Hummus is very easy to make, plus it can be prepared in advance. All you need are garbanzo beans, oil, lemon and a few other ingredients. I made a batch today, and after whipping it together, I served the hummus in tiny cups and garnished it with roasted bell peppers and lemon crackers.
If -like us- you host a lot of dinner parties, you might feel a little pressed for fresh appetizer ideas. My criteria for the perfect appetizer, besides being incredibly delicious, is that it doesn’t take an insane amount of time to prepare. I love to cook, but it’s (usually) more fun to spend time with your guests! All you need is a simple recipe, the right ingredients and attractive, small containers to show them off.
Servings: 24 mini appetizers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper
5 tablespoons white sesame seeds, raw
3 pickled shallots (or garlic), thinly sliced (see tips)
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (or more olive oil)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons curly parsley, snipped
3/4 cup heavy cream, cold
1 (4.5-ounce) package lemon zest crispbread (see tips)
For the roasted bell peppers: Cut the stems off the pepper. Wash the pepper, pat it dry and brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle it without discomfort. Clean the pepper using a knife; the skin will come right off. Seed it and cut into thin strips.
Dry toasting the sesame seeds: To enhance the flavors, dry toast the sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes, before the ingredients start changing color. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely.
Making sesame paste: Grind the sesame seeds in a mini-blender (you could also use a mortar and pestle). The sesame seeds should turn into a fine mill. Add about 2 tablespoons of water for a smoother flow. The sesame seeds should turn into a thick paste (tahini).
Zest and juice the lemon.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans.
In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, pickled shallots (or garlic), ¼ teaspoon paprika, ground cumin, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, remaining olive oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Pulse until smooth. (if the spread is too thick, add up to 2 tablespoons of water). Season with salt. Transfer to a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
This step isn't essential but I think it makes the appetizer much lighter (see tips). Whip the heavy cream (at a low speed) until creamy and smooth for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the sesame oil. Season with salt and cayenne pepper.
Whisk the hummus to soften it. Gently fold in the whipped cream in stages.
Line up verrine glasses. Place the filling in a piping bag. Pipe or spoon in the hummus. Decorate with the strips of red bell peppers, creating little bridges. Garnish with curly parsley. Top with a lemon cracker.
Pipe a little more hummus, so it's visible, then dust with a little paprika using a fine mesh shaker or a strainer.
Serve each cup on a pretty saucer and place more lemon crackers on the side, along with a small spoon.
Serve at room temperature.
You can make hummus variations using edamame beans, green peas, black beans, black eyed peas or white cannellini beans.
You can find sesame seeds in any Indian market. You could also replace them with pine nuts or any nut butter.
I found cute 34° brand lemon crackers in a local store. It's called the Milk Pail Market. The address is 2585 California Street, Mountain View, CA 94040. You can also find them online.
You could use black sesame tortillas or warm pita bread as garnish, instead of the lemon crackers.
You can find pickled shallots (more precisely the white root from Asian green onions) in Asian markets. Just drain the brine from the shallots and thinly slice them. They're sold in small cans. The Vietnamese name is củ kiệu. I think they pair incredibly well with hummus. You could also use pickled garlic (which also can be found in any Asian market).
I served the hummus in small verrines. "Verrine" is just a fancy word for "glasses"; they're the latest trend in French cooking. I used 4-ounce double-walled espresso shot glasses.
If you like a denser hummus, don't whip the heavy cream before adding the other ingredients. I prefer the lighter, fluffier result the whipping provides.