Simple hummus, Virginia

Our friend Ellen brought hummus to the picnic at Wolf Trap.  It was August and there were five of us.  Far out in the Virginia countryside, it was still a steaming afternoon. Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie were about to sing. The hummus was cold and lemony, straight out of the cooler.  I took to it right away.  

“How do you fix this?” I asked.  

“So simple,” Ellen said.  And it is.

Dried chick peas are not a staple hereabouts; people buy their hummus in plastic tubs.  But I had a can of chick peas in the pantry and I needed to make a little space.  It takes me about twenty minutes to fix hummus from a can but after that it has to spend time in the refrigerator. 

  • Ingredients –  1 can of chick peas, sesame paste (tahina), a few fat cloves of garlic and at least one lemon, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, some flakes of salt and a turn or two of black pepper,  a sprig of fresh mint. By all means sprinkle in a little cumin, dried mint or cayenne pepper, but I must say that dried mint just tastes dusty to me.
  • Method – Open your can of chick peas, empty them into a sieve and reserve their liquid.  Crush an ample sufficiency of garlic.  Add the garlic and the sesame paste, as much as you like. Gently warm your mixture, stirring as you go.  From time to time, pour in small quantities of the chick pea juice. Season it all with black pepper and salt. Carry on until the chick peas are soft, disintegrating and garlic-scented.  Then mash them.  I do this with a fork, but you might use a potato masher.  Because I prefer a nutty edge to my hummus, I don’t use a machine.  But if you would like it flat and silky, treat it with a machine.  Thin things out a little further with a few drops of olive oil.  Cut your lemon in half and squeeze the juice from both halves into the warm hummus.  Allow it cool for a few minutes.  Then cover your hummus and put it into the refrigerator for at least an hour and a half.  You might even give it a stir every now and again.  The sprig of fresh mint is for titivation. 

Maren, my mother in law was with us that night.  She sang along with Pete and Arlo, “If I had a hammer” and “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land, From California to the New York Island”.  Her voice was pure and sweet.  Her cinnamon buns and German chocolate cake were among the most scrumptious things that I have ever eaten.
I still prefer hummus the way I first tasted it, scented of lemon and garlic on a balmy day.  If you have the patience, dried chick peas are best.  It’s better still with homemade flatbreads.

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