homemade hummus

hummus

lest i lose myself completely in a bout of navel-gazing and reminiscing, let’s take a break to talk about hummus, shall we?
 
i think it’s currently my definition of the perfect snack. bright, flavorful, not entirely unhealthy — and if you drag a freshly toasted corner of warm flatbread through a creamy mound of it like i do: a wonderful play of textures. i can be a crunchy hot cheetos girl on any day, but when i’m my best self, i whir up a batch of homemade hummus, run a pita through the toaster oven, and sit down for a cup of tea.
 
this recipe requires two things: a food processor and an extra 10 to 15 minutes of your time. it is completely worth it to spend those meditative moments popping the chickpeas out of their translucent skin one by one. it’s the secret to getting that impossibly smooth, almost whipped texture that so mimics my favorite store-bought hummus at trader joe’s.
 
speaking of which, making hummus at home won’t save you much more than a dollar or so, compared to buying a tub at the store. but i do it for the satisfaction. out of the handful of feats that make me feel like i can handle this adulthood thing, most of mine are kitchen-related. and spooning out soft gobs of my own delicious homemade dip out of the food processor and into its perfectly-sized tupperware container to place in a well-stocked refrigerator, ready for whatever needs may arise, snacking or social or otherwise — that is a priceless feeling.
 
Homemade Hummus
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Makes 1 ¾ cups hummus

15 oz. can cooked, drained chickpeas 
½ cup tahini paste

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¾ teaspoon table salt, or more to taste

Approximately ¼ cup water
Olive oil, paprika, Mediterranean flatbread and/or carrot sticks to serve

  1. Peel your chickpeas: Take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin.
  2. In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture (about 4 tablespoons).
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed.
  4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. To serve, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with toasted flatbread wedges or carrot sticks.

sweetness

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i think summer has come around to be my favorite season again.

i loved it as a kid, of course, because it meant three months of freedom and sunshine. some of my brightest moments from kidhood were summer afternoons with my best friend: we could fill an entire day with sewing clothes for our stuffed animals, scooping a ridiculous amount of ice cream into the blender to make milkshakes, inventing new hairstyles, watching horrible daytime tv, taking turns listening to simon and garfunkel on my walkman…

but some time in college, i came to dread summer. once late may rolled around, i had to confront the fact that i had lost touch with my old friends, and all my new ones would be at home for the break. instead of freedom, summer came to mean empty days in an un-air conditioned house, halfheartedly reading a book or watching reruns of trading spaces, if i was lucky. i recall one year i decided to strip all the wallpaper from my bedroom – using a spray bottle of vinegar and a scraper – and repaint the walls, just so i could have something to do. i learned a very handy home improvement technique, yes, and ended up with a very pretty blue bedroom, but i will also forever have mixed feelings towards the scent of hot vinegar.

these post-college years, i believe, have given summer back to me as my enchanted season. despite working at a school, i don’t have any extra time off, so it’s not about the leisure these days. it’s something else. there’s something to the sweetness of the air in the evening, and how the good weather changes everything. i can have the most trying, confusing day and still come home and sit outside in the light of dusk with a cold drink and my thoughts. that just couldn’t happen on a winter night. i suppose that’s what it is: summer offers some softness, some forgiveness at the end of every day. some space. and – whether i use that space to breathe and quietly try to regain my sanity, or to look up from a relaxed dinner with friends for a moment to notice the twinkly lights – it promises to be there.

thrifty ice cream

did you know that there is this fantastic thing going on at rite aid, where you can get a double scoop of thrifty ice cream for 99 cents? it is real. i went there yesterday evening after a hot, dizzying after-work drive around town to check out potential apartments, and it was just the thing.


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that’s a scoop of chocolate brownie (my first time trying it) plunked on top of a scoop of strawberry (…i’ve lost count by now).

thrifty ice cream has a very secure place in my southern california childhood. there was one summer i would go there nearly every week after my dad picked me up from my evening art class. by the time i climbed out of the car, the night sky would have turned dark and the air finally cool. i would follow my dad into the brightly lit drugstore, flip-flop sandals slapping the floor, and stand before the ice cream freezer to order – without fail – either a scoop of strawberry, mint n chip, or rainbow sherbet. and my dad – almost as predictably – would pull out his green plastic coin purse, those keychain ones you find at souvenir stores that split open like a baked potato when you pinch the ends, and he would pay entirely with change.

one night, when he was slowly counting out the coins and the cashier was standing patiently by and waiting, my embarrassment became palpable. my dad noticed and turned to me and said something like, ‘you know, one day, when you are older, you will remember how daddy used to always pay for your ice cream with pennies.’ i would laugh about it, he implied, instead of fidgeting and scowling. i would look back with fondness.

well, daddy was right. there are all sorts of ways i have grown up since that summer night, but one lick of strawberry, and i return to innocence (that’s a song, isn’t it) and to the tenderness of that moment. so hey, for 99 cents a pop this week, i’m going to revisit my childhood as many times as i can.

strawberry season

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the strawberries in this town are ridiculous. i don’t know if it’s just trader joe’s, or southern california, or maybe the entire state, but every box i’ve bought recently has been filled with berries that are ripe and sweet and flavorful. i was slated to bring dessert for a beach picnic yesterday, and had decided to bring some white chocolate-dipped strawberries. but as i was washing them into a colander in the sink, i popped a couple stray ones into my mouth, and they were so sweet and delicious straight out of the box, it was almost painful to dip them and disrupt the taste with a melted chocolate coating.

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but obviously i did anyway.

now i am inspired to make more of this strawberry season. i made a detour to the market earlier today to pick up more boxes of berries, and this evening i am making that strawberry pie that i posted about earlier. it piles a couple pounds of fresh fruit in a crumbly cookie crust, unadorned except for a saucy glaze made of more strawberries. the pie is for my dad, because today is his birthday.

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over the last couple months, i’ve found cooking is my ticket back home. i returned a while back and spent an afternoon in the kitchen with my mom, relearning how to make the fried rice and dumplings that had been so present in my childhood… and relearning how to talk to my mother. and now perhaps it’s my dad’s turn. i remember saying that this would be the year i’d remember to be a daughter, and for once i feel like i’m starting to do things right. strawberry season is magical in all sorts of ways, i suppose.

traces

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i work not very far at all from where my parents live. i stop at home on a pretty regular basis to pick up this or that, but because of their work hours, i rarely see my mom and dad and often have the house to myself. sometimes i feel like a ghost in the house i grew up in, coming and going, leaving traces of my presence behind: the tv turned to a different channel, shuffled issues of magazines, or – when i’m feeling like a good daughter – a rack of just-washed dishes.

tonight i dropped in to do a load of laundry as i sometimes do. while the machine rumbled and whirred the week’s clothes, i went out the screen door to the backyard and sat at the patio table with a book. under the broad umbrella, i sat down to enjoy the warm evening. there, i noticed a large double-wick candle, a box of matches, and a couple grains of rice left on the seat. i put the pieces together and stitched an unfamiliar image of my parents’ life at home. they, too, like to take their dinner outside on a pleasant, almost-summer night? they buy heavily scented jar candles and sit by their glow?

sometimes it’s strange to think you are like your parents, especially when all you’ve felt these past years is the distance. then suddenly without even trying you find your habits tracing over theirs, effortlessly, with no thought to it at all. sometimes it’s the bad habits, like my mom’s stubbornly nocturnal sleeping routine, but today it was nice to draw the pretty lines back to my family.

like fresh

today, i started over, without even trying. i had a magnificent donut for breakfast: soft and pillowy, with just the thinnest of crackled sugar glazes. i talked to my oldest friend, and we made all sorts of devious plans for the summer. i found a new cookie recipe to jump up and down about. and the work day came and went without beating me up entirely, so that i drove off in the golden light that i am loving more and more these days, passing under the newly purpled jacarandas trees that line the streets of my favorite neighborhood, feeling mostly just goodness and gratitude.

hope is a funny thing: fickle, elusive. but boy, when you have it, everything changes. it pulls together that jumble of everyday obligations and broken desires and gives it a melody, a beat.

i have no idea how mine breezed back in (well, maybe just a few vague ideas), but i am going to ride this for as long as it lasts.

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for hours

the great thing about having friends is…

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everything. at least that’s always how it feels after a long chat with a good one.

this past weekend, i had the chance – kind of serendipitously – to catch up with a girlfriend of mine over brunch. i was reminded once again never to underestimate the healing powers of some gentle sunshine and fresh air, a good chocolate croissant, and a table to sit at for hours – talking and talking and feeling understood.

bits of green

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i have a thing for this fig tree. when i signed the lease for this little apartment (my first, my only), it was not there. there was nothing but a square of cracked dirt that lay outside the living room window. but by the time i moved in, there it was. a good, kind neighbor had planted it with hopes of seeing a garden come to life, inner city smog and grit be darned. since then, it has grown to be quite a handsome specimen, and i like to watch it as the seasons grace its limbs with change.

summer is grand, of course, when the branches are ruffled with the broad, green leaves and the ripe fruit hangs heavy and deep purple. but the time – mere moments, it seems – before spring fully sweeps in… it’s something else. the slender, knobbled branches remain bare as can be, except for the cutest bits of green that miraculously crack their way out of the dry bark. in each baby leaf i can see its full-size future, and it’s thrilling in the simplest of ways.

as i prepare for a few changes of my own, i like knowing that this tree stands stately outside, quiet in its cycle of growth and steady just the same.

quiet night

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i had one of those days. despite going about normal business, like showing up to work and buying a carton of milk, i spent most of the day inside my head, tunneling through thoughts. it was a solitary day. it was fitting, then, that at the end of it i came home to a silent apartment, bags of groceries in hand, recipe in mind, and – after some diligent chopping – made myself a simple dinner.

sometimes, when you’re young and a little bit lost, it’s best to just come home to yourself.

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the name of the recipe doesn’t quite give the right impression. but i suppose chicken-and-cherry-and-walnut-and-shallot-and-tarragon-salad sandwich would be a mouthful, and you don’t need a mouthful before you make a recipe. in any case, it was a lovely meal for a quiet night, with a glass of wine and some soft songs on the side.

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Chicken and Cherry Sandwiches
adapted ever so slightly from Self magazine
Serves 4

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (about 1 lb. of chicken breast, seasoned lightly with salt, and pan-fried)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (in a pan over medium-low heat until fragrant)
¼ cup chopped shallots
8 slices toasted whole-grain bread (I used dill rye)

Combine mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice and pepper in a bowl. Toss chicken, celery, cherries, walnuts and shallots in another bowl. Stir in mayonnaise dressing. Divide chicken salad among 4 slices of bread; top with remaining bread.

from now

i received an artfully-crafted mix cd for my birthday. it was my favorite kind of music: sweetly melancholy, songs whose sounds were made of equal parts leaving it all behind and coming back home, of fresh flying starts and getting lost in the past. i have a feeling that this certain string of songs, many years from now, will also sound like my first week of being twenty-four.

it has been spinning nearly every morning as i bumble about, getting myself together for the day. it has been the soundtrack to my thoughts as i drive to work – sun high in the sky – and as i make my way home, speeding through a twilight that comes down a little earlier everyday. and the songs were there when i drove to have a belated birthday dinner with my parents, my mom a passenger in my car for the very first time in my life. it was just us for the ride. she asked me, in her carefully-paced english, questions about my life, my work, my friends. i answered carefully, too, trying to stretch my words to cover the years of distance between us. and as i answered, i had the strange feeling not only that i had grown up, but that suddenly we both could see it.

around birthdays, or any other marker of time in a given year, i suppose it is expected to take stock of your life, to make plans for the next stretch of it. and as much as i wish for more long, solitary drives into the oblivion that is my twenties, i hope that i will also remember to simply be a daughter.