My Aunt Marie and how I love hummus

I have been doing a lot of thinking about hummus lately. Hummus being on my mind has led me to thinking about my Aunt Marie (my father's only sister). Let me explain (and if you have not realized this already I have a really crazy memory when it comes to family and food), you see I can remember when I first had hummus and it was with my sister and my Aunt. But first I think you have to know a little bit about my Aunt Marie… My Aunt Marie, my cousins, myself, and my little sister in front with the ET doll. This must be 1982 / 1983. As you can see we loved to play with my aunt growing up. (Picture compliments of my cousin who sent it to me a couple of months back.)

Growing up, my parents owned a multi-family home (a triplex) in Garfield, New Jersey. The first floor apartment my parents always rented, the second floor was where we resided, and on the third floor there was a small apartment that my Aunt Marie lived in. When I was little I can remember going upstairs to visit her. My sister and I would play games with her, dance in her kitchen (break dancing on occasion), and tell stories. She had a piano and taught me to play chopsticks - needless to say my Aunt Marie was very cool in my and my sister's opinion. She would take us out shopping with her, we would go to the movies, occasionally she would watch us for my parents, and when my cousins would visit, all of us would have a blast with her. It was great growing up and having her right there. In my late teens, and in the early 90’s, my aunt took my sister and I into New York City for the day. We went to a café for lunch and I can remember she asked if my sister and I would like to have an appetizer, and she pointed out that they had hummus and taro chips. My sister and I did not know what that was. She explained that hummus was a dip or spread made from garbanzo beans. When it got to the table my sister and I dove in and needless to say we really liked it. At the time my Aunt was dating Monir who she married a couple of years later. Our Uncle Monir is Egyptian, and upon knowing we liked the hummus he started to bring it and other Middle Eastern treats for us from a deli he went to. All of the items we would taste were scrumptious, but I had loyalty to the hummus. I later learned how to make hummus on my own and from there on I couldn’t stop.

My most favorite way of eating hummus, with roasted beet and topped with feta.

I tried many different varieties and recipes. I have added countless spices, herbs, other vegetables, paired it with different things too. I once had it with too much garlic – I don’t think my husband was too pleased with me, when he asked for me not to eat it again! But I was on a nonstop hummus mission. Over the past couple months I acquired some new cookbooks, two of them being about Middle Eastern cuisine of one kind or another. Again my hummus inspiration had been rekindled. With lots of garlic aside, I have rediscovered that I love the combination of something deeply roasted along with the hummus recipe below. Like roasted veggies and hummus with some pita (roasted beets with sumac is my favorite). Feta cheese to top it all off and my taste buds are in heaven. The combo is up for you to decide what could be your favorite, but don’t be shy - try them all: carrots, zucchini, eggplant, onion, beets, and so on. It is so much fun and your stomach will be pleased. Thank you Aunt Marie, you have given my taste buds everlasting happiness.

Hummus with olive oil drizzled over the top and some sprinkled sumac.

Hummus (makes about 1 ½ - 2 cups) Note: if you do not have the preserved lemon you can use fresh lemon zest, about 1 tsp in replace of it. This will cause you to add more salt to taste at the end though than if you were to use the preserved lemon. Once again a recipe for preserved lemons can be found here…I always keep jar of some made in our refrigerator.

1 15oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well

1 large (or 2 small) cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed

zest of ½ a preserved lemon; rinsed with pith and flesh removed - chopped small

1 tbsp of tahini paste

3-4 tbsp of olive oil, plus more for plating

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, fit your food processor with your blade attachment. In the base of your processor add your garbanzos, garlic, and lemon zest. Pulse it all together a couple of times to grind it all up.

Next, add in your tahini paste and a couple tbsp of your olive oil. Begin pulsing your garbanzos again until a smooth mixture begins to form. Feel free to help it along by scraping down the sides a couple times to help it work together.

At this point, your mixture should begin to look smooth. If you feel your mixture is too dry and not looking or feeling smooth adding a tiny bit of water at a time while your food processor is running, until it is smooth and cohesive.

Finally, taste your mixture and see how much sea salt and black pepper you will need to add to it. Add your seasoning and a tbsp or two more of olive oil and pulse it again. Place it all in bowl and cover it well with plastic wrap. Let it sit, refrigerated for at least one hour to let the flavors develop before serving.

Variations: above is how I like my hummus when eating it as a sandwich with the roasted veggie to accompany it. You can use the same recipe as above to serve with a crudité platter. In that case I add a bit of lemon juice to the mixture. The acid in it gives the hummus a nice tang and compliments the raw veggies nicely.

Freshly Roasted Beets, cooking them this way leave you with a tender and sweet vegetable.

Roasting Beets: When making a dish like this I like to best go the long way to get the beets roasted. I take the beets trimmed and washed well and lightly coat them in olive oil. I then sprinkle them with sea salt and place them in a 400 degree oven for about 45 min. to an hour (depending on size). They are done when a knife pierces through them easily. Let cool at least 20 minute before handling, and peel the skin off of them and chop up. lightly sprinkle them with some sumac and olive oil before adding it to your hummus.