Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheezy Pesto Hummus...because it's been too damn hot to cook

Holy heat wave, ninjas!  Pretty much the whole U.S. (and apparently much of Canada) was trapped in a heat wave for what seemed like forever.  The heat broke today with some rain (finally!) but it appears we're going to be back up into the nineties by tomorrow, although compared to the triple-digit temps we've been dealing with even that is probably going to feel like a relief.  So here's a recipe for hummus, which is a great fill-you-up, high-protein food that doesn't require you to stand sweating over a hot stove.  Hummus is one of those always-been-vegan foods that is just so damn wonderful I'm not sure what I'd do without it.  It's right up there with avocados, dark chocolate, and beer on my list of foods that I like better than most people I know.  Hummus is endlessly versatile - if you walk into the grocery store you can find seemingly unlimited varieties - roasted garlic hummus, red pepper hummus, spicy hummus, etc. etc. and for those of us who aren't being duped into paying astronomical prices for a product we could make easily in about 10 minutes at home for a small fraction of the price, we can play around even more with ingredients.  I am currently attempting to grow a small windowsill garden that includes parsley, thyme, oregano, pinto beans, hot peppers, and a basil plant.  Tossing some fresh basil into homemade hummus to make a sort of pesto/hummus hybrid turned out wonderfully tasty, so of course I wanted to share the recipe with my fellow ninjas!

Eat this hummus as a dip for fresh veggies, bread, or chips, or in a pita/wrap with veggies and/or falafel.  This ninja's preferred vehicles for transporting hummus from bowl to mouth are baby carrots, celery sticks, sliced cucumber, and whole wheat pita bread.  Perfect food to fill you up when it's hot as hell outside and you can't fathom turning on your stove.

Cheezy Pesto Hummus


6 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, peeled
1 15oz can chickpeas
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
paprika and extra basil for garnish

Place the garlic, basil, olive oil, and onion in a food processor or powerful blender.  Process until relatively smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times.  Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth and fluffy.  Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice if needed.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, and chopped basil if you wish.  Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Blender vs. food processor - I use a food processor for this and pretty much all other non-liquid blending/grinding/processing tasks.  I've blown far too many blender motors in the past trying to make dips, that I really only use a blender for things like soups that are actually liquid.  If you're going to be doing a lot of cooking, or really, even occasional cooking, I highly recommend you get yourself a food processor.  Nothing beats one for making dips, and it's pretty freaking awesome for shredding vegetables as well if it comes with a shredding blade.  Now, go to a store and look at the kitchen appliances and you'll find lots of food processors with hefty price tags, but it doesn't need to be that way.  I got mine for free through Freecycle - if you don't already know, Freecycle is an online group where people give crap away for free to other people in an attempt to help others and keep our junk out of landfills (think "one man's trash is another man's treasure" kind of thing) and most areas have an active group so check it out!  Also try looking at thrift stores that sell small appliances on the cheap.  My processor is a totally huge, kick ass thing that appears to be from the late 1970s.  I call her The Beast.  Allow me to introduce you:

The Beast in all her glory

I've been using this thing for almost 3 years now on a regular basis and it can pulverize thick, beany sauces/dips and shred multiple pounds of potatoes for latkes like a champ with no signs of slowing down.  Not bad for zero dollars, eh?  I probably could have bought a brand new one and not had it work so well.  The phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" is most definitely applicable here.  If the thought of using something for your food that belonged to someone else once skeeves you, just wash it really well in hot water and dish soap with a little bit of diluted bleach.  Mine smelled vaguely of mothballs when I got it (the woman who gave it to me said it had been in the back of a closet for years) and it was nothing a good cleaning couldn't remedy.  Also, get over it!  Buying second-hand is an awesome way to save money and it's good for the environment too.  I buy nearly all of my clothing second-hand and kitchen appliances too when I can find them and I'm not dead yet.  It's my theory that we mostly all have the same germs anyhow.

2. Tahini - in case you aren't familiar with tahini, it's sesame seed butter.  It's made in the same way that peanut butter or any other nut butter is, and like natural peanut butter the oil separates and floats on top so you need to give it a good stir before you measure it out.  You can find tahini in most grocery stores in the same aisle as the peanut butter.

3. "I think nutritional yeast is revolting...what should I do?"  Just leave it out.  You'll have pesto hummus but it will no longer be "cheezy."  Still a "win" in my book.  I just happen to like nutritional yeast and I put it in probably an excessive amount of food items.  What can I say, I still miss cheese and I strive to get that flavor back as much as I can.

4. This makes a TON of hummus so invite some friends over to help you eat it.  Hummus will keep in the fridge in a tightly lidded container for about a week.  Keep a layer of plastic wrap pressed down right onto the top of the hummus to keep it from drying out.

Well, that's all for now, my lovely ninjas.  I'll be whipping out the grill pan again tomorrow for some spicy chili burgers, and I've got recipes for a coconut chickpea stir fry with quinoa and braised vegetables and tofu in a fresh herb sauce forthcoming.  Until then, enjoy your hummus and stay cool!

<3 The Fur Ninja

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