowl of liquid aside and rinse the beans in the strainer under cold running water. Do it thoroughly.
  2. Dump the beans, garlic, oil, cumin and other spices into the food processor. Add the juice of one lemon. Remember to hold your hand under the lemon to catch any seeds. Don’t be afraid to use your hands, they’re the best cooking tool you own. Now add a couple tablespoons of the bean liquid to the whole thing. Apply the lid and let ‘er rip. No need to pulse here. Just let it run until the mixture looks mostly smooth. Taste. Very important that. Adjust accordingly. You may need to add more oil, a bit of salt, a few grinds of black pepper or whatever you think it needs. If it’s too thick, add a bit more of the bean liquid. Run the food processor a bit more until it looks like a thick milkshake. And there, you’re done.

Wasn’t that easy?  Now your pita chips should be ready. So transfer the hummus to a bowl or plastic container and start dipping. Chickpeas are very healthy. Sure, the pita bread adds a bit of fat and carbohydrate, but you can also use crackers, vegetables or tortilla chips. It’s a good snack.