From Hummus Origins…to Aquafaba!

Have you ever wondered who first loved chickpeas enough to blitz them into a creamy, spoonable purée? Because it has been beloved by so many, the origins of hummus are somewhat disputed. Greek and Arab cultures both lay claim to the delightful spread–so, where did hummus come from? And what on earth is aquafaba!?

Is Hummus Greek or Arabic?

If you’ve ever shopped for hummus at the grocery store, you’ve probably noticed packaging with Greek names or inspiration. Yet the word “hummus” actually means “chickpea” in Arabic. Are you confused yet?

Regardless of where hummus comes from, Greeks and Arabs historically traded many goods, sharing ideas, music, and food for a very long time. Both cultures also happen to enjoy stuffed grape leaves and baklava, no doubt reaching back to their intermingling during the Ottoman Empire. It’s no wonder they both claim to be the inventors of hummus! We may never know its true origins.

What we know for sure is that the earliest mention of hummus dates back to 13th century Egypt. Since the 1200s, however, hummus has come in many different forms. A quick Google search yields recipes for “Egyptian hummus,” “Greek hummus,” “Israeli hummus,” “Lebanese hummus“…the list goes on. The basics of these recipes are all fundamentally the same, however; blend cooked chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, and seasonings together and enjoy!

The happy additions of tahini, lemon, and raw garlic make this simple dish enjoyable as an appetizer or first course–or as part of an epic charcuterie platter! So, what makes my recipe different? For this version of hummus, I include a no-cost secret ingredient: aquafaba!

What is Aquafaba?

Aquafaba is the water reserved from the process of cooking chickpeas. This water is rich in starches and, when whipped, makes a colloidal foam not dissimilar to egg whites. This is why aquafaba is popular among vegans and egg-intolerant individuals. The liquid from a can of chickpeas is so reliably fluffy when whipped, it can even be used to make vegan meringue cookies!

Other Ways to Use Aquafaba

Because of its fluffy characteristics when whipped, aquafaba affords bakers and home cooks many options in the kitchen. Here are some of the primary ways chefs use aquafaba:

With aquafaba, the only limit in the kitchen is your imagination! Use it in lieu of egg whites in sweet or savory recipes.

Not Everyone Loves Aquafaba…

While vegans and egg-intolerant people shared a lot of excitement since aquafaba hit the food scene in recent years, some nutritionists remain skeptical. Despite its fluffy characteristics, there’s more to “bean water” (“faba” and “aqua” in Latin) than meets the eye.

Some think consuming the liquid from canned beans can have a deleterious effect due to the BPAs in canned food. (However, the FDA maintains that trace amounts of BPAs do not have harmful effects.) However, you can make your own aquafaba using dried chickpeas if you are concerned about the BPAs in canned food.

Others think the starchy water from the beans causes undue gastrointestinal distress because of its oligosaccharide content. This can cause gas and bloating in folks with a sensitive digestive system, and some claim it can even lead to leaky gut syndrome.

However, due to aquafaba’s recent arrival in the culinary world, there’s not much research to dispute or confirm any potential health benefits (from avoiding eggs) or harmful effects (from BPAs and starches). Cultures have long consumed stews containing the cooking liquid from pre-soaked dried chickpeas, so as is usually the case with intuitive eating, listen to your gut here (literally)! Everything in moderation, right?

Why I Use Aquafaba in This Recipe

The addition of some of the starchy water whips together with the chickpeas to create a truly fluffy, creamy texture without adding excess oil. I personally don’t eat a lot of canned food, am not pregnant, and am not overly concerned about–erm–passing wind. I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t love me any less if I fart…so I’ll take the cut in unnecessary fat and the boost in texture, please! 🙂

Basic Hummus Recipe

Here is the basic skeleton of the recipe for hummus, which you can “dress up” any way you like. I doctored mine with extra raw garlic for a little punch.

ingredients for aquafaba hummus

I crushed the two heads of garlic and left them to soak in the lemon juice for around 15 minutes. The lemon juice takes some of the pungent bite and tempers garlic’s “rougher” edges. For maximum “garlic taming,” mince or press the garlic into the lemon juice.

Blitz everything in a food processor, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of the desired thickness. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranite seeds, sesame seeds, fresh herbs…I topped mine with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac.

finished aquafaba hummus
What a good day to treat yourself!

Serve with your desired dip-able foods! Keeps well covered in the fridge up to 1 week.

Basic Oil-Free Hummus (With Aquafaba!)

The addition of aquafaba eliminates the need to use olive oil as a binder and makes for a fluffy, addicting dip!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine greek, middle eastern, traditional, vegan
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • food processor or blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained, with liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • aquafaba from chickpeas, about 3/4 cup
  • juice from 1 large lemon, about 1/4 cup
  • salt, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Juice the lemon. Peel and chop garlic, then add to the lemon juice to macerate, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, drain chickpeas using a fine strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup. You should have about 3/4 cup of aquafaba. Add chickpeas to a food processor or blender along with tahini, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice with garlic. Pulverize in pulses, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of a desirable consistency.
  • Taste, and season for salt. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranate seeds, sumac, olive oil, sesame seeds, pine nuts, and/or fresh herbs and serve. Keeps well in the fridge about 1 week.
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For other ideas on how to use chickpeas, check out this my recipe for simple chickpea ricotta pasta, or this recipe for butternut squash and chickpea tahini salad!

Nik Sharma’s Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

A few days ago I woke up with a splitting headache and an achy kind of nausea. I say “woke up” loosely, because I laid in bed for several hours just trying to figure out what’s what. Even though it is July in the South, and plenty hot, and plenty humid, I knew what I needed. The answer? Hot, nourishing soup with plenty of collard greens, which happen to be the state vegetable of South Carolina.

You may be thinking, “You crazy woman. It’s 1000 degrees outside where you live and 900% humidity. A walk halfway ’round the block is enough to get you sweating. Why are you making hot soup?”

And reader, I must say: valid point…

However, the body needs what the body needs, and sometimes silver-green bunches of bitter collards and turmeric-coated chickpeas can work some of the profoundest miracles.

I leafed my way through the picture-rich Flavor Equation gluttonously, lingering over pages that contained ingredients I’d never heard of. If you need some magic injected into your culinary life, consider this beautiful book by Nik Sharma. He breaks down some of the science of what makes ingredients big players in the kitchen and throws in some really interesting recipes for adventurous eaters intent on culinary play.

I saw the picture of this chili-spiced soup and just knew it would cure me.

What’s not to love about stewed greens in bright tomato and tamarind, with spiced chili, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper seasoning two kinds of legumes?

I ate not one, but two bowls of this for early dinner and was back on track by 8.

Health Benefits of Collard Greens

These broad, leafy greens have more to offer than meets the eye. Here are some of the top nutritional benefits to eating collard greens regularly:

  1. Liver Detox: Collard greens are rich in glucosinolates, which cleanse cells of toxins and gradually purify the body over time.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in vitamins A, C, K, and B-6 as well as iron, magnesium, and calcium, collard greens offer your body the building blocks to do everything from producing hemoglobin in your red blood cells, to boosting the immune system, to improving skin health.
  3. Fiber: High in both water content and fiber, collard greens are very beneficial to your gut in “keeping regular.” Fiber not only cleans out your lower intestine but also slows down your liver’s processing of sugars, lowering the chance that sugar will be converted to fat. Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels and may even have associations with bolstering mental health.

In South Carolina, it’s standard to purchase collard greens in giant bunches, too large to fit in the average grocery bag. Most folks cut the tough rib out of the center of the leaf, chop the greens into forkable chunks and stew them in a deliciously seasoned liquid. Here is a recipe for classic Southern Collard Greens from Grandbaby Cakes.

The Recipe

Collards aren’t all this dish has to offer. From the healing punch of warming spices to the healthy protein contributed by the chickpeas and lentils, this soup will have you going back for another bowl.

First, I prepped all of the ingredients. I thawed my homemade stock…diced the onion…soaked the red lentils…peeled and chopped the ginger and garlic…washed and cut the collards….etc. It was my day off and I had all day to make magical soup, as far as I was concerned. A mini “vacation,” if you will.

(If you are looking for other ways to use up your gorgeous red lentils, check out this recipe for dal from one of my previous posts!)

Once the ingredients were prepped, it became a matter of bringing out the best in all of them. Sauteeing the onions until translucent, just cooking through the ginger and garlic, caramelizing the tomato paste and blooming the spices, stewing the tomato and collards…then adding the beans and stock to simmer until everything married together.

Serve yourself a bowl, add a healthy amount of fresh herbs on top, and you’ve got yourself a wellness boost:

Bet you can’t eat just one bowl.

Nik Sharma's Spicy Collard Greens and Legume Soup

Nik Sharma
This collard-packed soup is doubled down on legume-y goodness with both red lentils and chickpeas. With warming spices and brightness from fresh tomato and tamarind, this vegetable stew will leave you both refreshed and comforted!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Comfort Food, Intuitive
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric powder
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 7 oz collard greens, rinsed, midribs removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste
  • salt, to taste
  • chopped parsley, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, rinse your lentils in a fine mesh colander and pick out any impurities. Cover lentils in a bowl with 1 cup of water and let soak for 30 minutes.
  • While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomato and set aside. Remove the midribs from the rinsed collards and roughly chop.
  • Heat oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add cinnamon stick, pepper, chili, and turmeric followed by the tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Drop in the diced tomato and collard greens and stir until the leaves are bright green and begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Drain the soaked lentils and add to the pot along with chickpeas and stock.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Season to taste with salt.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and serve immediately.
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Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

Are there things in your pantry that you tend to hoard? How about cans and dry goods that sit on the shelf for months at a time?

For me, one of those items is pasta. It’s hard for me to say “no” to a new experience, especially one costing only a few bucks–so when I pass by a new shape or brand of imported pasta in the grocery store, it usually ends up in the cart.

When the pandemic first started, like many people, I stocked up on nonperishable foods. This, coupled with a frankly obsessive amount of time spent scrolling through the New York Times’ cooking app, yielded some fruitful results, alerting me to recipes which I will no doubt be riffing off of for years to come. This is one of those recipes.

This dish is simple, so if one makes too many substitutions in terms of ingredients, it’s essentially a new dish–that being said, it could be made gluten-free by subbing wheat-alternative noodles. I have yet to come across a vegan ricotta substitution out there, unless one were to spring for some vegan cream cheese and whip it up with a dash of sugar.

But if you are a full-time or even part-time dairy eater, I say go for it and eat the dang ricotta! It’s a truly remarkable, natural compliment to pasta of any sort.

This recipe is great for easy weeknight dinner, or for a meat-free meal. Makes for an excellent lunch, also.

one item i’ve tucked away: squid ink pasta…

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. While that’s boiling, “bloom” the red pepper flakes along with a few cloves of garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Once the oil starts to change color and become fragrant, add drained chickpeas and sauté for a few minutes, until chickpeas are coated in spiced oil and warmed through.

Add cooked noodles, ricotta, some reserved pasta water, and a splash of quality olive oil to the pan and mix.

I added some cherry tomatoes–the last of the season!

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and torn basil, adding salt and pepper to taste.

this made for a very satiating fall lunch

Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

Serves 2

  • 8 oz pasta, or enough for two servings
  • 3 Tbs olive oil for sauteeing, plus 1 Tbs for final assembly
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 c ricotta cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ small lemon, for final assembly
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, for final assembly
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and drain. 

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the first measurement of olive oil and red pepper flakes until the pepper has “bloomed” in the olive oil, about 2 minutes. (Oil should change color and become fragrant.) Add smashed garlic cloves and lower heat to medium, cooking just until they begin to lose their pearly white look, about 3 minutes. Add drained chickpeas and halved tomatoes and stir, coating everything in oil over heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the garlic has changed from white to translucent beige. 

Change heat to low and add drained pasta, ricotta, a squeeze of the half lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and stir everything together.

Plate with torn basil leaves and serve immediately. Pairs excellent with a buttery white wine or plain bubbly water, whichever you prefer.

Butternut Chickpea Tahini Salad

After literally tripping over piles of butternut squash in my mother’s garden, I found myself in the happy position of “inheriting” an abundance of squash. I mean there is a heap of squash in my kitchen. Getting free squash is like getting a Costco-sized jar of gummy vitamins. Delicious and good for you, and lasts forever. Who can complain?

Once, as a joke, I called it “squarsh” in passing. My boyfriend, who doesn’t eat squash, finds this very funny. It has officially been renamed “squarsh” in our household.

“Whatcha eating?” he once said when he came home from work. “Squarsh?”

Mismanagement of the English language aside, I have naturally been wondering what to do with my first butternut of the season. (Cheers to many more. And there likely will be many more as I am up to my ears in gourds.)

Squash and I are old friends, though I tend towards the same two methods of preparing it: either roasting it in cubes with root vegetables and tubers in olive oil and herbs or blending it into a soup. Not that there’s anything wrong with these methods. I’ve just fallen out of the “honeymoon” phase of our relationship, and was looking for a little something to spice things up.

After some internet digging, I found a recipe that ticked a lot of boxes for me–healthy fats, inclusion of protein, simplicity of ingredients, sweet/savory interplay–and, squash gets to be the main player. Plus, for those of you who are interested, this recipe also happens to be vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free.

I riffed on Orangette’s recipe and added my own twists here and there–but why fix it if it ain’t broke?

If you’ve got tahini in your fridge or cupboard and also find yourself in the serendipitous position of having an abundance of squash, you’ve really got no excuse not to make this recipe. (I say that lovingly, of course.) I bought a small jar of tahini just to make this recipe, and am newly obsessed. That bitter, off-putting flavor right up front opens up into a world of nutty, complex, savory deliciousness, if you can get past the hurdle of the first impression. What a fantastic ingredient! And I’ve heard tahini cookies are a thing, so….that will definitely be happening in my future.

Ever gotten curious about tahini? I hadn’t either, until recently. “Tahini” is a Greek word derived from the root verb “tahana” which means “to grind.” And yes, they DO grind the sesame to make a paste (duh!) but first they soak the seeds in salt water which separates the bran from the kernel. The bran sinks in the brine, and the rest is skimmed from the top, washed (dare I say “warshed”?), sometimes toasted, and ground into a precious, flavorful elixir.

Speaking of Greek, my dictionary.com word of the day is “pantophagous,” a Greek-derived word meaning “eating all kinds or a wide variety of foods!” Ain’t life a trip?

But back to the squarsh.

First, I gathered the ingredients…

featured is my beloved mandolin–just buy one already!

I used dried chickpeas, so soaked them 3 parts water to 1 part beans in a big jar the night before. Some people add baking soda (1 tsp per cup of beans) to the soaking water in order to remove the skins. The skins don’t bother me, though some people think they give you gas (whoops) so it’s really a matter of how much work you want to put in/how much you want to subject your friends and family to if you are sensitive to fiber.

I rinsed the beans in fresh water and put them in a pot with 2-3 inches covering them. I placed this over a low simmer with a bay leaf as I prepared the squash. (Alternatively, you can use a can of cooked chickpeas and skip this step entirely.)

dismembered gourd

I crushed up a giant clove of garlic with the side of my knife to release the juices and tossed this along with squash, spices, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl. As this mixture set, I swirled it around with my hands over the next 15 minutes to continue to incorporate that garlic flavor into the oil and “share the love.”

As this set, I preheated the oven, chopped my parsley, and macerated my peppers and red onion in lemon juice to soften them and remove some of their “bite.” I can’t do raw, untreated red onions, as much as I’d love to–I find them overpowering and it’s hard for me to enjoy the rest of the dish. They’re gorgeous though. Definitely the Miss America of onions, if you ask me. (Sorry Walla Walla Sweets–second place again!)

macerating onions and peppers rest at least 15 minutes! I let mine rest, turning intermittently and massaging, for about an hour.

Spread the squash on a medium to large baking sheet with garlic and roast for 30-45 minutes. This is all about you, though: pull the squash when it’s tender–but if you want gushy squash, turn the heat down to 350 and roast a while longer, say 15-30 minutes. If you want crispy edges on your squash like I did, roast at 425 for the full 45 or even a touch longer. (Note: if you want your squash to break down and incorporate into the dressing, roast low and slow. If you want distinct squash pieces coated in dressing, roast higher and faster. Choose your own adventure!)

While squash is roasting, the chickpeas should finish cooking. You want them bite-tender, but still holding their shape. Drain in a colander and rest. Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing…

A little goes a long way with tahini. If you want more subtle flavor, add more oil and/or water.
the dressing loosens up when you toss it in the hot veggies

Pull your squash from the oven, scrape into a large bowl and combine with chickpeas, drained onions and peppers, and most of the parsley, starting with 3 Tbs of the dressing and adding to taste.

Oh yes I think I will, please and thank you.

Gently mix everything together and serve. Keeps well in the fridge and is delicious cold. Can reheat in the microwave using a damp towel to cover, or on the stovetop in a small pot with a splash of water in the bottom (no more than 1/4 cup), stirring constantly. When the water is incorporated/has mostly evaporated, the salad should be warmed through.

yeah, I’m eating this for breakfast.

Tahini Butternut and Chickpeas (vegan, GF, DF, nut-free)

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s blog, “Orangette”

Vegetable Salad

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, smooshed with the flat edge of a knive
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, left overnight in a jar full of water (or, 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • ½ medium red onion, finely sliced with a knife or mandolin
  • 1 ½-2 serrano peppers, finely sliced with a knife or mandolin (if less heat is desired, scrape out the seeds and discard)
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped

Dressing

  • 1 medium garlic clove, pressed, minced, or pounded to a pulp in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (4 Tbs)
  • 3 Tbs stirred tahini
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 3 Tbs olive oil

If using dried chickpeas, place in a jar with space for plenty of water and for the chickpeas to expand. If you want to remove the skins from the chickpeas, place 2 tsp baking soda in the jar and let sit at room temperature overnight. When ready to cook your chickpeas, drain and rinse, then roll them in between your hands to loosen the skins and slough them off. (Alternatively you can heat them with baking soda using this method.) Place the cleaned chickpeas in a large pot with 2-3 inches of water covering them. If desired, add a bay leaf and 3-4 generous pinches of salt. Bring mixture to a gentle boil over high heat then immediately lower to medium-low, simmering between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, or until beans are al dente. You want beans that are tender to bite through but still maintain their shape.

While beans are cooking, preheat oven to 425° F. As oven preheats, peel, seed, and cut your squash. Place squash chunks in a large bowl with the smashed garlic, spices, olive oil, and around 1 tsp of salt, or several three-fingered pinches. Mix with your hands until the spices are evenly distributed over the squash. Let sit at room temperature at least 10 minutes, occasionally stirring mixture with your hands or a wooden spoon in order to move the garlic flavor around the bowl.

While squash is “resting” in its seasonings, macerate the onions and peppers to take some of the bite out of their flavor: place both in a small bowl with 3 Tbs of lemon juice, gently massaging the juice into the slices. Let sit at least 15 minutes. (Note: this is most effective when veggie slices are quite thin.)

While the onions and peppers are soaking, assemble squash into a single layer on a medium baking sheet and bake between 30-45 minutes. I like a little caramelization on my squash so I bake longer for crispy edges. When squash is cooked to your liking, pull squash and allow to cool.

During this time, the chickpeas should finish cooking. Drain in a colander over the sink and let rest until you are ready to assemble the salad.

To make the tahini sauce, whisk garlic, lemon juice, and honey in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Add tahini and whisk. The mixture will thicken considerably. Add water and olive oil until desired texture and taste is reached. 

To assemble the salad: combine squash, chickpeas, macerated veggies (drain off the juice first!) and ¾ of the parsley, saving some for a garnish. Mix with your hands, or a wooden spoon if the mixture is too hot. (I like whole chunks of squash to remain intact, but if you’d like to mush a few pieces for texture, feel free!) Dollop in about 3 Tbs of the tahini dressing and stir to combine. Add more until desired consistency/taste is reached. 

This salad makes a very filling dinner, and beautiful lunches. I like to reheat mine with a damp paper towel over the bowl in the microwave, or by adding leftovers to a small pot with a splash of water over low heat on the stove. When the water has been incorporated into the sauce/has evaporated, the mixture should be warm and ready to eat. This salad is great as is but would be wonderful with fresh spinach or another robust green.

***

Please enjoy these photos of Apollo chewing on a raw butternut squash he found in the garden:

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