Growing up in Southeast Michigan, Middle-Eastern food was ubiquitous. In Ann Arbor there was this random diner with standard diner fare – western omelettes, burgers, reubens, and pie. And, without any pomp and circumstance, in their appetizer section, they also had one of my favorite things in the world – saganaki – basically, fried cheese. Nowadays, eating Middle-Eastern food is like eating Korean food – it tastes like home. And, hummus is like the kimchi of the Middle-Eastern world… or something.
I’ve got lots of love for Smitten Kitchen, and she has a great recipe for basic hummus. The key to silky smooth hummus is to take the skin off of each little chickpea. It’s a little labor intensive, but so very worth it. Another Middle-Eastern staple sauce is toum. If you’ve ever had authentic chicken shawarma, you’ve had toum. It’s kind of like a garlic aioli, but way more intensely garlicky.
With a lot neutral oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and quite a bit of time next to a food processor, you see science-magic unfold before your eyes. I cut the recipe in half and had plenty of toum to last me for weeks. I put it in future batches of hummus, guacamole, and any recipe that calls for fresh garlic and some fat. I roasted a chicken and made a sauteed kale Mediterranean salad to eat with the sauces.
One of the most decadently simple things to make for dinner is roast chicken. I like to splay my chicken and roast it in a cast-iron pan as the New York Times told me to. Go for a small bird (3-4lbs) – easier to cook and tastes better. As for the salad, I pickled some red onion, sauteed chopped kale, and added feta, quinoa, and mint. We cut up the chicken and ate the meat, salad, hummus, and toum all together in flatbread. It was nice to go home for a moment.