Talk to people from the Middle East about hummus, and the first thing you hear is that this dip in the U.S. is nothing like the one they enjoy at home. According to my Israeli friend, the right variety of chickpeas play the leading role. Latin American chickpeas are better for soups and salads because they are larger, firmer, and stay whole when cooked. The best for hummus are pea-size chickpeas known as Baladi in Israel. They become soft and easily smashed between fingers when cooked. Unfortunately, in the United States, all chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are labeled the same, unless you shop for them at ethnic stores. And even if you make a trip to an ethnic grocery store, Indian for example, the chickpea names will be specific to Indian cuisine — larger Kabuli and smaller Desi aka chana dhal. Choosing the right chickpeas variety is not really an option for an average grocery shopper who craves for amazing hummus. What is the option then?
This recipe is classic French/European recipe for chicken liver pate, except for the first step with soaking livers in starchy ice bath. Most recipes include soaking livers in milk. “It is often said that milk improves the taste, purges blood, lightens the color, or affects some other property of the meat.” (“Modernist Cuisine” (Nathan Myhrvold, p. 147) Soaking lean proteins in cold water (or flavored liquids) mixed with starch is “velveting”, a technique used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking. I’ve heard about it first from my Japanese friend and then found more in Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.
Nothing compares to our childhood food. Our mind recognizes it immediately no matter how old we are and brings back our sweetest memories. This recipe is Elena’s family recipe, from Odessa region. At first, I felt frustrated I don’t know English better to translate her story properly. But then, is it really possible not to loose in translation the beauty of Odessa flavorful way of storytelling?
Edamame has a slightly sweet, mild, fresh herbal flavor and nutty texture, with only traces of beany taste. Three years ago edamame “hummus” has been served in every restaurant I visited on Big Island. Healthy and refreshing snack, it was a hit for a reason. Why hummus? Hawaiian chefs created their signature variations playing with additional ingredients and ways to serve it, but based them on the same culinary idea — cooked beans are ground into a thick paste and mixed with vegetable oil, lime juice, and seasoning. Sounds like “hummus,” but with different beans, doesn’t it?
Pkhali (ფხალი) is a signature Georgian appetizer. Its consistency is similar to pesto and tapenade. Pkhali’s main ingredients are cooked vegetables and walnuts mixed with traditional herbs and spices. If you don’t aim for authenticity, and rather prefer to explore your own vegetables-nuts-herbs-spices variations, play with different nuts and seeds. Use your favorite spice mixes and herbs instead of Utskho Suneli and Khmeli Suneli. You won’t be able to name your dish “pkhali”, but you’ll enjoy it for sure.