Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"I Can't Believe It's Not Hummus"

     There have been many times since I began my foray into Paleo living that I have thrown my fist to the sky in anger, crying out, "DAMN YOU LECTINS! DAMN YOOOUUU!", but one particular food that has had me cursing the insidious Leaky Gut gods even more than peanut butter and soy was--hummus.

     Oh man, I used to freaking love hummus. Not only was it awesome in (now-forbidden) wraps and with pita bread, it also helped make raw vegetables more palatable and tasty chunks of meat even tastier on their way to my stomach. But since hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas, a legume, it has since been exiled from my food repertoire.

     But why? They're just chickpeas, right?

     Sure, they seem harmless enough, but like other beans and legumes (as well as grains and dairy), they contain lectins (appropriately described as "the cloaked thugs of the anti-nutrient underworld"), which are indigestible proteins found in plants that attach themselves to the lower intestine, causing a really unpleasant inflammatory response and a whole litany of bowel issues (enter auto-immune and other diseases, and the impending threat of leptin resistance). In short, lectins are bad news. If you really wanna get down and dirty with it (it's actually pretty ickily fascinating stuff), just google "lectins and inflammation" and "leptin resistance", or check out some of the handy links at the bottom of this page.

     Enough talk of leaky guts and bowel distress--lets get back to the main topic here. Hummus.

     I've spent many nights (well, maybe like, two) frustratedly scouring the internets for a proper Paleo substitute for hummus, and found there were basically two alternatives: one popular option is to make hummus using zucchini in place of chickpeas (Son of Grok and the The Label Says Paleo had some good ones for this), and another version, especially popular among the raw food community, uses cashews instead of chickpeas (Whole9 did their own take on this recently as well). Both versions are suitable replacements, and both taste distinctive and delicious--yet, for me, the zucchini one missed the mark a little bit, and the cashew one, while very tasty, seemed a bit too fat-dense for me (since the main ingredients are cashews, tahini, and olive oil)..not such a good idea for someone like me who used to sit down with a pile of veggies and kill half a container of Sabra's.

      My idea was to marry the basic concepts of each, using both zucchini and nuts--using the zucchini to cut back of the amount of fat slightly without taking away from the hummus-like taste (not that I mind fat, but I wanted to attempt to balance it out a little better). In addtion, for my version, I opted to use macadamia nuts instead of cashews, since they have a slightly better nutritional profile than cashews (mac nuts have a really small amount of Omega-6's compared to other nuts, and there's something special about them that helps lower cholesterol. Woo!)

     And, well, I just thought I'd try something a little different.

     A few of the Paleo recipes I found online left you with almost a quart of hummus, which, even for someone like me who loves hummus, is a bit much. This particular recipe will leave you with a small container (about a cup and half?), roughly the same size as one you'd find at the grocery store.

     So, here we are.

Paleo Hummus Version 1.0
Or, as my sister-in-law called it, "I Can't Believe it's Not Hummus."
 -Roasted Red Pepper on the Left, "Original" on the Right-

1 3/4 cup Zucchini (approximately half a 'decent-sized' one), peeled and cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup raw, unsalted Macadamia Nuts
2 T Tahini
2 T Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/2 teas. Lemon Juice
1+ cloves of Garlic (I used one big ass clove, but you may need several smaller cloves to suit your tastes)
1 teas. Sea Salt
1 slightly rounded teas. Cumin
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Paprika to garnish, if you're into that sort of thing.

Optional Add-Ins: Roasted Red Peppers, Pine Nuts, Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomato, Black or Kalamata Olives, etc.

This one is pretty simple.

You ready?
  • Put all ingredients into a food processor (I just used a blender).
  • Blend until smooth and creamy.

     Yeah, it took me a few go 'rounds with this recipe to get the proportions right, but I tested it out on several people, and everyone agreed that yes, it actually tastes like real hummus, not some hummus imposter. Woot, I say.

Now, a few things about this recipe:

     Everyone's taste is different. Some people may want more lemon/cumin/tahini/whatever, so use this recipe as a starting point and make adjustments as you see fit. It's always best to start with less and add from there--you can always add something to a recipe, but you can't pull it out once it's mixed in.
     Also, for variations (like in the picture above), blend other things in with the other ingredients. Roasted Red Pepper used to be my favorite flavor variety of the store bought stuff, so I just took a few jarred roasted red peppers in water and tossed them into the mix. You can also add things like pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, or olives of some sort. If you like it spicy, add some more cayenne or red pepper flakes to give it more of a kick.

This stuff is great with raw veggies (score!), and goes well with chicken/turkey too.


     You can try these awesome Sunflower & Sesame crackers I found on Girl Gone Primal's blog (also pimped by Mark Sisson). They are too easy not to make. These nutty little crackers really hit the I-want-something-chip-like spot, and are definitely worth a try. They even passed the Outsider Edibility Test--both my Non-Paleo brother and sister-in-law both thought they were really tasty.
     (Also, if you're interested, check the Girl Gone Primal link above for a quick primer on how and why you may want to soak your seeds first.)

Sunflower Sesame Crackers w/ Italian Herbs

1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup of sesame seeds
1/3 cup water
Mrs. Dash Italian Medley Seasoning Blend
Salt to taste, if desired
  • In food processor, grind down the sunflower seeds until they look like a heavy flour (similar to almond meal, but a little thicker. It should take a couple minutes.)
  • Add sesame seeds and pulse a few times (don't reduce the seeds to dust, just pulse enough to get them mixed in evenly)
  • Slowly add water and stir, making a sort of seedy dough. If the dough seems too dry, just add a little bit more water.
  • Shake a few dashes of Mrs. Dash (heh) and salt, and mix until evenly distributed. Give it a quick taste and see if it's right. Add more as needed.
  • Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and roll out as thinly as possible.
  • Remove top sheet of parchment paper and put the bottom piece of parchment with the rolled out dough on a baking sheet. Use a pizza cutter or knife to score the crackers into the size you want.
  • Bake for 20 mins at 350, or until crackers turn golden and crispy and delicious looking.

A few words about this recipe:

     I chose to add Mrs. Dash because she's my homegirl, but these are fine without it as well. Play around with these a little--add whatever seasonings you like, or experiment with different nuts.

     I made these today and it was a lot harder typing out how to make them than it actually was throwing them together. My oven is currently out of commission, so I made them at my brother and sister-in-law's house where I learned a very important lesson about food processors (I don't own one myself): Food processor blades are very sharp. Don't stick your hand down in there to loosen things up with your fingers. You WILL cut yourself.

Thanks for letting me mess up your kitchen, guys!

And for anyone who may be curious, here is the Fitday nutrition breakdown of the hummus, if you make it as written:

(Keep in mind that is for the whole recipe, not each serving. Portion accordingly.)

Extra Linky Goodness:
Mark's Daily Apple - The Lowdown on Lectins
Mark's Daily Apple - Leptin
Mark's Daily Apple - Further Adventures with Leptin
Agrarian Diet and Diseases of Affluence – Do Evolutionary Novel Dietary Lectins Cause Leptin Resistance?
Lectins: Their Damaging Role in Intestinal Health, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weight Loss

Have some zucchini and red peppers leftover?
Throw it in a skillet with a couple eggs and some (also leftover) cooked chicken for a quick, easy breakfast!

I <3 leftovers.

Stay posted for Day 2 of my Paleo weekend excursion, coming up soon. :)