Strange but true: I ate some of the best hummus in Brazil. Smack-dab in the middle of the Amazon jungle, to be exact, about 1000 miles from nowhere, otherwise known as Manaus. While I and my intrepid band of World Cup travelers endured a purgatorial stay at the Hotel Brasil (an establishment that made you wonder what heinous crime you committed in a previous life to get yourself stuck there) in advance of the second US match, we spent a lot of time in the one moderately bright spot of the hotel: the outdoor café.
Run by a proprietor we affectionately dubbed Angry Syrian Man – he of the flowing peach-hued linen blouses and foul-smelling cigarettes, chain-smoked each day from dawn to the wee hours – the tiny 4-by-4 lunch counter boasted a large sidewalk seating area, a scratchy corner TV showing soccer round the clock, and an impressively large menu, one of those multi-page plastic jobs, with a spiral binding and lots of pictures for the Portuguese-inept. One would wonder how such a small kitchen could manage four pages of varied menu items: Middle Eastern, Brazilian, a few Western/American tossed into the mix (complete with soup, which was apparently deserving of its own, hand-lettered, dedicated signage: “TEMOS SOPA”). One would wonder, that is, until one tried to order anything from the menu.
“Falafel?” Angry Syrian Man’s sidekick and main waiter, Pleasant Syrian Man, would say. “No falafel. Out.” “Shawarma?” “Out.” “Kebabs? No, no kebabs. Friday kebabs.” And so it went, on down the menu, until we hit hummus: “Hummus? Yes. One plate? Two plate? Hummus. Yes. Yes.” Hummus. Plates and plates of hummus, with warmed pita bread (always more than Angry Syrian Man wanted to give us), and cups and cups of tiny, strong Turkish coffees. I called it “breakfast.”
Unlike their supply of Skol, which we seemed to demolish on a daily basis, and unlike nearly everything else on the menu, the hummus supply was inexhaustible: always, “Hummus? Yes, hummus. Yes.” And it was good hummus: silky smooth, lightly flavored, with none of that new-fangled roasted red pepper or pine nuts, sun-dried tomato and basil, or (god help us) cilantro and lime. Just chickpeas, tahini, good olive oil, maybe a touch of garlic. Simple, good, and most of all, available.
This hummus – my hummus – is nothing like that hummus. I’m too lazy to peel all the skins off of the chickpeas to make a super-silky-smooth hummus. And I’m fairly sure that Angry Syrian Man would consider preserved lemon in hummus an outrage akin to running out of cigarettes (or flowy peach-hued linen). But it’s good: really good, with its lemony tang, salty-funky kick, and overall simple flavor profile. I whipped up a batch for lunch in all of 10 minutes, brewed up a cup of strong coffee, and thought, “There must be some Champion’s League on.” Hummus? Yes, hummus. Yes.
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed (from a ¼ lb dried, or 1, 15-oz can)
- juice of 1 smallish lemon
- 4 – 6 tbsp tahini
- ¼ preserved lemon, peel & pulp included, seeds removed (unrinsed for maximum funky flavor, rinsed for a lower salt version)
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- pinch Aleppo pepper
- 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
- slivered fresh mint, for serving
- In the bowl of a food processor combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, preserved lemon, garlic, and Aleppo pepper. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture is blending freely. Process for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth and airy. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve at room temperature, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and topped with Aleppo pepper and fresh mint.
Yields about 2 cups hummus.
- As made, the hummus is pretty salty; I love the funky saltiness, but some would find it overpowering. If you’d like less salt, rinse the preserved lemon before adding.
- Teri tells us that you can make super-silky-smooth hummus without peeling the chickpeas if you whip it up in the Vitamix. Good to know!
Refrigerated, with plastic wrap pressed down to the surface of the hummus to prevent oxidation, for up to 1 week.