In my last article I told you about a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The study, "Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet"showed that adhering to the Mediterranean diet ? fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and sea food, legumes, white meat ? supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil ? resulted in 30 percent decrease in the risk of developing stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack) or death from cardiovascular disease. It was then, in a moment of weakness that I promised to reveal a recipe of a Mediterranean dish in which olive oil is a star!
In the U.S., hummus is being promoted as a dip. While it has the consistency of a dip, hummus is served around the Mediterranean as a complete meal, in combination with other salads, or with chicken or meat richly flavored with a mixture of exotic spices. Hummus is typically eaten using pita bread rather than a fork or a spoon. The warm pita bread is opened and is used to scoop the hummus off the plate with what locals call a 'wiping' movement.
There are many variations to the hummus recipe. In Israel, for example, there are many restaurants specializing in making hummus. Each of these restaurants makes a different version of the popular dish. And all claim to have the best recipe?a secret recipe handed down for generations to be revealed only under extreme duress.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
1 cup of uncooked chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
cup of tahini (this is a paste made of ground sesame seeds. It can be bought at organic and health food groceries, or online)
1/3 cup of water
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
handful of parsley leaves
1 tsp salt
tsp ground cumin
dash of cumin, tumeric (optional), paprika or ground cayenne pepper, chopped parsley leaves
cup of extra virgin olive oil
Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups of unsalted water overnight. The chickpeas will absorb much of the water and will become bigger and plump. Drain the water and rinse the chickpeas with ample water.
Cook the chickpeas in 4 cups of water, bring to boil and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer. A white foam will form on the surface of the water. Do not fret! Just remove the foam with a spoon. Cook the chickpeas for a total of 3 hours. During that time, after about 1 hour and then again after 2 hours of cooking, drain the water and rinse the chickpeas, then add fresh water, bring to a boil and continue to simmer. After 3 hours of cooking the chickpeas will be ready. To test, verify that you can easily squeeze one of the chickpeas between your fingers.
Place the fully cooked and drained chickpeas in a blender or a food processor. Add enough water (not more than a 1/3 of a cup) to allow grinding of the chickpeas to a paste-like consistency. Then add the tahini, lemon juice, minced garlic, parsley, salt and ground cumin. Continue to grind until you get a smooth paste.
Add salt, lemon juice and minced garlic to taste.
To serve, place 3-5 tablespoons of the hummus on a plate. Using a spoon, create a well in the center. Sprinkle lightly with cumin, tumeric, and paprika (or ground cayenne pepper), and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Then drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on top.
Eat with fresh, slightly toasted pita bread. The best way to eat hummus is to scoop up the hummus holding a torn-off piece of pita bread in your hand rather than with a spoon. Imagine that you are sitting in a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean sea on a sunny day, the warm, salty wind caressing your face.
Editor's note: Dr. Shahar Madjar is a urologist at Bell Hospital in Ishpeming. Read and comment on prior columns by Dr. Madjar at DrMadjar.com.