HOW TO TEACH AN FBI AGENT TO MAKE HUMMOS

In THE NIGHT COUNTER, Fatima is baffled by the FBI agent that visits her at home and claims to have a Middle Eastern background but doesn’t know how to make hummos.  A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Saveur about hummos and my own mother’s bafflement at its Americanization of  hummos, i.e. the need of U.S. manufacturers to give everything a “flavor,” as if it didn’t have enough flavor on its own.  There’s really no need for wasabi, pesto, olive tapenade, and pimento hummos.  It’s at its finest when its just the four ingredients man originally intended it to be:  chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt and MAYBE garlic.

Back when I wrote the article, I researched and learned a lot about hummos, but today I’m an expert on how to survive on it.  For my first year in Abu Dhabi, it’s been my main meal for probably 5 out of the 7 days of the week.  With everything being new to me, it became my comfort food and a staple that didn’t make me simutaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed,  like a lot of the multi-ethnic dishes that mirror the multi-ethnic world of Abu Dhabi.  I’m a food adventurer,  but sometimes you don’t want adventure. Hummos is just simple and uncomplicated, unlike everything else during the day.  And its even comforting to know that the same guy will be at the cashier at the Lebanese Mill and you’ll chat Middle East politics while you wait for your order.  And it’s the cashier at the Lebanese Mill that told me one day, “You’ve been looking too pale lately—go get a blood test.”  Turned out, he was right, I was very anemeic.  Hummos is pretty nutritious, but you can’t –or probably shouldn’t–live on hummos alone.

Here’s how Fatima expected the FBI agent to make hummos:

3 C. boiled chickpeas (or four cups, if planning on removing skins or using food mill).
1/2 cup tahini
3 to 4 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
1 small clove of garlic, crushed in mortar and pestle with salt
Salt to taste
Paprika
Chopped parsley

Remove skins from chickpeas (optional).  Place chickpeas in food processor and puree until the beans form a smooth paste (or process in food mill).  Puree beans for at least two minutes, pausing to scrap down bowl.

In a large bowl, mix chickpea puree with tahini and lemon juice. If mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of warm water.

Place the mixture in a soup bowl and swish the hummos up the sides, creating a wide  well in the center.  Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, leaving a little extra in the well. Garnish with paprika.  Place a teaspoon or so of parsley in the well.

Serve with pita bread, pickles, and olives on the side.

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