Sunday, June 11, 2006
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
This may sound like a fairly obvious statement... "so much about cooking is the process." Granted, hands down, ingredients trump process, but in many endeavors, bad process can destroy the best ingredients, I tend to be more on the experimental throw it all together side of cooking- I have some kitchen experience and pretty good intuition, so I am usually ok with process. I want to share one recipe that I make where I am superstitious about how I make it.
My grandmother originally taught me and my mother reinforced the process for making hummus, a staple in an arab kitchen, more common than peanut butter growing up. The process my mother taught me always struck me as the merging of two worlds- the traditional one that my father grew up in during the 40's in Palestine and then the 50's and 60's in Beirut, and the more modern one that Williams Sonoma has ushered in over the past 20 years.
The most important step for me, and the one that takes me back in time, is the mashing of garlic cloves with sea salt in an old wooden mortar and pestle. And then rinsing it with freshly squuezed lemons into the bowl of my cuisinart, where this sour garlicky soup is ground smooth with chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, and my personal touch,ground cumin. The results are almost perfect every time- a little different each batch depending on the proportions I use, the intensity of the garlic and lemon, and the position of the moon. I have to smile to myself every time I witness two generations and technologies mixed together in a dish of chickpea spread.