by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Chances are you’ve probably heard of hummus. Maybe you’ve tried it. Hopefully you loved it. Or maybe you didn’t even like it, and that’s ok, I’ll try my best to persuade you to make it from scratch and give this wonderful dip another chance.
Hummus is definitely having its moment in the spotlight. Not only is it found on many restaurant menus, but it also has a noticeable presence in the grocery store with several brands available in a range of flavors. You can find savory, spicy, garlicky and many more. But hummus’s close cousin, baba ghanoush, remains under the radar and in the shadows. Both are so similar, yet hummus is feeding off the attention while baba ghanoush gets very little. Hummus and baba ghanoush are both Middle Eastern originating dishes often served with pita, naan or raw vegetables. Both are made with many of the same ingredients such as garlic, lemon juice and tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seed ground to a peanut butter-like consistency. Both have a velvety smooth texture and rich, umami and savory flavors. So what’s the difference?
Hummus is made with chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans and Egyptian peas. Actually, the word hummus is Arabic for chickpea. The legumes are available canned or dried. Hummus can be made with both, although the dried chickpeas require the steps of soaking, cooking and cooling before they are ready to be used in hummus. Choosing dried beans over canned is a lower sodium option, and I personally think it produces a better dip texture that is firmer.
To use dried, place the dry garbanzo beans in a large bowl or pot and fill with water so that the water is at least an inch or two above the peas. Let them soak overnight in the fridge. Drain and place them in a pot. Fill with new water, a dash of salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat and simmer for an hour or until the chickpeas can easily be smashed. Drain and let cool until they are room temperature. Now they are ready for use.
Baba ghanoush is made with eggplant. The name comes from the Arabic phrase baba gannuj, in which baba can mean father or daddy (or an endearment), and gannuj can mean coquettish or pamper. Unlike boiling of the chickpeas for hummus, eggplant can be grilled or roasted as the cooking method which adds a sweet smoky charred flavor to baba ghanoush. Both hummus and baba ghanoush can be topped with roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, flavored oils and pine nuts.
I’ve often found baba ghanoush has other toppings not usually found with hummus. Those toppings include the traditional pomegranate seeds. Another with shaved fennel and grilled carrots added some crunch and sweetness to contrast with the dip’s richness. A sprinkling of fresh mint can brighten the dip’s flavor. Or even adding charred bell peppers and za’atar (pronounced zah-tar) which is a spice blend of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram and sumac.
Here are two starter recipes for hummus and baba ghanoush. Still not sure about an eggplant based dip? Head out to the Illinois Products Farmers Market this Thursday, June 13 to try a sample. We will be out at the fairgrounds market from 4:30-6:30 p.m. demonstrating the baba ghanouch recipe and giving out samples. Hope to see you there! Enjoy!
1 16 ounce can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).
Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread, or cover and refrigerate.
For a spicier hummus, add a sliced red chile or a dash of cayenne pepper.
Hummus can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and can be kept in the freezer for up to one month. Add a little olive oil if it appears to be too dry.
1-2 globe eggplants (approx 2 pounds)
3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoon roasted tahini (sesame paste)
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of one lemon – about 2 1/2 tablespoons
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
Cook the eggplants:
Oven method: Preheat oven to 400°F. Poke the eggplants in several places with the tines of a fork. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil (about 1 Tbsp). Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until very tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Grilling method: Preheat grill. Poke the eggplants in a few places with a fork, then rub the eggplants with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Grill over high heat, turning as each side blackens. Put the charred eggplants in a paper bag, close the bag and let the eggplants steam in their skins for 15-20 minutes.
Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and mash well with a fork.
Add garlic, olive oil, tahini, cumin, lemon juice, salt, cayenne. Combine the eggplant, minced garlic, remaining olive oil (about 2 Tbsp), tahini, cumin, 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice, the salt and a pinch of cayenne.
Mash well. You want the mixture to be somewhat smooth but still retaining some of the eggplant’s texture.
Cool and season to taste: Allow the baba ganoush to cool to room temperature, then season to taste with additional lemon juice, salt, and cayenne.
If you want, swirl a little olive oil on the top. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
Serve with pita bread, crackers, toast, sliced baguette, celery, or cucumber slices.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.