I mostly grew up in the DC area, and so have strong memories of doing a lot of the traditional “summer in DC” things. If you live on the Virginia side of the river, one of the most iconic and fun activities during the summer (at least in my mind) is a trip to Wolf Trap. The nation’s only national park for the performing arts, it has a large amphitheater with lawn seating, a large meadow/lawn area that is good for festival-type-events, and a small theater in the woods that is geared towards children. In the years since I was a kid, they’ve added more things to make it more luxurious (the restaurant, cushioned seat rentals for the lawn), but a visit to Wolf Trap was never complete without some kind of picnic. Whether this was eaten in the meadow before seeing some kind of puppet show, or on the main lawn where mom and dad also had a bottle of wine and plastic glasses to drink it out of, picnic food is where it’s at.
But because of either where Wolf Trap is located and the kind of people it draws (middle to upper-middle class folks with good taste), the fact that it’s a “national park for the performing arts” and not just a concert venue, or the fact that my family is just kind of extra when it comes to food, our picnics were never just sandwiches and chips. And apparently other families had fancy, over-the-top foods in their picnic baskets as well, because it turns out there was a whole cookbook dedicated to Wolf Trap picnic foods.
And that’s where today’s hummus recipe comes from. I know – you’re thinking, “Maggie, I can get hummus at any grocery store these days – it’s not really fancy, no “extra” the way you’re describing it.” But the thing is, this cookbook was originally published in the late 70s, and I imagine the copy my mom had is from the early early 90s, and back then hummus just wasn’t a thing you saw at every party the way that you do now. And making your own hummus is what put it over the top.
So when I decided recently that I wanted to make my own hummus instead of buying snack-sized containers in bulk at Costco (so much wasteful packaging!), I asked my mom for her recipe, and this is what she sent me. If you compare it to “more authentic hummus” recipes and manifestos about how hummus should be made on the internet, it seems to fit in pretty well. It’s not fancy, it’s just simple, and it’s very tasty. If you like lemony hummus, you can add a little more lemon juice. If you like garlic-y hummus (like I do), you can add more garlic. I have been using 15.5 oz cans of chickpeas and keeping the rest of the proportions roughly the same and it works out fine. I have also found that it will last me about 5-6 days yielding roughly 1/3 cup servings each day to have as a snack at work.
But it would be fun to make a bigger batch of this for a party, or a regular size batch for a small gathering and serve with some nice olive oil and roasted chick peas and to just feel slightly fancier than grabbing a plastic container from the grocery store. My mom says she regularly doubles the recipe when she makes it. This is good and classic stuff people. Make it, and put it in your mouths as soon as you can.
1 can (20 oz) chickpeas
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (fresh) lemon juice
4 tablespoons tahini
water or juice from chick peas
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
chopped parsley (optional)
Drain and rinse the chick peas. Save a few whole chick peas for garnish. Mash the remaining peas with a potato masher or ricer, or puree through a sieve or food processor. Crush the garlic and add it to 1 teaspoon of salt. Combine with the lemon juice and stir the mixture into the chickpeas. Beat in the tahini. If the mixture seems too heavy, beat in some water or reserved chickpea juice a tablespoon at a time, until the puree is a proper consistency for dipping.
Season with additional salt to taste. Chill. Spread or heap on a plate. Make a shallow well in the center of the mixture, and pour in the olive oil. Garnish with whole chick peas and chopped parsley. Serve with Arabic bread, sesame crackers, or raw vegetables.
From the Wolf Trap Picnic Cookbook.