The Middle Eastern dip called hummus is no longer exotic to many Americans. Like bagels, sushi, and quiche, hummus has entered mainstream grocery or specialty food stores. It’s in a refrigerated section of the store, hopefully from a local producer, often with a label that looks like it comes from a small company but is actually from a major food conglomerate, and sometimes in multiple brands. The primary ingredients of “original” hummus are chickpeas (a/k/a garbanzo beans), tahini (ground sesame paste), lemon juice, and salt. It is often spiced with garlic, ground cumin, and sometimes cayenne or ground red (hot) pepper.
An easy snack/appetizer and a wonderful, quick lunch, hummus has been a staple in our house for years. I always used to make my own, no longer do so routinely because I have found good and reasonably priced, hummus. I’m all about homemade when it makes sense, but when I can buy good, all-natural, prepared food for less than I can make it myself, I don’t make homemade a matter of principle.
Last weekend I offered to bring hummus, vegetables and homemade pita chips to a baseball playoff party. After “doctoring” store-bought hummus - by adding lemon juice and a bit of water to make the hummus thinner and smoother, I had a brainstorm. To half of the “original” hummus, I added a roasted red pepper and a bit of smoky, sweet paprika. After letting it sit refrigerated for a couple of hours, the flavors melded together for quite a nice variation on the hummus theme. Although I could buy roasted red pepper hummus, I decided that this not-quite-homemade recipe is better and the right compromise for me between “from scratch” and bought-off–the-grocery-shelf.