The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

April 7, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Homemade Tahini, and Roasting Peppers

Hummus is one of those foods that I think is always best when it's homemade. Not only is it so much more economical... the quality is a million times better than even the best commercial brands. Making it yourself means you control what goes into it, which makes it healthier and tailored to your family's tastes. It's simple to make, too. As long as you have a food processor... you can have a batch of hummus made in less than 30 minutes (less than an hour if you make your own tahini and roasted red peppers.)

So what do you do with it once you've made it? Oh let me count the ways!

~ I love a sandwich made with hummus as the main ingredient. Make it a cold sandwich with thinly sliced cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, tomato, avocado. You can make a warm sandwich with roasted vegetables along with hummus... roasted asparagus, zucchini, peppers and onions.

~ I use it as a condiment instead of mayonnaise, too. It's good in egg, tuna or chicken salad as a binder. It's delicious in deviled eggs, again, instead of the mayo. You can even forgo the yolks completely and fill the hard boiled egg whites with just hummus. Use a pastry bag (or even a Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off) to fill the whites and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika. Amazing!

~ It's great as a dressing for pasta or vegetable salad. It's also good tossed with hot pasta. Thin it a bit with a little olive oil or mayo or use it as is.

~ Of course it's great as a dip. My personal favorite is to dip sliced raw zucchini or yellow squash. Any raw or roasted vegetable dipped in hummus is divine. Pita chips, crackers, chunks of crusty bread... if you can dip it, it'll probably be good.

~ Another thing I love to do it spread hummus on a pizza crust instead of pizza sauce. Add some olives, tomatoes, feta cheese and bake... a sort of Mediterranean spin on the usual.

~ Spread a thick coating onto chicken pieces and bake in the oven using your usual baked chicken recipe instructions. It's great on boneless, skinless breast pieces to keep them juicy and extra flavorful.

A few more things before I get on to the recipe. I guess I'm feeling particularly verbose today ;) Store bought tahini is good, but if you have trouble finding it in your local store (like I do)... it's really easy to make your own. Again, making your own means you control what goes into it and can make it in whatever quantity you like and without the preservatives that might come in store bought. I've included a simple recipe to make your own below.

Homemade Tahini
2 cups sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil (plus a bit extra, if needed, for smoothness)

1. Preheat a large frying pan on medium high heat.

2. Add the sesame seeds to the dry pan and toast until just starting to brown. Stir the seeds constantly. Keep a very close eye on the seeds, it takes only a couple minutes to toast them and once they start browning they go to burnt quite quickly.

3. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

4. Place the toasted seeds and the olive oil into a food processor.

5. Pulse until smooth. Depending on your machine, it should take about 5 minutes.

6. If your tahini seems too grainy or thick, you can add a bit more olive oil and continue to pulse until you get it to a smoother consistency.

Store tahini in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Homemade tahini will NOT be as smooth as store bought because of the processing they use in commercial production. That's ok. I promise you it will taste better than anything you can buy ready made.

Another thing you might want to consider is making your own roasted red peppers for this recipe. The jarred red peppers are fine to use, and I have used them when that's all I have on hand. But, roasting them yourself is quite easy and yields the best flavor and consistency for hummus.

To roast peppers:
All you need to do is place them directly on the burner if you have a gas range. Use tongs to turn the peppers as they char. They will turn black... that's normal. Don't worry about them burning, but do make sure to char them evenly. If you have an outside grill, you can use this same method.

If you only have an electric range, you can char the peppers under the oven's broiler. Make sure you turn the peppers with tongs and I suggest placing a baking sheet under the peppers to avoid any drips.

Once the peppers are blackened, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave them in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle. 15-20 minutes. The steam from the hot peppers that accumulates in the bowl will help with peeling.

Once cooled, take a knife and gently slice down one side of the pepper to open it and expose the seeds inside. Scrape out the seeds and remove the stem. Remove as much as the charred outside as you can with your fingers and by scraping with the edge of your knife. It should remove quite easily. Don't worry about removing all traces of blackened skin... a little left behind adds a bit of smoky flavor and interesting color.

Once your peppers are cleaned you can chop into small pieces or strips and use immediately or place them in a sealed container, covered in olive oil and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
2- 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 roasted red pepper (or 1- 4 ounce jar roasted red peppers)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup tahini (might need 1/2 cup if using prepared, as it's not as strong)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil (depending on how thin or thick you want it)
Sea salt as desired

Place the chickpeas, red pepper, garlic, tahini, lime juice, paprika, and cumin into a food processor or blender. Pulse until everything is combined well and starting to become smooth. Slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture while running the food processor until the oil is completely incorporated and is the consistency you'd like. The longer you process it, the "fluffier" it will become. Taste and add sea salt to your liking.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to mingle and consistency to thicken before using.

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes about 3 cups.