(2010) Garlic was (and is) the primary staple in my mother’s kitchen. It sits in its own basket above a large basket of onions (it’s first cousin) on the floor. When I visited her yesterday, my mom was simmering a pot of Assyrian ‘Head and feet Soup’, a favorite winter cure all. The pungent broth calls for several bulbs (30-40 cloves) of the ancient medicinal herb. In our family garlic is not just a seasoning it is a food group.
The garlic cloves, from Meijers, were oversized and bulbous, unlike the puny ones from China that I found (4 for a dollar) at the mega Family Dollar that replaced the Rite Aid Drug store. Why the garlic traveled from China to Flint is a question not to be asked. Why the dollar store replaced the drug store is another.
I left a basket of freshly baked pita with my parents and returned with several beautiful bulbs. It was a mutually satisfying barter.
The plump cloves are carefully peeled and placed in a small saucepan. They are covered with a mix of canola and olive oil then gently simmered until the garlic is soft. The mixture is cooled then poured into a pint glass-canning jar. The garlic infused oil and the creamy cloves will live in my refrigerator. Both will find their way into spreads, breads, dressings and sauces.
Today cloves of the preserved garlic will flavor Chickpea Spread (Hummus) made with Garlic preserved in Olive Oil, the famous Arabic appetizer. Assyrians did not make hummus but many Lebanese and Syrian friends did.
In the late 60’s hummus began to appear at parties. It had become a trendy global health food. Often unrecognizable, the spread sometimes included foreign ingredients like soy sauce and dark sesame oil; it even came in a box and only required adding water.
Today hummus, like many other American products, has been spun into as many flavors as ice cream. Everything from roasted red pepper to caramelized onion hummus line the refrigerated grocery store shelves. Lemon has been replaced with citric acid, fresh garlic isn’t, and soybean oil steps in for the olive.
This Chickpea Spread (Hummus) made with Garlic preserved in Olive Oil is made with tahini, the Middle Eastern ground sesame seed paste. Tahini is an important source of calcium in a practically dairy-free diet. The preserved garlic lends a rich almost caramel taste to the spread. The bright fresh lemon juice balances the creaminess of the tahini. Of course it is best to use dried chickpeas that have been brined and simmered.
Canned chickpeas are an easy and time saving choice. Arabic women run the cooked chickpeas between their hands to remove the skins. This produces a silky smooth spread. Leaving the chickpea skins intact creates a product that will have more texture.
Enjoy Hummus made with Preserved Garlic as a spread for flatbreads, a dip for fresh vegetables, or as part of a ‘meze’ platter with olives, pickles, and other appetizers.
Chickpea Spread (Hummus) made with Garlic preserved in Olive Oil
Makes enough for 4-6
Cook’s notes: Removing the skins from the chickpeas* produces a silky smooth hummus.
Make it your own: Cannellini or Great Northern beans are a good substitute for the chickpeas and they don’t require skinning.
2 cups Cooked Chickpeas, (or 2- 15 ounce cans), drained. Reserve the liquid from the cans or from cooking.
1/3 cup Garlic Cloves preserved in olive oil, or to taste (see separate recipe below)
2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil from the garlic preserved in olive oil
¼ cup Fresh Lemon Juice or to taste
¼ teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
2 tablespoons to ¼ cup Liquid from the canned chickpeas (or from cooking) to achieve the desired consistency.
Garnish: Cayenne pepper.
*Transfer the drained chickpeas into a large bowl. Cover the chickpeas with several inches of water. Gently rub the chickpeas between you hands to remove the skins. Use a small strainer to remove the skins, discard. Continue until all the skins have been removed. Drain the chickpeas.
Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until it reaches the desired consistency adding more reserved liquid if needed.
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Spread the hummus on a plate then sprinkle with some cayenne.
Garlic Preserved in Olive Oil
Cook’s notes: You can also use a combination of Canola and Olive Oil. The garlic cloves can also be slowly baked in a 300-degree oven.
You can purchase fresh, peeled, whole cloves of garlic at most grocery stores and ethnic markets.
Several bulbs of Fresh Garlic, about 20-30 cloves.
Break bulbs into cloves and peel. Leave whole
Olive Oil, enough to cover the cloves
Place the peeled cloves in a small pan. Cover with oil.
Cook over the lowest heat possible. Use a ‘flame tamer’ if necessary. Watch the garlic carefully to prevent burning. The cloves should not brown.
When the cloves are tender, remove the pan from the heat. The cloves are tender when they are easily pierced with a wooden skewer. Allow the oil to cool to room temperature.
Transfer the mixture to a glass jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator.