Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Mighty Legume: Honest Legume Hummus

Some people are scared of the legume. However, I would like to make the pitch that it is a food group worthy of much more than fear. Taste and nutrition wise, legumes are at the top of the food pack, and they are rather versatile to boot. After reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last summer, I've stopped eating most meat that is not free-range and grass-fed (when appropriate). My husband, Steve, and I have also realized that we just eat too much meat anyhow, so we made a conscious effort this year to eat more vegetarian meals (this should make my sister, Christina, who has been vegetarian for years and is currently vegan, happy to hear). Eating vegetarian has totally opened my horizons, particularly when I'm at restaurants that don't serve happy meat. I've had the opportunity this year to order all kinds of things that I would never have ordered before because they didn't have meat in them. Plus, it's just healthier not to eat meat every day. Mark Bittman, "The Minimalist" who writes for the New York Times wrote a blog post recently titled "Vegan Before Dinnertime" (Feb 27, you can access it here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/vegan-before-dinnertime/?scp=1&sq=vegan%20before%20bittman&st=cse) in which he extols the health virtues of eating vegan most of the day. I'm not sure I could go as far as vegan before dinnertime (sorry, Christina), but certainly vegetarian before dinnertime might be a good place to start.

One thing you should know about beans is that if you want to have a complete protein, you need to eat them with seeds, nuts, grains, rice, or corn. Some research shows you can spread this out over a 2-day period (eating beans on day 1 and rice on day 2), but I like to stick with some of the traditional combinations anyway.

The Chickpea

The chickpea is, by far, my favorite legume. I like to eat them all ways: in salads, in hummus (recipe below), in a small bowl with balsamic vinegar and salt (a habit I picked up from my sister, Francesca), and in my favorite soup (chickpea and pasta). A half cup contains 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Nice.

Hummus: Every Chickpea's Dream

This hummus makes an honest legume of the chickpea. Now that Steve and I work/go to school in the same town, we sometimes get to have lunch together, which is a really nice mid-day pleasure. Today I made this hummus and served it with whole wheat pita and a simple green salad with a mustard vinaigrette. This recipe is based off of a recipe from Ina Garten, also known as "The Barefoot Contessa," but is less acidic and less garlicky. A food processor works best for making hummus, but you can also use a blender, and I have even mashed the little peas with a fork when I haven't had the proper tool.

Honest Legume Hummus:

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (or regular salt to taste)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (yes, fresh is best, but I have used bottled in a pinch)
3 T water
10 dashes of Tobasco sauce

Place 2 cups of the chickpeas along with the other ingredients into a food processor and blend until very smooth. (I think these are the best ingredient amounts and the best texture, but everyone's tastes are different, so at this point you should taste and add whatever you think it needs more of: lemon, water, Tobasco, garlic, etc. You can also blend it more coarsely, but then the chickpea skins remain partially in-tact, which I don't like.) Spoon hummus into a dish and sprinkle with remaining chickpeas and paprika.

Coarsely blended hummus:

Finely Blended Hummus:

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