Last weekend my parents and brothers traveled down to Nashville to spend the weekend with us. We played games, drank sweet peach sangria, visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, storm watched on the porch, and grilled marinated balsamic chicken.
It was lovely.
Every time I visit home or my family visits during the summer, my mom unloads a bounty of fresh home-grown produce on me. On Friday afternoon, we lugged giant bags of cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, bell peppers and chili peppers up to the apartment. And for the first time ever, I didn’t mind climbing the three flights of stairs with a heavy load in my arms. Because tomatoes! And peppers! AND CUCUMBERS!
My mom and I worked side by side, washing up the cucumbers, pausing for a few crunches here and there, and then on to the juicy tomatoes and spicy peppers for a quick fresh salsa laced with cilantro, cumin, and bright citrus.
Then we sat, dipped our corn chips into the blood red salsa, and caught up on everything from the past four months of distance. And for a few small minutes, I felt like I was back home at our family table, light streaming in through the windows, grimy hands all fighting for the last chip, loud voices, laughter here, teasing there, all wrapped up in sticky summer afternoon happiness.
If only I could freeze frame those moments, stow them away, bottle up the aura, and save it for the days that feel bleak and empty and lonely. But instead, these moments, they come and go, staying only long enough to conjure up old memories and impart a lingering touch of joy, then fleeting away, chased out of reach by time itself.
So, just like that, the weekend was over and goodbyes passed around again.
On Monday night, J sizzled leftover bacon on the stove and whipped up a salty avocado cream for some lovely BLTs, in which Mom’s garden fresh tomatoes were once again the star of the show. (Divas.)
Meanwhile, I stared at the piles of bell peppers, cucumbers, and chili peppers, wracking my brain for ways to use them up before they go bad.
So roasted red pepper hummus it was. As I watched the peppers blister and bake through the small oven window, I said a quick prayer thanking God for family and fresh produce and wonderful weekends together.
We’re still snacking on this wonderfully spicy dip treat, and if you’re as much of a hummus addict as we are, you won’t regret this dish. Perfect for your carrot and cucumbers sticks, your family table gatherings, your last minute summer picnics. Get going!
2 red bell peppers
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
¼ cup tahini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Water, as needed
Start with the peppers to give them plenty of time to blister up under the heat. Note: You can get roasted red peppers by the jar-full at the store. But hey, it’s summertime, so pick up a few of these bad boys from the farmers market (or grocery store, whichever suits your fancy) and exercise your kitchen muscles a little more.
Cut peppers in half, remove the seeds, and cut each half in half again. Try to get the peppers to lay as flat as possible on a baking sheet. Turn on the broiler and slide the pan in for about five-ten minutes. Keep an eye on them! The key is to get the skin completely charred all over. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, pop the peppers on the grill for an even tastier roasted red pepper.
Meanwhile, get the tahini (make sure to stir well if yours has started to separate), garlic, and lemon juice into your food processor and blend until smooth. By now your kitchen should smell like a glorious mix of lemony garlic and warm peppers. Check the peppers. If done, remove from the stove and transfer to a bowl and cover with foil. This helps the peppers steam for a few minutes which will help you remove the skin easier and result in a softer pepper. Win-win.
Add the chickpeas to the tahini mixture and blend until smooth. Note: J and I always peel the chickpeas. It’s extremely time consuming, but it makes for an incredibly smooth hummus. If you want to peel yours, plan for about 15-20 minutes per 15 oz can and do ahead of time. If you don’t mind a chunkier dip, skip the peeling.
If the hummus is getting too thick at this point, you can add a little water to help it out. Only add one tablespoon at a time—a little goes a long way!
Next, peel your peppers. Discard the charred skins and chop up the soft peppers (If you want to top of your creation with a little fancy chopped red pepper, reserve about ¼ of a pepper). Add the peppers to the hummus mixture and blend until smooth. Again, add a little water if it’s getting too thick. Next, add the olive oil, cumin, salt, and cayenne (if you like spice!). Give it a taste and add more seasoning as needed. Some days I crave a more lemony hummus, other days a spicer one. Be confident in your palette and don’t be afraid to add a little of this or a lot of that to get exactly what you’re craving. When you’re satisfied, mince the remaining red pepper and sprinkle on top for the perfect presentation.