Humus is the Arabic word for “chickpeas.” The dish has been prepared in the Middle East for thousands of years, since chickpeas are easily harvested in this part of the world. Some historians even say that chickpeas were around during Bible times and were harvested in the gardens of Babylon. While the actual origins of humus are disputed, it is clear that this has been a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries.
The easy dip is often served at parties with pitas or vegetables. Humus is made from a combination of chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and tahini, which is a sesame seed paste. Salt and garlic are also added to taste, and there are several variations of humus to include fresh herbs and roasted red peppers.
Humus is vegan and vegetarian, which makes it an ideal party food when hosts are entertaining both vegetarians and meat eaters. The dip also serves as a complete protein and is full of nutrients such as folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Humus is rich in fiber and potassium as well.
Although most grocery stores sell humus, it’s very easy to make. The dip only takes a few minutes to prepare. You’ll need:
- 1 can of chickpeas (save the liquid)
- 2 ounces sliced jalapeno (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini (or to taste)
In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and one tablespoon of chickpea liquid. Blend the humus until smooth. For a creamier dip, add more liquid. Add additional flavors, such as fresh basil, roasted red peppers, or ancho peppers to make the humus one of a kind. Serve with pitas, tortillas, or raw vegetables for a healthy and satisfying treat. Humus can also be used in place of mayonnaise for sandwiches, wraps and pitas, since it is low in fat and calories and is easily spreadable. The ingredients in humus are also very similar to the ones in falafel, which is a fried chickpea patty that is popular in the Middle East. The humus is slightly healthier since it doesn’t have to be fried, and can serve as an easy, low-fat alternative to falafel, especially when served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
Tabuleh is another Middle Eastern dish that will be a hit at your next get-together. Tabuleh is a salad that is made from bulgur wheat and a variety of seasonings. Bulgur is a cereal that is made from wheat. Durum wheat is most commonly used to make bulgur, and the ingredient is used in many other Middle Eastern dishes as well. Ingredients such as tomatoes, spring onions, mint and parsley are included in this delicious and healthy side dish. Tabuleh also features a dressing made from fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
It is said that tabuleh originated in Syria and Lebanon. The herbs included in tabuleh, which are known as gadb, were consumed by Arabs as far back as the Middle Ages.
To make tabuleh, you’ll need:
- Bulgur wheat
- spring onion
- lemon or lime juice
- olive oil
(the measurements for this recipe are based on taste and the amount of people being served).
Treat the bulgur with boiling water, then drain it and mix in the seasonings. Once the vegetables and seasonings have been mixed into the bulgur, it can be served as a salad alone or on a bed of lettuce as part of the mezze, which is a collection of small entrees served in the Middle East for lunch or dinner.
There are also different variations of Tabuleh that are region-specific. For instance, Eetch is the Armenian form of tabuleh and has a thicker consistency. The dish also has less of a tangy flavor. Kisir is a variation of tabuleh from Turkey and also contains parsley and tomatoes.
Tabuleh is a particularly healthy dish as well, since the bulgur is rich in fiber, as well as essential minerals and protein. Bulgur is very filling, but is rich in calories and fat.
While each of these dishes is delicious as a side dish, they can also be served as introductory courses for Middle Eastern meals. Humus and tabuleh are tasty introductions to chicken skewers (which can also be dipped in humus) and can be served before savory chicken and rice dishes like kabsa.