“Many people are saying” that 2016 was a rough year. All the news about political shenanigans, catastrophic weather events, and unconscionable suffering around the world (not to mention the hoopla about dead celebrities) has pretty much limited our already narrow household television viewing options to a handful of cooking programs and Antiques Roadshow. It’s tough to admit but on a few occasions we have opted for Guy Fieri reruns over cable news in our quest for a taste of cognitive sorbet. You could interpret that as a sign of the apocalypse but it’s too soon to tell.
|The New Yorker Cover, Nov. 14, 2016|
It turns out that 2016 wasn’t a great year for prepared foods, either. The USDA and FDA reported a combined 560 recalls as of early December, mostly due to concerns about listeria. That’s some bad PR for so-called Big Food companies and stockholders. Among the items recalled was a familiar favorite: Hummus. The ubiquitous Sabra brand was affected as well as Trader Joe’s.
If you’re curious about the other 559 foods recalled in 2016, this article may answer some of your questions. It’s no surprise to see chicken nuggets and hot dogs on the list but it is unsettling to learn that some frozen fruits and vegetables may not be safe for consumption.
What Not to Eat: 9 of the Biggest Food Recalls of 2016
Michel is downright vigilant about the foods he purchases and prepares. We are “those people” who annoy you when they stop in the supermarket aisle to study nutrition labels while fellow shoppers wait but eventually reach around to get what they want with a loud “pardon me." Fair warning: If the label content proves inadequate, we’ll continue to stand there while I google more information on my phone.
We seldom buy prepackaged foods like hummus or pesto. It’s safer and often cheaper to make your own, also easier to control the salt content and to avoid the potentially harmful effects of commonly used additives like citric acid, potassium sorbate, and soybean oil. These preservatives are intended to prevent growth of listeria and other malicious organisms as well as to prolong shelf life, i.e., to fatten the Big Food bottom line. You can do your own googling about that stuff if you like. It’s not pretty.
Here is Michel’s recipe for DIY Hummus. It contains no chemical additives but that’s not a problem because you’ll finish eating it before the bacteria figure out where you live.
If you've tried making hummus before, you might have been disheartened* by the results. It could be that your hummus-ish puree was less like the packaged supermarket hummus you enjoy and more like the spackling compound you bought at Home Depot to fill the nail holes in your walls. Maybe your chickpea glop tasted a little like spackling compound, too. Take heart. You can do this.
You will need:
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8 whole garlic cloves
1 lemon (or equivalent juice of one lemon)
1 teaspoon sumac
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth
½ teaspoon salt
pistachios, pomegranate seeds for topping (or choose your own)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Fold garlic cloves into a foil “pouch” and cover with olive oil.
Close pouch and roast for half an hour.
Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet for 1-2 minutes “until it becomes fragrant,” then grind them.
Mix ground cumin and sumac in a medium container or bowl.
Add tahini “with the oil and all” to dry spice mixture. Stir to blend.
Add chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vegetable broth, and salt.
Transfer to your favorite blending machine and blend until smooth.
Add a bit more olive oil if needed to achieve the consistency you want.
Top with pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Eat with abandon. Or crackers.
If it makes you feel any better or if you just want to make fun of me sometime, my first attempt (in a previous life) at making old school Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy was a fiasco. I didn't own a normal mixer so put my already overcooked potatoes in a blender which yielded a soupy mess. My "gravy" was equally disastrous because I put way too much flour in the skillet and the result was a substance that could literally stand on its own. All was not lost, however, because the soupy potatoes and the intransigent gravy actually tasted pretty good once the liquids and solids were combined in the right proportions.
Now you have a clearer picture as to why Michel does the cooking and I just write about it. With that, I wish you a happy new year filled with delicious and healthful foods!