Kim Saleh’s family and friends ask her to serve hummus every chance they get. Kim, a registered nurse for a hospice inpatient facility, and her husband, Jay, live in south Kansas City. They enjoy time with their four adult children and 12 grandchildren.
Q: When did you learn to cook?
When Jay and I were married, he gave me a Lebanese cookbook. I taught myself to cook from that book, using the basic recipes and flavors, but tweaking the recipes until they tasted as I wanted. Now I love to cook. I am a tasting cook, so I don’t typically follow exact recipes.
Q: What foods do you especially enjoy cooking?
I specialize in Middle Eastern dishes. My family and friends really enjoy the flavors and I love serving these delicious recipes.
Q: Are family meals or entertaining your friends important to you?
Yes, it is beyond just the food. Food provides a fellowship of the hearts and our hearts are open when we eat together.
Q: You work long hours and found time to establish a nonprofit transitional house, yet still enjoy cooking. What tips can you share for other busy families?
Even after a long day, we like to come home and eat. On my days off, I prepare extra of our favorite dishes, so on a busy day we can have dinner on the table in just minutes. My husband is also great help in the kitchen, as he does the chopping.
Q: Some of the ingredients you are using may not be familiar to all. Where do you purchase them?
There are several Arabic or Middle Eastern grocery stores throughout the city, including one at the city market. You will find such ingredients as shawarma seasoning, citric acid and chili sauce at any of these shops. They also have the best tahini, which is sesame seed paste.
Q: Why do you heat the garbanzo beans when making hummus?
I find that the seasonings blend into the hummus, melding the flavors better, when the beans are hot. Even when using canned garbanzo beans, I heat the beans then season them while warm.
Q: Your hummus is beautifully presented. Tell us about the presentation.
The Lebanese tradition emphasizes the importance of presentation. When I serve hummus, I spoon it into a pretty dish, then use a spoon to smooth and sculpt it, making an indentation around the center. It is garnished with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley and drizzled with olive oil. The center and edges of the plate are garnished with chili sauce.
Sometimes, I top the hummus with hashweh meat, which is beef cooked with onion and pine nuts, and seasoned with salt, pepper, cinnamon and shawarma seasoning.
Q: What advice do you have for those learning to cook?
For any cuisine, find dishes you like and discover what ingredients are used so you can find a similar recipe. You can then tweak the recipe to your preferences.
I say: Taste it, then go forth and make it your own.
Makes about 3 cups
2 (15-ounce) cans organic garbanzo beans, drained, reserving liquid
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dry granulated garlic or fresh minced garlic
Cayenne or red chili pepper, to taste
⅔ to ¾ cup tahini, stirred well to prevent using only the oil that rises to the surface
1 teaspoon citric acid
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, optional, for garnish
Toasted pine nuts, almonds or walnuts, optional, for garnish
Place about ½ to ¾ cup drained bean liquid into a medium saucepan. Stir in the garbanzo beans. Heat, over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans just begin to boil. Drain the warm beans, reserving the liquid.
Place the warm beans in a food processor and add ¼ cup of the warm liquid. Process until smooth, about the consistency of pudding. Add the salt and process until blended.
Add the cumin, garlic and cayenne or red chili pepper, one seasoning at a time, processing until smooth after each addition.
Add the tahini and process until blended. (Note: the consistency will thicken slightly when adding the tahini.)
Add the citric acid and lemon juice and then add additional reserved bean liquid if needed to reach the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, as desired.
Spoon the hummus onto a plate and spread with a spoon into a circle. Garnish with fresh herbs and toasted nuts. Drizzle with olive oil.
Tip: Hummus can be refrigerated and served within a week. If serving the hummus on the day it is made, use either the fresh or dried garlic. If making the day ahead, use dried garlic as fresh garlic can overtake the flavor.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 12 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com. Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com.