A $5 Dinner from the Corner Bodega [Homemade Hummus with Homemade Pita]

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There are moments when I don’t want to plan a dinner, but I don’t want to order in either. In those moments, I think about quick solutions: what if I buy some bread and make an egg salad sandwich? Why don’t I heat up leftover French onion soup? Or–in recent days–why not make some polenta?

Tonight, coming back from a day in the city, I craved hummus. Not the kind you buy already made, I wanted to make it myself. I also wanted homemade pita bread. Every time I have hot, homemade pita bread (like the kind you get at Snack Taverna, for example) it’s so much better than dried-out packaged pita bread, I vow to make my own from now on. But I never do. I tried it once with whole wheat flour and didn’t love it. Tonight, though, would be different. Before getting to my apartment, I popped into the corner bodega (Craig calls it that, I used to just call it “the corner store”) and bought the following:

– a can of chickpeas

– packets of yeast (yes, they have dried yeast at our corner bodega)

– a lemon

That was it. I had garlic and olive oil at home and flour too and that’s all I’d need. The grand total? A little more than $5. Not bad for a Sunday night dinner.

The rest was a matter of minutes. For the pita, this time I used a more basic recipe I found online. You can read it here and it worked really well. The pita dough was a bit sticky (partially my fault since I haphazardly drizzled some honey into it, thinking it would sweeten it and feed the yeast, though I don’t think it did anything). I overcame the stickiness by adding lots of flour and kneading on a highly floured board. Here’s what the pita looked like when it came out of the oven:

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As for the hummus, I made a terrible discovery when I went to make The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe: I had no Tahini. D’oh! Of course! Hummus has tahini!

But then I went online and searched “hummus without tahini” and learned that you can, indeed, make hummus without tahini: just pulverize all the same ingredients without tahini. That’s it. And guess what? It tasted just as good if not better.

Here’s what I pulverized:

– a can of drained chickpeas (liquid reserved)

– the juice of one lemon

– two cloves of garlic chopped up

– salt

– pepper

– red pepper flakes

– olive oil

Those ingredients should be adjusted as you blend. So you blitz it all in the food processor, take a taste, see what it needs, add that ingredient and blitz again. You can’t overblitz your hummus: so if you want it more garlicky, add more garlic. If you want it more lemony, add more lemon. The secret is to use the reserved chickpea liquid to make it creamier: so if your hummus is lumpy, add more of the chickpea water (or just regular water) and it’ll thin out and get creamier and better.

Here’s what it looked like when I was done:

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Not bad, huh? A little olive oil on top and a dusting of paprika, and that’s a pretty impressive show for a little more than $5 and just a little bit of labor. This is the kind of dinner that you should have in your arsenal when someone says, “Cooking at home is too expensive and it takes too much time.”

And granted this dinner would’ve been healthier and more substantial with a salad, if you read the post below this you’ll understand my reasons. Chickpeas have more protein than bugs, don’t they?

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