Friday, June 19, 2009

Kitchen Klutz: Darn you, chickpeas! Nasty beans ruin a tasty hummus recipe

**Check back Monday for this recipe!

By Michèle De Meglio

I have recurring nightmares about chickpeas.

Growing up in Starrett City, my single mother sometimes struggled to put dinner on the table so we often hung our heads in shame and sulked into Pathmark’s generic food aisle for canned goods.

Among the stark white labels was a can my mother always turned to — chickpeas.

I hated chickpeas. To my young palate, which favored Cheez Doodles, chickpeas tasted like sand. Icky, yucky, wet sand.

Even when I protested, she made me eat them because, hey, Cheez Doodles were expensive. If I really threw a fit, I had to eat a salmon croquette. Yup, the fish was also from a can. Shudder.

Considering the torture of my youth, I still cringe when coming face to face with chickpeas. In fact, the mere presence of a single chickpea too close to my plate is enough to turn my stomach.

Needless to say, when a kind-hearted friend suggested I try hummus last year, I all but fell to the ground in convulsions.

It took about seven months and lots of prodding but I eventually placed an itty-bitty dollop of hummus on a cracker. Revelation — it was good!

Since then, I’ve lived off the stuff. I have it with pita for a late-night snack or in sandwiches as a spread.

So I was obviously excited to make the creamy concoction last Sunday.

Everything seemed to start out okay.

According to the recipe I was following, I had to open and drain a can of chickpeas. My hands were shaky but I persevered thanks to “The Little Engine That Could” mantra, “I think I can. I think I can.”

After tossing the garbanzo beans in a food processor, I added garlic and tahini. (Was I supposed to buy sesame tahini? It was an awful brown color. And overpriced.) I squeezed in the juice of one lemon. In doing so, I dropped a lemon seed into the machine but tried to fish it out with a tablespoon. Sadly, that seed was never seen again.

With a few — okay, a lot — of chop and grind processing, I thought the mixture was ready. It looked like hummus but seemed a bit off.

Verdict: I screwed up. The recipe I followed didn’t say anything about olive oil. Apparently, you’re supposed to add olive oil while the garbanzo beans are being processed. That’s what makes the mixture smooth and creamy — and edible.

My creation tasted like Elmer’s Glue and was so thick that it rolled around the Tupperware container like a baseball. Tasty? I spit it out. Funny? When I served it to my colleagues it was!

Currently, my fridge contains an untouched package of my favorite hummus but I can’t bring myself to open it.

I’m sure that one day, I’ll be able to enjoy hummus again.

But I’m never eating chickpeas.

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Kitchen Klutz follows 20-something Michèle De Meglio as she burns casseroles and her fingers, all in hope of trading frozen dinners for home cooking.


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