Hummus is many things: a party snack, a sandwich filler, a way to use up leftover chickpeas. But dinner? Hummus for dinner? Preposterous!
Hey: I understand where you’re coming from. Hummus is a glorified dip and who eats dip for dinner? But ever since I left New York, I’ve been missing my lunches at Hummus Place in the West Village. So last Monday, for dinner, I decided to recreate my regular lunchtime Hummus Place meal, only this time it would be for dinner.
Making hummus is easy enough to summarize in one paragraph without pictures: drain two cans of chickpeas but save the liquid; dump those chickpeas into a food processor along with a few cloves of roughly chopped garlic (3 to 4), lemon juice (from one lemon), and a generous helping of Tahini. From David Lebovitz’s post on the Hummus Factory in Israel, I learned that “Israeli hummus tends to have more tahini in it than other countries.” So I used almost half a container on this particular batch. Whir all of that up, with a pinch of cumin and salt, and you’ll have a very thick paste. That’s why you save that chickpea liquid: pour some of it in and pulse until the hummus is light and fluffy. Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice. Voila! You have hummus.
But the Hummus Place lunch I was trying to recreate isn’t just about hummus. It’s about something called Skhug.
What is Skhug? No Skhug isn’t a cut character from West Side Story. Skhug is, essentially, a chile paste. At Hummus Place, the Skhug is bright green with flecks of red, created by blending up jalapenos, red jalapenos, lots of cilantro, garlic, cardamom and caraway seeds (this is based on a recipe I found online).
All of those things go into a jar (after stemming and seeding the jalapenos and cutting the stems off the cilantro):
Along with salt, a big glug of olive oil and a splash of water (I think I added too much water, so next time I’d use less). Then you blend with a hand blender until you’ve got Skhug.
Not bad for a Skhug first-timer!
As for the rest of the meal, I made a riff on an Israeli salad–which is normally just cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil–by using heirloom cherry tomatoes and, at Craig’s insistence, Feta cheese which transformed the salad into something of a Greek salad. But it still worked.
Finally, for the pita, I used a technique you’ll see often in my cookbook: I toasted it directly on an open gas flame. Just put the pita on the burner, turn on the heat, and with a pair of tongs rotate it back and forth until it’s puffed up and brown on the edges. You can see some of that here:
So to eat hummus for dinner, you spoon some Skhug on to your plate, tear off a piece of pita, drag it through your hummus (which you’ve topped with a little olive oil and paprika), eat a bite, then eat some salad, then go back and forth until you’re full. Is it a healthy dinner? With all the olive oil and Tahini, I’m not sure, but I’m fairly confident it’s better for you than red meat. Plus it looks so pretty:
So the next time someone offers you hummus for dinner, don’t raise an eyebrow. Simply nod your head.