With March Madness and Lent coinciding, basketball fans might need to rethink their menus for game watching. Many people give up certain foods, especially indulgent ones, at this time of year. But don't let that put a damper on your party menu.
When friends gather to watch the basketball tournaments, serve a dish that's suitable for everyone: hummus, the Middle Eastern spread that's made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
"Hummus, lentils and salad are common food eaten during the Lenten season," Jeanette Gallaway, a member of St. Andrew Orthodox Church said. Her recipe for hummus is basic and is served at many family and church events.
Protein-packed hummus is on the menu at Lexington's Middle Eastern restaurants, and most offer the classic version made with chickpeas and tahini (sesame seed paste). You can buy ready-made hummus in a variety of flavors at the supermarket.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, the hummus industry has grown from just $5 million in sales 15 years ago to $530 million at U.S. food retailers in 2012.
Making hummus is so easy, there's no reason not to make it from scratch, and Pinterest is a great spot for finding unusual takes on classic recipes. We found hummus made with roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, balsamic caramelized onion, artichoke, avocado, pumpkin, sweet corn and — chocolate.
Shape magazine recently listed a variety of ways to make hummus. All recipes begin with canned beans (chickpeas being the classic), which are whirled in a food processor with other ingredients.
To make a Greek version: Combine 1 can chickpeas, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, 1 cup baby spinach, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon.
A southwestern hummus is made with 1 can black beans, 1 chipotle pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice, ¼ cup cilantro leaves and 1 teaspoon cumin. An Italian version calls for 1 can cannelloni beans and ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
Get the idea? Now move onto other vegetables. You can combine 1¾ cups cubed, cooked or canned beets with 1⁄3 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 clove garlic. 1¾ cup edamame, cooked and shelled, can be substituted for beets.
Here is Gallaway's recipe for traditional hummus.
2 cans chickpeas (drain 1/2 liquid from each can)
1 large garlic clove
Juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup tahini
Salt to taste
Purée chickpeas and garlic in a blender for about 5 to 6 minutes. Slowly add the tahini, lemon juice and salt until thoroughly mixed.
Jamie Geller, author of Joy of Kosher (William Morrow, $30), suggests making hummus to put in little Mason jars to deliver to new neighbors, along with pita chips, instead of cookies or pies.
Geller dresses up classic hummus by layering it with red pepper hummus and spinach hummus to make a colorful trifle.
Here is Geller's version.
Lemon lover's hummus
1 can (15½ ounces) chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 garlic clove
Grated zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt and cumin in a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The mixture will be smooth and creamy. The hummus can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for as long as a week.
Makes 2 cups.
Tricolor hummus trifles: Make a double batch of lemon lover's hummus.
To make layers: For the red pepper layer, place 1 cup hummus, ½ cup coarsely chopped roasted red bell peppers and ¼ teaspoon salt in a food processor; blend until smooth and set aside. For the spinach layer, place 1 cup hummus, ½ cup frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained well), ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt in a food processor, blend until smooth. Do not add anything to the third cup of hummus.
Transfer the three types of hummus to separate pastry bags fitted with large tips. Pipe the hummus in three layers in small trifle dishes or Mason jars. Serve with homemade pita chips.
To make pita crisps: Split pitas in half, cut the two disks into quarters, and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the pitas with sumac, za'atar, or a spice of your choice. Spray with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.