I grew up in the city. Even in New England, summers were hot and the beach offered little relief. The choice was to bake on the sand or become an instant block of ice if you dared to venture into the frigid Atlantic. It really wasn’t until mid to late August that the water temperature became tolerable enough for swimming. Luckily, my parents had friends who had an in ground pool in their backyard. (Unheard of in this city at that time!) We spent many a blissful Sunday afternoon with Rose and Freddy, enjoying their company, sharing snacks and of course lazing in the just right water temperature of their pool. Such a luxury!
One Sunday Rose prepared something wonderful and frankly, I just couldn’t get enough of it. Freddy announced that this ambrosial snack was from a family recipe brought from Lebanon and it was called hummus bi tihini. (Chickpeas with sesame paste.) He instructed us to tear off a piece from a round of pita bread, sandwich in a chunk of red onion and a large, briny black olive, smush it flat, then use it to scoop up some hummus.
A few weeks ago, I whipped up a batch of Freddy’s hummus and Oli took the plate a few steps further. The result was a fine Middle Eastern Mezze. You know Mezze – it’s that platter of small appetizers offered in Middle Eastern restaurants. Our platter ultimately consisted of hummus bi tahini of course, and Oli’s additions of homemade pita bread, and homemade falafel. A quick scavange through the fridge yielded a selection of mixed olives, roasted red peppers, salad greens, feta cheese, pine nuts (which we lightly toasted and tossed onto the hummus), red onion, and a tomato to add to the Mezze. We blended some Greek yogurt with a bit of grated garlic and a pinch of salt for a tangy sauce. By the way, those stuffed grape leaves we posted a while ago would be an excellent addition as well.
None of these snacks is difficult to make. Oli has provided step by step pictures for the pita. We didn’t add step by step pics for the falafel because we think it’s pretty easy. And making the hummus is really a no brainer. Just put all of the ingredients in the food processor and whiz.
Today a plate of Freddy’s Hummus bi tihini, black olives, red onion, pita bread and bites of feta make a fine Friday night nosh for me. A few sips of an ice cold Greek Retsina and let the weekend begin!
Try this healthy mezze and you may never go back to store bought pita, falafel or hummus again!
(Makes 12 pieces)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 medium egg
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Preheat oil for deep frying to 375 F
1. In a food processor, blend chick peas, onion and garlic until you have a fine paste.
2. Transfer paste to a large bowl and add egg, salt, coriander, cumin and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
3. Toss in bread crumbs and parsley. Mix until well blended.
4. Divide mixture into 12 equal size balls, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
5. *Deep-fry a few at a time in preheated oil.
Drain on paper towels after frying.
* Frying a few at a time will keep the oil temperature from falling too quickly.
(Makes 12-6 inch rounds)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dried yeast or 1/2 yeast cake
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 550 F
1. Position large bowl in stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment blend together flour and salt.
2. In a separate medium size bowl, mix together yeast, sugar, water and olive oil.
3. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and use paddle attachment to blend (about 5 minutes) until you have a smooth dough that lets go of the edges of the bowl. Sprinkle in more flour if necessary.
4. Cover bowl with a light weight kitchen towel and allow dough to double in size. (About 1 hour.)
5. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and divide into 12 equal size pieces. Roll each into a ball.
6. Place on baking sheet, cover with light kitchen towel and let double in size again.
7. On a clean work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out each dough ball to about 6 to 7 inches in diameter.
8. *Bake in preheated oven for just 5 minutes. The bread should not brown or take color during the baking.
When the bread has blown up it’s ready!
*We baked the pitas on a pizza stone and recommend that you do the same. If you do not have a stone, you can use a baking sheet.
Hummus bi tahini
This hummus is thick and rich and in my opinion immeasurably better than store bought or commercially produced hummus. It’s what I grew up with and for me there is no other.
You can purchase tahini in Middle Eastern markets or in the specialty food section of your supermarket.
4 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
4 cups canned chickpeas, drained (liquid reserved)
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) chickpea liquid
1. In bowl of food processor, blend together garlic, salt, tahini,lemon juice and olive oil until garlic is finely chopped.
2. Add chick peas and about 4 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid. Pulse until smooth.
3. Sample for flavor and add more tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, chickpea liquid OR salt. This is purely a matter of taste.
Or as Freddy would say: Soufra daimeh!