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Harmonious Hummus

(post, Trista Cornelius)

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It had been an adventurous and full weekend, so by Sunday night, I ached all over and looked forward to sleep.  After a long overdue grocery run, I put away our stock while my man finished where I had left off grooming the front yard, another long overdue task.  It was 97 degrees outside and 80-something in, so I brainstormed what to make for dinner that would require no heat.  

Spike and I were happily gnashing ingredients when my sweaty man came in from the yard. 

“The symphony’s playing in the park,” he said, “The neighbors just left.”  
“Our park?” I asked.  
“How do people know about these things?” I exasperated.  
“The paper.  It was in the arts section,” he said.
“I read that section!” I huffed and then gave in, “When does it start?”  
“I dunno.  I’m sure not for a while.  They’re early risers getting a good seat,” he said about our perpetually organized neighbors whose order I envy on frequent occasions.  

I eyed the clock.  Almost seven.  I bet it started at six.  By the time we finish dinner it will be over.  Oh well.  At least I knew that it happened so I could say I missed it.  From the dining room I hear the newspaper shuffling, then, “Hey!  It’s happening right now!” my man says, and suddenly it seems like something we don’t want to miss.  “Wanna go?  Just walk there and back?”  We’re both super hungry and don’t want to delay dinner.  

I survey my nearly-heatless dinner.  The one thing simmering on the stove can be turned off and left to sit.  “Sure!”

We rush out the door, my man’s gray shirt showing sweat from yard work and my shorts smeared with turmeric.  

Two blocks away from the park:  “I don’t hear any symphony,” I say.  

“It’s probably on the other side of the park.”

One block away:  “I hear it!” I say triumphantly but then notice the hesitant look on my man’s face.

“It sounds like a finale,” he says in a cautious tone, like he doesn’t want to incite a tantrum.

“No….” I start to argue, but he’s right.  Drums, timpani, crescendos left and right…okay, I’m not a musician, but big loud booming and swelling of instruments crests then floats away to a moment of silence before applause fills the park just as we arrive to see green hills covered in people, blankets, and coolers.  

We stand dumbfounded for a few minutes.  A woman smoking a cigarette turns and glares at us for some mysterious reason.  I watch the crowd.  “Hey,” I say, “No one’s leaving.”  The conductor is speaking in the microphone but trees and wind distort his voice and we have no idea what he’s saying.  Then my man says, “Intermission!”  Oh good, I think.  How long is intermission?  We don’t know, but my hips and calves ache so we sit on some grass beneath a tree at the very edge of the crowd.  

I study the people closest to us:  Popeye’s chicken and potato salad; scrumptious containers of food from Whole Foods deli; watermelon slices, wine, beer, and what looks like a mound of cheesy nachos.  I’m so hungry, I think, but they’ll start playing again any minute.  I try to be content.  I’m hungry.  I’m so hungry.  

“Should we go back for our dinner?” I ask after at least ten minutes of intermission.  

“No, they’ll start as soon as we get up.”
“Yeah, we’ll get back just in time to hear the end,” I say sarcastically.  But I’m hungry.  I finally notice that all of the musicians are wearing white, and if I train my eyes on the white far ahead, I can see they are not sitting down but milling about.  Some sort of enormous sausage concoction drifts through the crowd.  Groups sharing blankets pass tastes of this and that back and forth…
“Keys,” I say.
“Keys.  I’m getting our dinner,” and before he can make an argument against it, I insist, “I’ll make it in time.  I’ll be right back.”  He hands me the house keys.

I walk as fast as my stiff legs and flopping flip-flops will go, dodging sticky smashes of burgundy colored plums someone is letting go to waste on the sidewalk.  I barely slow my gait once in our house a few blocks away and beeline to the kitchen.  I stack to-go containers on the counter, fill some with vegetables, one with the food I simmered on the stove, scrape out Spike to fill another, place it all in the bottom of a grocery bag I just emptied, fit two plastic plates on top, two cloth napkins, one knife, and I zoom out the door, back through the plums baking into syrupy pie filling on the cement, and back to our tree at the park.  

No music.  Blankets and crowd still in place.  Mean smoking lady gone.  A few more picnickers have arrived even later than us.  “I made it!” I beam.  My man unpacks the bag, discovering what’s for dinner as he peels off each lid, and by the time we take our first bites, the music begins again.  

My almost no-heat dinner fit the bill perfectly:   

We had three dips:  leftover roasted pepper hummus from the store, just-made fava bean edamame dip, and “Bombay Hummus” straight out of Spike that I worried my man wouldn’t like because it strayed from our normal favorite hummus.  We smeared dip into the open pita bread then stuffed in chunks of seitan (a high-protein faux meat made from wheat gluten—way better than it sounds) that I simmered in red wine, soy sauce, and onion powder.  Then we fit in some shredded lettuce and the juiciest, sweetest, crispiest green bell peppers ever in existence from our farmers’ market.  

My man bites into a pita thick with Bombay Hummus.  I watch.  “Wow!” he says, the fresh ginger making its mark, “This one’s good!”  

As violin music wafts through the trees to my ears and the breeze swirls my hair, I savor the taste and texture of cool, juicy bell pepper, the rich and chewy seitan, and the Bombay Hummus that releases fresh ginger and garlic slowly through the creamy garbanzo beans and raw cashews.  

A perfect finale to our fun weekend.  I suppose it was really an encore—one more burst of fun before our energy and time ran out. 

The “Bombay Hummus” recipe is from a cookbook from Rebar Restaurant in Victoria, B.C. (Rebar Modern Food Cookbook.)  However, I altered the recipe significantly.  Although I love Rebar, I have to say I like my version better.  So, I’ll call this Harmonious Hummus because seemingly cacophonous elements combine compatibly in this dish.

Harmonious Hummus


1-inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and chopped into chunks.  (I buy fresh ginger and then freeze it; this doesn’t seem to hinder the flavor at all.)  
1 can (19 fl. oz.) garbanzo beans drained and rinsed.
1/4 cup raw cashews
juice of one lime
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper	
pinch turmeric
pinch cinnamon
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2-4 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except for the oil.  Pulse, scrape down the sides, then drizzle in oil as you blend the hummus.  Puree until it is as smooth as you like it.  I prefer a small chunks of cashews for texture and only 2 tablespoons of oil, but more oil and more blending will make a smoother spread.  

Smear on pita, fresh bell pepper and carrots, between slices of bread with fresh tomato or lettuce, or roll it up in a tortilla wrap.