Using Up the Bits

Sometimes you can use the carved away bits to make something wonderful—bones produce hearty broth, the foundation of good soups, stews and sauces. Watermelon rinds make the most delectable pickles. Salmon skin trimmed away from the filet and baked or fried makes a good sushi wrap and adds flavor and crunch as a garnish. Personally I’m not a salmon skin fan, but I can hear some of you out there squealing “Moooore for meeee!” and that’s just fine. I’m glad to share, if you’ll let me have the pickle that’s languishing on the edge of your plate.

Ta-dah! Paula Wolfert’s Deconstructed Hummus

Here’s a new trick. You know those slippery little jackets worn by garbanzo beans? I’d never thought to remove them, but doing so gives those hazlenut-like beans a much creamier texture. I thank Paula Wolfert for starting me down this path.

Unforgettable, her combo autobiography and collection of beloved recipes, gifts us with what is to my mind—and tastebuds—the best hummus ever. Her Deconstructed Hummus is visually appealing, texturally interesting and mighty tasty. In fact, it’s likely I’ll never make any other hummus. I long ago wearied of the sameness of every bite of standard hummus, even good hummus. Frankly, all that dredge-crunch-swallow-dredge-crunch-swallow of dense puréed bean matter grew leaden and uninteresting.

Aside from the garbanzo beans resting beneath an airy, silky purée of all the other ingredients, Paula introduces the nifty little trick of liberating the beans from their outer “skins.” The result is a hummus that rises from the snack category into the entrée zone.

Recently my friends Jenn and Trace pitched in to help make some Deconstructed Hummus, slipping the skins off each garbanzo. A nice little group activity—“many hands make light work” as the saying goes. They rounded up a good two cups of skins from the double batch I was making and asked, “What do you want to do with these?” I hadn’t thought about it before, but it seemed a shame to throw them out, especially considering that each one had to be individually removed. Why not figure out how to use them?

So I experimented, toasting some in the oven. The rest I lightly fried on stove top in a swirl of olive oil. We agreed we preferred the dry, toasted ones. The fried skins absorbed too much oil and were soggy and dull.

Garbanzo “skins” toast up quickly and make a nice, crunchy garnish for anything that needs it.

As for flavor, there’s no great revelation here. Garbanzo skins taste just like the beans themselves (unless you let them get a bit scorchy like I did the ones in the above photo). If you want to add salt or other flavorings, to get them to adhere you’d have to introduce a fat of some kind, which would soften the skins. You wouldn’t want to munch on them like you do popcorn, but they’re good for adding crunch and provide a foil to softer, creamier textures.

Even if you prefer your hummus puréed, try removing the garbanzo skins first, then toast them and garnish the hummus with them. It takes less time than toasting nuts, chopping parsley or prepping any other prospective garnish. And you’ll get at least a minor kick out of knowing you’re getting a little more protein and throwing out a little less food. Let’s hear it for a hungry compost bin!

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