It’s Tahini Making Time!

This past Sunday brought to an end our 21-day “reset.”  My NCLP and I enjoyed three weeks sans animal products, alcohol, gluten, sugar and caffeine.  Sort of.  While he was a master of discipline, I waved a white flag at caffeine and substituted my four cups of coffee per day for one cup of matcha.

So what did I learn?  I’m still processing.  And, truth be told I’m still riding the reset.  I’m not too eager to pull the coffee press from the cabinet and morning porridge minus that sprinkle of brown sugar is just as sweet.  NCLP and I are in no hurry to embrace animal products – we were vegetarian to begin with so slipping into a virtually vegan lifestyle isn’t that difficult of a stretch.

But I’m not making any promises.  I miss goat yogurt and labane.

What I enjoyed most about the reset was the meal planning.  I guess I never really knew how much I enjoyed being in the kitchen.  It made me happy to be there.  I loved how the parameters of the reset encouraged me to be more creative.  We weren’t restricted to raw salad.  We had warm bowls of porridge in the morning loaded with berries, nuts and dried fruit, grilled mushrooms and assorted vegetables on a bed of quinoa drizzled with artisanal olive oil from the farmer’s market at dinner.  Lunch and snacks were light – miso soup with rice noodles or hummus on flax crackers.  Frozen banana “ice cream” or chocolate and chia seed pudding.

On the last day of our reset I added a new appliance to my not-so-well appointed cooking space – an Omega Juicer.  It’s a masticating juicer.  That means it grinds the fruit and vegetable slowly.  This promises less heat and less oxidation.  In other words, a fully loaded end product.  So far I’ve loved it.

The Omega Juicer can also process nuts and seeds.  It has attachments that allow the user to make pasta.  Since my gluten-free pasta making skills are none-existant I’m going to hold off on that.  Instead I’m going to try my hand at tahini making.

The first step?  Soaking sesame seeds.  I’ll see you in four hours. Photos to follow.

Ten Tips for Making the Best Hummus Ever!

Yep.  That's me with a handful of chickpea skins.
Yep. That’s me with a handful of chickpea skins.

I have become a woman who stands by her sink peeling boiled chickpeas in order to make the perfect hummus. Or at least a better hummus. It’s an easy, meditative task that is well worth taking the time to do as it imbues the hummus with a fine texture and mellow flavor.

For years, however, I was a woman satisfied with store bought plastic tubs of pale and watery goop that passed for hummus. The transition from plastic tub of goop to homemade with stale tinned beans to homemade with fresh cooked beans was a slow and considered one, and one not without a few culinary crises.

Those crises would almost certainly have been avoided had I either been more patient or had I followed a recipe. But what’s the fun in that?

Besides – we all know the ingredients in a basic bowl of hummus: chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic, salt and olive oil. Three of those ingredients are added according to taste. Put in as much or as little as you wish. The fourth, tahini – well – I tend to go a bit heavy on.  I love the earthy taste.  So I’m not going to offer you a recipe. Follow your instincts and your taste buds. I will, however, offer some tips to add flavor, depth and texture. Trust me. The effort is worth it. Once taste of homemade hummus and you’ll be hooked.

  1. Rinse and soak your beans. I clean my beans with a good first rinse – picking out any bits of gravel, twigs, broken beans or beans that just aren’t up to par – and then I soak the beans in a pan with enough water to cover them at least 2 inches. The beans swell considerable so do make certain your pan is large enough. I’ll repeat this process – rinse and soak – at least three times before a final overnight soak. It sounds troublesome but it really isn’t. I begin in the morning and then when I’m home for lunch and again at dinner I’ll rinse and repeat. Finally, before I go to bed, the beans have their final rinse and soak. (I’m in water-starved California and all this rinse water is saved for toilet flushing and tomato watering.)
  2. The following morning, after pouring off last night’s soak water and giving them a good wash, the beans are ready to cook. Why all the rinsing and soaking? Soaking will reduce cooking time. Soaking and rinsing also break down the compounds that, for some, make bean eating an uncomfortably windy experience.
  3. When it’s time to cook, add fresh water but don’t salt the water. Salting the water will toughen the beans. We want our beans soft and silky.
  4. Bring the beans to boil and then take them down to a simmer until soft. I’ll test from time to time until I have the right degree of “done-ness.” This can take forty minutes to an hour.
  5. Save a little bit of cooking water. Save a few cooked beans for garnish.

    I'll agitate my beans in a salad spinner to loosen skins.
    I’ll agitate my beans in a salad spinner to loosen skins.
  6. Peel those beans! When your beans have cooked, rinse them in cool water, drain and pour into a large bowl. My technique for peeling chickpeas is to fill the bowl with water and agitate (sometimes I’ll use a salad spinner). Some of the chickpea “skins” will float to the surface, others you’ll have to pop off.
  7. Don’t be stingy with olive oil. When I first began to make hummus that was my biggest mistake. I’d add too little olive oil and used water for added moisture. If you absolutely must add water then use the bean water you reserved from cooking.
  8. Add tahini.  Blend and taste. Blend and taste. Keep blending. Keep tasting. I use an emersion blender but you could also use a traditional blender. Find the perfect balance of beans, olive oil and tahini for your taste buds. Add salt, fresh lemon juice and garlic as needed.

    Seriously good stuff.  Seriously.
    Seriously good stuff. Seriously.
  9. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and the beans you reserved from cooking.
  10. One last tip – don’t be afraid to make your hummus in a large batch. It freezes beautifully.