Hummus for Dinner

Yesterday was a hard day.  Yancey was gone for 24+ hours on his first firefighting shift (which went well, by the way), and I guess the kids and I weren't ready to be yanked out of vacation mode.  I know I wasn't, anyway.  And I felt lonely.  Also, impatient. Especially with Loretta, who was a little dictator all day.  A few times I seriously questioned my ability to hold it together until bedtime.  I went into my room at one point, shut the door, looked up to the sagging popcorn ceiling, and said, "Help."  It's funny how much that actually did help.  I waste energy by trying not to get so desperate sometimes.

Another thing that helped was making this hummus while Loretta was sleeping and Wyatt was playing computer games. Cooking really is soothing for me--it gets me out of my head, helps me feel productive, puts me closer to the nurturing parts of myself.  And often something smallish and easy like this hummus is more fun than trying to put dinner on the table when everyone is cranky and hungry.  There was no rush, it wasn't planned.  Okay.  Maybe a little bit planned, as I had cooked a crockpot of dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) a few days ago.  I find if I cook beans or grains for no reason, it's much easier to be creative later in the week.  

I love canned chickpeas and always have them around.  Lately, though, I've been unsatisfied with hummus made from them. I know the culprit, too.  It's Trader Joe's Mediterranean hummus, which is the best purchased hummus I've ever had and leaves me disillusioned with mine.  So I thought I'd cook my own and see if I could teach TJ's a lesson.  If your crockpot is not your entertainment center, you could easily use canned ones here and be pretty satisfied, I think.

One of the rules I've made up for myself is "Go outside whenever possible."  Last night, after a long day with the kids, it was tempting to stay put, but I knew we'd all be happier if we walked down to the park with our dinner.  So I hauled out Wyatt's bike and Loretta's trike, found both helmets (miracle #1), and made a 10 minute picnic--hummus, carrots, cucumbers, celery, leftover spiced pecans (that's all Loretta ate for dinner, actually), a small wedge of Cambozola, and some whole wheat naan. I also tucked a couple lollipops in my basket in case I'd have to bribe the kids to keep riding their bikes on the way home. Turns out I didn't need them (miracle #2).  They were totally absorbed and happy in the warm evening, and so was I.  That was miracle #3.

There are at least two mistakes I've made with hummus in the past--putting too much garlic in and not putting enough liquid in.  As it sits, it gets more garlicky and sets up, so by the next day I'd have a brick of garlic, basically. I've learned to lighten up on the garlic and make it a little bit thinner than I think it needs to be.  Oh--another mistake was using too much medium-grade olive oil, which made it bitter.  I supplement with some canola oil now.  And pouring extra olive oil on the top is a must.

3 c. cooked chickpeas, drained (If you're cooking them yourself, soak them overnight first, then cook them in a crockpot the next night.  They take forever to cook.)
1 garlic clove
3 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tb. canola oil
quite a bit of salt
juice of one lemon and some of its zest
pinch of ground cumin
crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. hot water

Put garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times.  Add chickpeas, garlic, oils, salt, lemon juice, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Keep the food processor running for a good 3 0r 4 minutes, at least, and add the hot water as it's running. Don't add the full half cup unless you need to.  Stop and dip your finger in a couple times to taste for seasoning and texture.

Garnish with whole chickpeas, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and extra olive oil.