Perhaps I should re-title this blog Cooking with Chopsticks: A guide to cooking for one occasionally homesick foreigner in Japan. With a strange array of ingredients available at the grocery stores and markets and familiar ingredients only sold at out-of-the-way and over-priced import stores, the old favorites can be hard to find and unaffordable on a single income. But that is where the challenge begins.
In most import stores, perhaps the only thing I've found that's sold for reasonable prices are canned beans of kinds not found in the normal grocery store (which only carries azuki, large black beans, and white beans that might be white kidney beans). I would prefer dried beans that don't float in that strange liquid, but they're at least twice as expensive. Recently after being enticed by my friends' conversation about hummus, I bought some canned garbonzo beans at Meidi-ya on Shijo Ave.
The resulting hummus was most fulfilling, and since my former host mother is a marvel at bread-making, I asked her to make some pita bread to go along. Although I was nervous if this dish would appeal to the Japanese palate, it was a success! Even my host brother who dislikes beans gobbled up his pita dipped generously in hummus.
The next day in my apartment, I made a sandwich for lunch that was incredibly satisfying! Into the pita I spread hummus, laid lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, a dab of mustard, and for lack of falafel, a small omelet that I made by adding a touch of water to one egg and stirring it vigorously with salt, pepper, and a bit of dried thyme. This I scrambled gently in a pan, but before it started to dry, I scraped it all together into a mound the shape of the bread. The result was an omelet fit perfectly to the pita.
Here is the recipe I used for the hummus, very basic. I will post the pita bread recipe as soon as I've tested it myself.
Hummus with Pine Nuts
(adapted from the Epicurious.com recipe)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 can garbonzo beans, thoroughly rinsed
1/3 cup tahini or whatever sesame paste is available – I used Chinese Chi Ma Jan, because it comes in bigger jars than the Japanese Nerigoma
1/2 of a juicy lemon's worth of lemon juice (us to taste)
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup water that's not from the can!
one handful fresh parsley
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs pine nuts
In a blender or food processor, combine garlic, beans, sesame paste, lemon, 2 tbs oil, water, and salt, and blend thoroughly. Add salt to taste and water to smooth the texture.
Pour the hummus into a serving dish, rinse the blender, and throw in the parsley and 2 tbs oil. Puree thoroughly until you have a green colored olive oil.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry (no oil) pan until they turn lightly brown. Set them aside to cool.
Sprinkle olive oil and pine nuts on top of the hummus just before serving.