Monday, January 07, 2008

Heavenly Hummus

Quote: I was thinking, you know Paul Newman's got his salad dressing and that? So why not Frankie Wilde Hummus? People come see the gigs and they say, "That was a great set, Frankie," and I say, "Cheers, mate, want some hummus?" Frankie Wilde in 'It's All Gone Pete Tong'

Thanks to the commenter on my previous post for providing the idea to write this entry. (And don't worry Anonymous...After I ramble on for a bit, I will answer your question!)

One of the first restaurants I went to last month while home for Christmas was Pita Inn. Located in the Chicago burbs, this fabulous (and insanely cheap) Middle Eastern fast-food joint has been one of my favorite dining spots since I was a little girl. To this day, I haven't found better falafel, kifta kabob, jerusalem salad and shawarma anywhere - and believe me, I've tried many a different Middle Eastern restaurant in my time. Pita Inn also operates a market and bakery next door, where we buy tubs of the restaurant's delicious hummus and baba ghanoush and nibble on sweet treats like baklava and kinafa. Hummus, by the way, is one of my favorite snack foods. It just pairs up so perfectly with pita, bread, crackers and veggies.

For those unfamiliar with hummus, it's a veggie spread made with ground chickpeas, tahini (or sesame seed paste), lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Sometimes it's spiced up with roasted garlic, red peppers, or scallions and garnished with parsley, pine nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and other vegetables. As hummus grows in popularity, an increasing number of people are finding less traditional uses for it, such as a chip dip, sandwich spread or topping on poultry, fish and beef.

So let's start with the good news. Hummus is, well, good for you, high in both protein and fiber and lacking cholesterol and sugar. The garbanzo beans are also a great source of complex carbohydrates and help lower the risk of heart attacks. At the same time, the tahini is rich in minerals, fatty acids like Omega-3 and amino acids.

That being said, hummus is also high in fat, predominantly due to the tahini. Nutritionists warn a half-cup could cost you more than 200 calories and 12 grams of fat. Ouch. Still, you can certainly create your own lower-fat version by reducing the amount of oil and tahini.

Here is a Splenda-based recipe for Sweet Red Pepper Hummus that only has 60 calories and 1 gram of fat. It's certainly an improvement over the alternative. So grab some low-fat crackers or whole wheat pita or spread the dip on your sandwich. The moral of the story is, eat hummus in moderation to avoid racking up the calories.

One other note, Anonymous. If you're looking for more healthy sandwich options, try smearing low-fat cream cheese on whole wheat bread and topping it off with sliced cucumber and ground pepper. It tastes great and is easy to whip up.



Anonymous said...

Excellent Audrey! thank you thank you. Very helpful.

Katie said...

glad to help!