For the past few days, I have had nothing but Middle Eastern food on my mind. My sister-in-law was visiting a friend in Dubai (which I was not-so-secretly envious of), and we’re planning our upcoming trip to Turkey so all I’ve been thinking about is hummus, warm pita bread, mezze platters and grilled meats *drool*. The copious amounts of food pictures I made her send me didn’t help! For me, this area of the world is the mecca of food flavours. Sumac (crushed sour berries) gives a lemony fresh flavour to dishes and is sprinkled over salads, vegetables or chicken. Za’atar spice blends combine sesame seeds with sumac, thyme and other spices before being added to olive oil as a bread dipper or spread over the bread and baked . Grilled meats, charred and succulent, are served with warm pita bread and vegetables stuffed with rice and ground meat are stewed in a fragrant tomato sauce. Mint and parsley garnish almost every dish, earthy olive oil is drizzled over mezze platters and sweet dates and honey ooze from delicious desserts. Oh my!
In an effort to quench my craving for Middle Eastern food, I decided that I needed to learn how to make these amazing foods at home. Hummus seemed like a good and simple place to start. I added chickpeas with tahini, lemon, garlic and olive oil and blended it. I sat down on the couch to enjoy my creation but what a disappointment!! The hummus was grainy, gritty and at best, borderline acceptable. I still ate it, of course, since I have no shame and I was so excited for my home-made hummus. I made myself eat it….all of it. As I ate this sub-par hummus, I searched my brain- what did I do wrong? Where was that smooth texture I loved? All the recipes on Google looked so simple, so what happened?
It turns out that chickpeas have a translucent skin wrapped around each pea that needs to be peeled off. A skin? Go figure! Now, to be honest, I am easily discouraged when the recipe doesn’t go as I hoped but this was different. I couldn’t give up on this! I dragged myself back into the kitchen, albeit a little grumpy, and started again. I peeled off every skin, determined that those little chickpeas were about to be a part of a delicious hummus dish. They flung over my head, at my head, across the room, on the floor and everywhere else! I’m still finding little chickpeas all over my kitchen.
Here’s the trick, place two fingers and your thumb on the chickpea and squeeze gently until the skin comes off and the naked chickpea bounces right into your bowl. It’ll take awhile to get the hang of it (and I write this post as I spot a chickpea under my fridge) but eventually you’ll aim it straight at the bowl. I know it sounds tedious but it’s so very worth it when your hummus comes out creamy, velvety and oh so delicious! Garnish with sumac and cumin powder, olive oil and a little lemon juice for a healthy indulgence (unless you eat as much as I do!).
This hummus is perfect with za’atar spiced pita chips or, for a healthy alternative, crunchy vegetable sticks (carrots, zucchini or peppers perhaps?). Za’atar spiced chips are so easy to make and add more flavour depth to this dish. Mix a little olive oil with the za’atar spice then spread over a pita round and bake. Try not to eat the whole pita before serving it like I did! Worth it.
Have you ever traveled to the Middle East? What was your favourite food or culinary experience?
- 1 can of chickpeas, skins removed
- ½ cup tahini paste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- reserved chickpea water from can
- salt to taste
- sumac powder, cumin powder and parsley for garnish
- 1 tbsp za'atar spice blend
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 pita rounds
- Preheat oven to 350F for the pita chips.
- Peel the skins of the chickpeas and place in a blender or food processor. Pulse the blender until the chickpeas form sandy crumbles. You may have to scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add in tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil and blend.
- Slowly add in chickpea water to thin the mixture until you reach your desired creamy and smooth texture.
- Garnish with sumac and cumin powder and chopped parsley. Drizzle olive oil on top for extra flavour.
- For the pita chips, combine the za'atar spice and 2 tsp olive oil in a small bowl. Spread over the pita rounds and bake at 350F for approx. 5-10 mins until the pitas turn slightly crispy. Remove from the oven and cut into triangles and serve.