It is, without a doubt, a real necessity to get out of the city as much as possible in the summer. And this year, we just might accomplish the feat of being away nearly every other weekend of the season. There are weddings, wedding planning, family weekends, friends visiting from abroad, and a vacation to boot.
Last week we went to Vermont, with Andrew’s family, for a wedding that took place right over the border in New Hampshire. We stayed in Quechee – a town so pretty and picturesque, it’s as if New England threw up all over itself and made this perfect little New England town, down to the white church steeples, a red barn, and a hardware store that sells just about everything you might need.
Our weekend was a cold and rainy one. I stayed in jeans most of the time and had to borrow a sweatshirt from my future mother-in-law. She saved me, and not just with the sweatshirt business. She packed with far more intelligence than I did – bringing with her black cardigans, leggings, a windbreaker. Me – I packed a few dresses, some sandals maybe, and tiny running clothes, which I didn’t even use.
Still, despite the rain, it was the perfect getaway. We made dinner, we spilled wine, we ate a pepper grown by my future brother and sister-in-law, and we spied a moth sitting outside of our house, drying itself off after a downpour. The moth looked just like folded over leaves. It was the best camouflage ever – hidden in a tree, this moth would never be seen by predators. We took pictures and we marveled. And when the moth finally took flight and left our stoop, we were sad to no longer find it sitting there.
We were less thrilled by the invasion of tiny little ants all over the kitchen. They decided to expand their residence into the living room, and at one point in time, Andrew said he found one crawling all over his book. Perhaps, I suggested, the ant wanted to read it alongside? We tried to sprinkle cinnamon all around the kitchen counters (we heard somewhere ants hate cinnamon), but the ants ignored it and had dance parties on the kitchen island, on the counters, and on the windowsills as if to spite us. Ants – 1; humans – 0.
We went to a wedding of two people who looked far and wide and for a very long time to find one another. They were patient and didn’t give up hope. And looking at them standing at the altar, made me think that whenever people much younger than they are wring their hands in despair that dating is a painful process, and they are tired of searching for the one – these two should shine as a beacon for never giving up on looking for love. And never settling for anything less. When the bride walked down the aisle, the groom sobbed, moved by her beauty, moved by the day itself.
Instead of returning straight to New York, we had to make a stop in Boston to see my family – an aunt from Russia was visiting and I wanted to spend a day catching up with her. Somehow, over dinner, conversation shifted to her recent trip to Israel and she recalled a particularly lovely meal she shared with one of my uncles in a beachside restaurant. She recalled the succulent chicken kebabs, fragrant taboule, and the most amazing hummus she had ever had. She was surprised by how much she liked hummus there – she said it was never something she liked eating.
My mother piped in, “I never liked hummus either. Still don’t,” she said. Then she rummaged in her refrigerator and pulled out a container with store-bought hummus. “Have you ever made it yourself,” I asked. My mother shook her head. It seemed like so much work, she said, bothering with hummus. Suddenly it made perfect sense to me – her hummus dislike – she had never made it from scratch.
Hummus is that one thing that I will encourage everyone to make. But instead of saying that canned chick peas are okay, I will tell you to just go that one step further and soak the legumes the night before cooking them in some water and olive oil. I do this in the morning, while I get the breakfast ready, shower and generally putter around. The chickpeas need little hand-on time, and cook perfectly in under an hour. I transport the whole mess in the refrigerator and when I get home, I make hummus. That last part takes about five minutes, but the results are ambrosial.
There is something about homemade hummus that extends beyond words. And it’s really hard to explain until you try it yourself. True, it seems a little high maintenance with the soaking and the cooking, but once you try it once, you will never, and you can mark my words, go back to the store-made variety. What they sell isn’t quite hummus – it’s hummus-flavored paste. The real deal, the stuff that will make you want to eat it with a spoon, needs just a tiny bit more commitment, but the results are so worth it.
We are due back North in a couple of weeks to look at some possible wedding venues (fingers crossed – we’ll find and book something!) – perhaps I’ll make hummus with my mother – and make a convert out of her. I think there’s a real possibility she’ll love it. I hope I’m right.
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1/2 cup, plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon, more to taste
Pita wedges, for serving
1. Rinse the soaked chickpeas and drain them before putting them in a saucepan and covering them enough fresh water so that you have an inch of water above the chickpeas. Add the 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, skim the scum that forms, cover and cook over medium-low heat, about 1 hour until chickpeas are tender, adding more water if necessary.
2. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid and place them in the food processor. Add the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and the rest of the salt and process until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add some of the cooking liquid until you get a thick, but moist consistency.
3. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and lemon juice, if desired. Serve sprinkled with cayenne and za’atar and drizzled with olive oil. Add a few drops of lemon juice, if desired, and eat with toasted pita wedges.
Makes 4 cups.
Brian @ A Thought For Food
I had to ignore the part where you mention that you were in Boston. One day we will get to meet.
I have been making hummus for years. Some store bought hummus is just as good as homemade… but, really, nothing beats making it from scratch. And it is so simple too… and cheap.
Brian – sorry! I never see anyone – even childhood friends. Between two families we’re rushing around like mad. Add to that grandparents and now wedding stuff – and you can imagine what a crazy weekend it is. We’re literally in for a day in a half! We WILL meet!!
where can you find za’atar? i just made hummus for the 2nd time last night and i’m excited to experiment with different add-ins. i love my little tub of hummus. store-bought is robbery!
jessica – za’atar should be sold in middle eastern spice shops. If you don’t have any near you, you can always order online. Penzey’s, which is excellent, carries it: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyszatar.html.
Hummus from scratch is phenomenal. The first time I had humus in Israel at a cafe that only served hummus (they topped it with everything from sautéed mushrooms to succulent meats) it’s as if I had never eaten “true hummus” before. That day marked the end of store-bought hummus for me and upon my return home to the US “from scratch” has been the only option. My Israeli born hubby really appreciates this. He’ll dip his hard boiled eggs in to them and slather humus on schnitzel between bites. You must convert your mother and show her what she is missing.
I. Hate. Hummus. Period. I like your interpretation but the dish, overall, still stinks. Hate that I feel that way. [frowny face]
I’ll have to find some non-canned bulk chickpeas so I can make this – I already have the tahini (backwards, I know). The picture alone makes it seem worth the try. And maybe I’ll convert the two non-hummous eating guys in my house.
PS – I loved your description of a new england wedding. A couple of years ago we went to one (on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire like you). Like you, I’d packed summer clothes and the weekend was cool and overcast. At the wedding reception – held outside on the newly married couple’s acreage – we all were wearing borrowed sweaters, jackets, blankets, etc over our wedding clothes. Added a certain panache to the pictures and the memories.
I’ve only ever made hummus from canned chickpeas. This recipe will be a new step for me. I haven’t had much luck with soaked beans before, but hopefully the soak and cook will be successful!
I love Quechee! And I love homemade hummus. You are right. I make it once a week for lunch. Pure heaven. I will have to try your version, though. Thanks!
Gretchen @ flowercityfoodie.com
The first time I made hummus from scratch was when I was doing rainforest research in Australia. One of the teaching assistants decided we would make hummus for lunch when we were on kitchen duty. We used dried chickpeas in a pressure cooker (a piece of equipment that I had never used before). It was so so good. When I went to copy down the recipe that he used, it mentioned canned chickpeas. Apparently the tiny town we were nearby didn’t carry canned chickpeas, that’s why we used dried. But, I think the hummus wouldn’t have had that delicious texture if we had used canned. I’ll have to try making it again!
I love Quechee! We were there a few weeks ago. So fun. And I just bought chick peas so I’m on a mission to make hummus!
This looks great and I will certainly try it. There are a lot of simple recipes for homemade tahini online as well, so while the chickpeas soak I will make that as well. Thanks!
Well, hey… you know I live in beautiful Lakes Region NH.
If you want to consider a wedding on Lake Winnipesaukee… let me know!
You are welcome to escape the city and come visit… I’ve got a huge and beautiful kitchen, and a view of the mountains that you’d love!
I don’t know why anyone bothers to buy hummus from a store. It’s so easy to make a t home, tastes better and it a heck of a lot cheaper. I’m pretty much addicted to hummus.
White vinegar for ants. I looked up natural ant deterrents a couple years ago because I didn’t want to harm my cat, and I think that was the most effective of the things I tried. Oh, and I have chickpeas soaking right now.
Anna – thank you so much for the tip. I’ll pass it along to my future MIL! And enjoy the hummus!!
I’ve been meaning to switch from the store-bought hummus to the superior home-made one for a while now. Going to start with your recipe — it looks just right!
I’ve always made hummus using canned chickpeas, I’m thinking maybe its time to try out dried.
Next time you are in Vermont, be sure to visit the Quechee Gorge-there are some spectacular views and some absolute awesome hiking! The summer is winding down and I was wondering if you could post some back to school lunch ideas. I am not a fan of cold cuts, so I wouldn’t send my son to school with them. I am unsure of whether peanuts are allowed, otherwise I wouldn’t worry too much about lunches-he would take a peanut butter sandwich with peanut butter and crackers with a side of peanuts, if it were up to him, but some rules apply.
Thanks so much!
Jennifer – I’ve seen the gorge many times. You’re right – it is gorgeous. As for lunch ideas – I agree with you cold cuts are yucky! How about using leftover roast chicken (I’ve an excellent recipe in the archives) for sandwiches or salads. If you check my turkey salad, it’s delicious. Potato salad works great too. My friend Jennie (www.injennieskitchen.com) has a great nut-free nutella recipe. How do those ideas sound to you?
This is the best hummus I have ever made. I made this the other day with canned beans (it was all I had at the moment) and my own tahini, it was really good. However, I made it again today with dried beans and it is amazing. I’m headed to the kitchen right now to get a second helping. Yum!
Heather – that’s great to hear. Cooking your own chickpeas makes a huge huge difference, doesn’t it?