Saturday, November 3, 2012

3 cheers for OCD!

The compulsion to seek perfection is my downfall...pride goeth before the fall was a lesson taught often in my childhood, always with St. Michael the Archangel as the example of what to strive for.  God created the heavens and the earth, angels and even more important archangels, but He gave them free will just like us.  Apparently God also made them so cool they thought maybe they were better than Him, so the most beautiful of them, Lucifer, gathered an army of other archangels and tried to take over Heaven.  Michael was the archangel that led the battle and drove them out of Heaven and into hell...and Lucifer has been peeved ever since and spends all his time sulking and trying to mess with us.  This is a good thing to remind myself when I'm obsessed with something that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - we're only talking about hummus for crying out loud.

I posted a recipe a long time ago for hummus, and thought it was excellent, best I ever tasted.  I was woefully ignorant and unschooled as I found out recently.  Went to a Greek restaurant...more like a cafeteria really, and ordered a hummus plate for everyone to share while we waited for our lunch.  BLEW ME AWAY.  How they achieved a texture so silky, void of odd aftertaste, and fruity, yet full-bodied explosion of flavor I do not know...and the dude running the place was not willing to give up a clue to his methods.  Others have also tried and failed...the only nugget learned so far is "the secret is very good olive oil".  Pfft....that isn't the whole story by a long shot.  So to the Google I went, researching my fingers to the bone and learning that everyone and his dog has a recipe for hummus.  Sigh...I had my work cut out for me.

One lead took me to SW Portland, just a hop, skip and a jump from the house I grew up in just outside of Multnomah Village.  In the building that used to be the Piggly Wiggly, where my mom and Uncle Bob worked as meat packer and butcher, was Barbur World Foods.  They specialize in Middle Eastern fare, including a lengthy deli case filled with Greek delights and an oven you could order a freshly baked pita from on the spot.  The hummus there was highly regarded, and rightly so - nothing to muck it up, just pure and simple flavors, and only 4.99 a lb...DANG that's cheap!  I asked a couple questions, and found that they cook their own beans daily, and use a particular brand of hummus - took home a tub of already made plus all needed ingredients and experimented until the house was filled with the music of the legume....I really need to buy some more Yankee Candles.

Several blogs and columns mentioned that skinning the beans would make the end product smoother, so after some trial and error, I found that it only took a little more prep - a big fluffy towel is the key.  Good olive oil is also important...the light stuff I always use is not nearly as good, and doesn't have that fruity flavor the good stuff imparts.  FRESH lemon juice...I will never make it with bottled again, and a good quality tahini and you're almost there.  I hear you can use a blender, but a food processor will be your friend unless you have a fancy blender - I would love to know how it compares, but mine is not so much so my Cuisinart rules.

End result?  One friend tried mine, then that restaurant's and proclaimed mine better...I still think theirs is better, but I'm hyper-critical of myself and cheap to boot so I'm not a good judge.  I hate to say it, but try Gyro House on Baseline in Hillsboro, then this recipe and see what you think...I think they're both worth the effort and inevitable after-effects. And never forget, he who smelt it, dealt it.

Hummus Redux

3 C. dry garbanzo beans (fresher is better...go bulk or a specialty store because it's less likely they've been in that bag since 1983

Soak overnight, rinse and cover with fresh water (a couple inches above beans) and a pinch of salt, bring to boil and let simmer for an hour or more, adding water to keep it above the beans and testing until they are quite soft.  And yes, skim the gross foam off now and then.  Drain and rinse in colander, then pour out on a clean towel, folding over beans and rubbing them with towel until most of the skins are removed.  The hard part was figuring out how to separate them...dump all into a big bowl and cover with lots of cold water.  Stir with your hand in a circle, then as the skins come to the top of the beans and form a tornado, scoop them off and repeat until you've gotten as many as you can out of the bowl.  Drain beans again, set aside.

In large food processor, put the following:

1/3 C. GOOD olive oil...extra virgin, spend a little more and you'll be happier
Juice of one lemon, with a second standing by
1/4 C. GOOD tahini...DO NOT buy the kind in the can, it tastes burnt and bitter.  Look for a jar...
1 or more garlic cloves, or 1/2 tsp garlic granules...use what you like
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper or 1/8 tsp. cayenne...your choice

Process until smooth and emulsified, then add 3 cups of the cooked, de-skinned beans and process.  (The rest of the beans can be stored in the fridge, covered with water, for a week, or in a ziploc bag in the freezer infefinitely) It will lump up, and look nasty, but keep it running and add 1/4 C. warm water.  It will smooth out and start to look less ragged...keep it running, and add more olive oil if it's too thick.  It should be soft, not clumpy - stop and taste so no one gets a piece of your finger in theirs, and add more salt/garlic/pepper/lemon/oil...whatever you think it needs.  I will use a full tsp of garlic granules, or 2-3 cloves, maybe a full tsp of kosher salt, and 1 to 1.5 lemons...I've even been known to add a bit more tahini, but whatever does it for you is good.  Just let it process while you clean up the kitchen and it will actually warm up and smooth out even can't overprocess it.  

Presentation is are supposed to put it on a plate, spread out and then starting at the center with the back of a spoon, start turning the plate and making a spiral in it to the outside...either that or 4 shallow depressions on top, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of paprika.  This new and improved recipe has knocked quite a few socks off, and HS has even said he LOVES it...and it had fresh garlic, unbeknownst to him.  It's good with pita, I love it with wheat pretzel braids, not bad with crudite, and has a delightful edge served directly into your mouth off your finger or the Cuisinart blade.  Thowwy...dithwegawd that wast thatement - I bwame luthifer.  Photo will be added at a later date...enjoy!