Hummus…a recipe for peace?… maybe!

IMG_0877Hummus the ultimate comfort food is basically a working man’s dish of blended chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic lemon and salt. Heretics and Americans add cumin; and if you want to be fancy maybe a little paprika, chopped parsley and olive oil to finish then scoop up with fresh and fluffy pita bread, add a few pieces of raw onion to munch and maybe a spicy chili relish.  Anything else is just for the tourists.

Hummus is characteristically the quintessential Middle Eastern dish associated with Arabic food, but has become also a symbol of national identity for Israeli Jews, thus transforming this simple dish of the people into one of the unintentional symbols of the Middle East conflict. With Arabs and Israelis alike claiming it as their own. It is, in essence both essentially Israeli and utterly Middle Eastern at the same time. Although at this point the Greeks will no doubt jump in with their own version of the story.Eating-Hummus-1935

The exact origins of this most basic of peasant dishes is lost in the mists of time and no one really knows for certain who mashed the first chick pea but most likely it originated in ancient Egypt. According to several historical sources, the earliest mention of a hummus like dish dates back to Egypt in the 13th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummus#cite_note-14

Chickpeas along with lentils, beans and primitive grains were the staple foods of the Fertile Crescent regions of the Middle East and commonly eaten right up to today. In fact, the word hummus means chickpea in both modern Hebrew and Arabic. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians traded for centuries. So it is no coincident that many of the foods in the Greek and Middle Eastern repertoire are identical. Stuffed grape leaves, Baklava, kebab, and of course Hummus are all favorite middle Eastern and Greek dishes that “crossed over” especially during the height of the Ottoman Empire.

As for the Israeli connection.  Hummus had been a staple food of the area for both the original Jewish and Arab inhabitants and it was eagerly adopted by the early Jewish pioneers who started the return to Zion in the late 19th and early 20th century and along with other Arabic foods and Arabic slang was seen as a way of identifying with the land.  Later waves of Jews immigrating to the newly born State of Israel from other Middle Eastern countries as well as Europe quickly adopted Hummus as not only a daily staple but a virtual rite of passage for anyone wanting to be seen as “fitting in” and be accepted almost is if they were a bona fide Sabra. Today most Israelis believe hummus to be an Israeli dish. But ironically on the other hand, when we want to eat hummus “asli”, most Israelis will go to an Arab hummus restaurant. Just try getting a seat at Hummus Lina on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem old city or in any one of the Middle Eastern restaurants in the Israeli Arab town Abu Ghosh where on the weekend hundreds of Israeli cars are lined up trying to find a parking spot for the best mezze, hummus and grilled meats in Israel.  Of course ask any genuine native of Tel Aviv and you will be quickly informed that only Abu Hassan in Jaffa is the real deal.Hummus

Truthfully the love of eating a plate of Hummus is probably one of the few things that both Palestinians and Israelis can agree on but maybe there is hope. Today in any one of the numerous local Israeli “hummusiyas” or in Arabic restaurants whether in Jerusalem Old City  or in one of the mixed Jewish / Arab towns like Akko or Jaffa you will find both Jewish Israelis and Arabs both Palestinian or Israeli Arab sitting down together involved in nothing more than that essential Middle Eastern pastime of “wiping” a plate of hummus.

There is no menu; one knows that there will be hummus in a few variations: Hummus with tahini, Hummus with ful, Hummus with egg, Hummus with fried minced lamb and spices and of course, musabacha.  Most likely a chopped vegetable salad, a few freshly fried falafel balls, soft and spongy pita bread, raw onion and a lemon and garlic dip will be brought to the table automatically.  Maybe a side of homemade French fries will be added if wanted. The Hummus and falafel are familiar to most – but outside of the Middle East most people do not recognize masabacha. Made fresh, this fancy version of the hummus dish consists of whole cooked chickpeas and hummus combined, with garlic, lemon juice olive oil. Served warm, it is a very special and more piquant incarnation of Hummus.

wiping the plate

It always strikes me as ironical but at the same time uplifting when I am home in Israel, wandering through down town Jerusalem or in my neighborhood near the “Shuk”, Mahane Yehuda market the sight of Jews and Arabs, both religious and secular, young Israeli soldiers, Arabic mothers in traditional dress with their children in tow, all mingling together to order a falafel or sitting side-by-side devouring a pita stuffed with shawarma and scooping up plates of hummus.  I am fascinated that people who say they distrust each other will without a second thought, oblivious to the day to day political tensions eat the same foods, sharing in peace the same culinary traditions.  Food really does close up the political divide – at least for as long as it takes to wipe clean a plate of hummus.

So let’s make Hummus not war!

Hummus, the Original

(From the Hummus Blog http://humus101.com/EN/ )

Ingredients

[4 extra-large bowls of Hummus]

1 cups dried chickpeas (the smallest you can find)

1/2 cup tahini

Juice from 1 squeezed lemons

1-2 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon + 1/8-1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Salt

Olive oil

Parsley

Directions

1. Pour the chickpeas over a large plate. Go over them and look for damaged grains small stones, or any other thing you would rather leave out of the plate.

2. Wash the chickpeas several times, until the water is transparent. Soak them in clean water over night with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Then, wash it, and soak again in tap water for a few more hours. The grains should absorb most of the water and almost double their volume.

3. Wash the chickpeas well and put them in a large pot. Cover with water, add the rest baking soda and NO salt. Cook until the grains are very easily smashed when pressed between two fingers. It should take around 1-1.5 hours, during which it is advised to switch the water once again, and remove the peels and foam which float over the cooking water. When done, sieve the grains and keep the cooking water.

4. Put the chickpeas into a food processor and grind well. Leave it to chill a little while before you continue.

5. Add the tahini and the rest of the ingredients and go on with the food processor until you get the desired texture. If the Humus is too thick, add some of the cooking water. It should be thinner than the actual desired texture.

Serve with some good olive oil and chopped parsley.

Tahini dip

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 cup top quality raw tahini

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)

Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and gradually add cold water. The first pouring of water makes the paste thick and lumpy. Keep whisking and adding water and the mixture will get thinner and smoother. The quantity of water depends on the consistency you like, ideally the finished dip should have consistence of good cream.
Green Tahini Dip Add 1/2 cup parsley, 1/4 cup coriander and 14 cup mint, all chopped, to the basic tahini dip recipe.

Masabachamasabacha

Ingredients:

2 cups well-cooked chickpeas.  Still warm
1 cup original hummus recipe

½ cup tahini dip
1 Tsp sea-salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tsp cumin

Directions:

Put the warm chickpeas, a little of the cooking liquid and prepared hummus in a big bowl. Add lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt.
Add tahini gradually and mix well.
Spoon the Masabacha hummus, still warm onto a slightly deep plate. Make a well in the middle and add some more cooked chick peas. Sprinkle olive, lemon and chopped parsley over it.

Serve with a lemon and garlic mix and pickled chili peppers

   Hummus with Meat and Pine Nuts
Ingredients (serves 4-6)hummus_with_ground_beef_and_pine_nuts-165512

600 g prepared original hummus recipe
The Meat:

4 tablespoons olive oil

450 g  beef ground with 100 g lamb fat

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon baharat spice mix (Arabic spice mix available in Middle Eastern grocery stores)

Dash of ground chili pepper

2/3 cup parsley, chopped

2-3 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan and sauté the onions until they turn golden. Add the meat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, breaking it down into small crumbs with a fork. Add garlic, season with salt, pepper and baharat and fry 1-2 minutes. Add half the parsley, mix well and remove and keep warm.

Spoon the hummus onto several plates and flatten it to create a crater in the center of each plate. Heap the meat mixture in the crater, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and top with pine nuts. Drizzle some olive oil and serve at once.

Falafel

Ingredients

250 gram chick peas

60 gram cracked wheat or Bulgur (also bulghur, burghul or bulgar)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander powder

2 tablespoon fresh coriander

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions:

1. Soak chick peas in water for 8 hours. Drain.

2. Soak burghul in water for 2 hours. Drain

3. Grind all the ingredients together in a meat grinder.

4. Form balls about 3/4 inch diameter.

5. Deep fry until golden brown (best fried in a net or a deep fryer).

6. Serve in pita bread, Hummus, Tahini sauce, tomatoes-cucumbers-parsley-lemon juice salad.

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