Hummus – Tradition and Invention

Absolutes are dangerous.

Of course, absolutes are also attractive, sometimes very attractive because they eliminate uncertainty and create a kind of level playing ground for the mind.  After all, life is so unpredictable, it’s only natural that we’re drawn to anything we perceive as steady, fixed and resolved.  But the truth is, the truth can vary.

And that’s as true in matters of food as it is of anything.  If you’re a well-traveled southerner or just one with family in more than one state, you probably know this instinctively.  Just you try to declare a definitive recipe for BBQ, corn bread, or, heck, even deviled eggs, and you’re likely to find yourself embroiled in the kind of ruckus that has been known suspend family reunions indefinitely and to rouse normally serene southern grandmothers to expletive laced invective.

In parts of the Middle East, you’ll find the same passion for the absolute in discussions about hummus and the one true recipe.  But if history has taught us anything, it demonstrates that there is no such thing as the one true recipe.  Hummus, like all good food, has as many incarnations as there are hands that make it.

Besides, history is notoriously incomplete in matters of food.  Even today as young writers relish and record family recipes, they’re setting down instructions and ingredients that are often several generations old, passed sometimes by food stained recipe card and sometimes by oral tradition. An old family recipe that insists that Duke’s is absolutely the only mayo for a properly deviled egg is curious to me because both Mama and Mamaw only ever had Helman’s in their kitchens.  Somebody changed that absolute, I know it.  And I know that’s true of hummus, too, because I’ve seen it happen.

Hummus is shorthand for hummus bi tahini which means chickpea with sesame paste.  It’s an old recipe with a first recorded mention sometime in the 13th century, though some folks argue that the first reference is actually in the Old Testament’s Book of Ruth.  There’s no recipe in Ruth, just an invitation to dip some bread in the hometz, and that’s just as well; chickpea cultivation is about 10, 000 years old, and I feel confident that someone, whether by accident or intention, mashed up the chickpea and found it good long before anybody even figured out how to make paper.

The basic ingredients of hummus are chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon – and from there it’s a story about invention, adaptation, and experimentation that has launched a thousand little tweaks in kitchens across the globe and close to home, too.

Even here in the Tomato Head kitchens we have a signature recipe that we couldn’t resist fiddling with.  Oh, don’t worry – our original and unsubtle hummus remains as original and unsubtle as ever, but we’ve added some more flavors to the mix.  In fact, there are four new flavors: Beet, Black Bean Sriracha, Carrot, and Classic.

Our new Classic hummus is a traditional, smooth and creamy chickpea centered dip.  The other flavors are just what they sound like because the recipes remain short, simple and fresh. And we make all of them by hand right here at home – that means we roast beets, shred carrots and mash the chickpeas ourselves.

And while they make great dips, don’t get so caught up in absolutes that you overlook all the hummus hack potential – consider the recipe below, Tomato Head’s Beet and Carrot Hummus Sandwich.  It combines 2 flavors of hummus with the taste of market fresh produce for a sandwich of considerable crunch and savor.  And even if the recipe doesn’t pre-date the Common Era and does take some liberties with even older recipes, it’s still absolutely delicious

 

Tomato Head’s Beet and Carrot Hummus Sandwich

For the Corn and Green Bean Salad:

8-10 Green Beans

1 ear Corn

2 tsp Fresh Mint Chopped

2 TBL Feta Cheese

4 tsp Olive Oil

2 tsp Lemon Juice

¼ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Cracked Black Pepper

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 3-5 minutes just until tender. Remove the corn from the pot. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob. Place the corn kernels in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Drop the green beans in the same pot of water and cook for 30 seconds. Drain the green beans and immerse them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Remove the green beans from the ice water and slice thin. Add green beans and remaining ingredients to corn and toss well.

To assemble the sandwich:

1 – 9 oz tub Tomato Head Carrot Hummus

1 – 9 oz tub Tomato Head Beet Hummus

Flour Head Bakery 100% Wheat Bread

1-2 leaves Lacinato Kale Julienned

1 Green Zucchini sliced thin

1 Yellow Zucchini sliced thin

1 Tomato sliced

Place 2 slices of bread on your cutting board. Spread one slice generously with Carrot Hummus, and the other with Beet Hummus. Top one of the slices of bread with Julienned Kale, followed by Yellow Zucchini, Green Zucchini, Corn and Green Bean Salad and Sliced Tomato. Sprinkle the Sliced tomato with Salt and Pepper. Place the second slice of bread on top of the tomato, hummus side down. Cut sandwich in half. Repeat the process if building more than one sandwich.

National Grilled Cheese Day

In my personal pantheon of comfort foods, a grilled cheese ranks in the top tier of edible idols. And, despite the legion of silly food holidays, this sammie not only warrants a national day of observance, it really ought to have its own month.  It’s a particularly cozy comestible because it begins so simply with an irresistible combination of pantry standards that, when treated to a special kind of love in a frying pan or on a griddle, turn into magic: gooey, melted cheese and good bread made better by the unmistakable crunch that comes of frying it in butter.  This remarkable combination of flavor and texture make it one of the great joys of eating – especially when paired with a rich tomato soup that you can dunk your sandwich in.

The only downside to the sandwich is that the grilled cheese is all too often shunted over to the kids’ menu. And believe you me, it takes great fortitude and a mighty will for a person of a certain age to order from the kids’ menu under the glare of a disapproving server (and even some unsympathetic spouses), whose eyes smolder with an unspoken injunction, “Oh, please, grow up!”

In most cases, I’m immune to people throwing shade over my cravings but, here, not so much.  I love kids as much as the next person, and I don’t mind sharing a grilled cheese with children; but they hardly merit having it all to themselves.  Besides, bread and cheese are among life’s most sustaining joys – I’m pretty sure that you could live off of that combination alone.  I’m certain I could.  And judging from the world’s many essential foods that consist mostly of bread and cheese, I’m not alone.  Whether it’s an Italian panino, a South African Braaibroodjie, French Croque Monsieur or an English Toastie, the grilled cheese’s many incarnations are vast and vital, delicious and decidedly grown up.

Although I’m not always in agreement with the urge to update or improve every classic dish in the cooking canon, the sheer number of possible combinations of bread and cheese along with the wealth of foods that meld and melt perfectly between them make it impossible to remain a purist about the grilled cheese.

So, in celebration, the restaurant is going full tilt on the indulgence scale for a sandwich built for the happy adult.  Today, which is National Grilled Cheese Day, we’re serving a special combination of Montery Jack, bacon jam, apple chutney, gritz, and crumbled potato chips (yep, you read that correctly) all on delicious Flour Head 100% whole wheat bread.    It’s an explosion of everything that we love about the sandwich, from intense flavor to hearty texture, which we’re certain will make you glad you got up and out today.

And what’s more, we’ll celebrate again on Thursday with even more Monterey Jack on whole wheat but this time topped with red pepper pesto and roasted kale.

Of course, if you’re really celebrating, you’ll want a cup of good soup; and for that we recommend our Tomato Chipotle soup, which is now available every day.   It’s a rich potage with a lively kick of chipotle’s smoky spice and a smooth but hearty texture that makes it a prime candidate for expert sandwich dunking, which, as far as I can tell, is a life skill that only fully develops in the adult of our species.

Tomato Head’s Apple Chutney and Cheddar Grilled Cheese on Flour Head Bakery Cranberry Almond Bread

For Apple Chutney:

½ cup Oil

1 cup onion, diced

3 medium Granny Smith Apples (about 4 cups), sliced

1 Tbl Jalapeno, minced

2 Tbl cilantro, chopped

¼ cup sugar

2 cup Orange Juice

1 cup Raisins

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Cumin, ground

2 tsp Curry Powder

½ tsp Ginger, ground

½ tsp Coriander, ground

1/8 tsp cinnamon, ground

¼ cup vinegar

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add apples, jalapeno, and cilantro and saute 1-2 minutes longer. Add orange juice. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to medium low.

Add remaining ingredients.  drop heat to low and stir frequently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until mixture thickens.

To Assemble Grilled Cheese:

Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat.

Generously butter an even number of slices of bread. Place the slices butter down on a parchment lined baking pan. Top ½ of the slices of bread with a generous portion of chutney, some thinly sliced green apples, one slice of Monterey Jack cheese, and one slice or a generous sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese. Place a piece of buttered bread, butter side up (facing you) on top of each of the assembled pieces of bread.

Grill the sandwiches in the preheated cast iron skillet. 1 or 2 at a time until lightly browned, flipping as necessary, on both sides until cheese has melted.

Tomato Head’s Benedictine

We’ve got the perfect sandwich for summertime picnics – Mahasti’s Benedictine. Spread a generous amount of Benedictine on a slice of Flour Head Bakery Everyday White bread, top with Benton’s bacon, lettuce and tomato. You can also serve it as a dip with Flour Head Bakery pita crisps. Yum Yum Yum!

8 oz cream cheese, soft

1 cup cucumber, grated

¼ cup onion, grated

2 – 3 tsp jalapeno

¼ cup sour cream

¼ tsp plus a pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together until well combined.

Tomato Head’s Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Sandwiches with Carrot Slaw and Spicy Mayo

If you aren’t familiar with Sriracha hot chile sauce, where have you been hiding? “The Rooster” is perfect when mixed with hummus, used as a substitute for ketchup, or added to BBQ sauce to give it an extra punch. Mahasti has mixed Sriracha with mayo and soy sauce to create an extra spicy condiment that pairs well the sweetness of the rice wine vinegar and carrots in the cole slaw.

For the Slaw:

2 cups shredded Carrots

½ cup sliced Onion

1 Tbl Rice Vinegar

2 tsp Sesame Oil

¼ tsp Salt

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, until well combined.

For the Spicy Mayo :

½ cup Mayo

1 Tbl Sriracha Sauce

1 Tbl Soy Sauce

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, until well combined.

To Assemble the Sandwiches:

Baguettes

Thinly Sliced cucumbers

Chicken breast, cooked and sliced

Cut the baguettes into desired size and slice leaving one edge intact. Spread the bottom of the baguette with a generous amount of spicy mayo, top with chicken, thinly sliced cucumbers and slaw.

Serve immediately.

The slaw and mayo makes 4-6 sandwiches depending on the size of your bread.  The recipe can be easily doubled or halved for larger or smaller quantities.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design