While this may be the rallying cry of terrible men everywhere, a corrected version of the adage would be “A Woman’s place is in the kitchen (so long as she isn’t getting paid for it).”
Life as a female professional chef can be ROUGH. Kitchen culture is a notorious boys’ club, and the misogyny runs deeper than the pockets of the rich weirdo yuppies you cook for. As a professional chef, I’ve worked in every kind of kitchen–from greasy spoon griddles to high end catering–and thanks to a decade of experience in the field, I have become an expert in all things tasty.
So in honor of International Hummus Day, I will be stepping out of my role as Muslim Girl’s resident comic nerd to give you a little lesson in high quality, industrial quantity hummus production. This International Day of Hummus, let me be your Julia Child: that tall, awkward, soft spoken white lady who happens to be on TV when you can’t find the remote and you’re too lazy to get up and change the channel.
Close your eyes, and let’s imagine. The TV is on. There’s an old white woman with a knife in her hand. She wants to talk about hummus. Don’t change the channel yet, it’s time for–
A MUSLIM GIRL’S GUIDE TO HIGH-VOLUME INDUSTRIAL HUMMUS PRODUCTION
STEP ONE: WELCOME TO CHICK PEA JAHANNAM
So you’ve agreed to cook 250 pounds of Hummus for a catering gig. Congratulations! Your life is over. You have signed your soul over to that great devil, the chick pea.
Every recipe in the world will tell you to soak your chick peas overnight. It is very important that you forget to do this. Soaking chick peas overnight might benefit you by cutting your cooking time in half the next day, but that extra cooking time will give you freedom to bring more interesting flavors into the mix…the kind of subtle flavor that makes guests go “What is that… am I tasting turmeric?” and you can just shrug slyly.
Here are some Secrets you can throw in with your chick peas. You have at least three hours of cooking time, so feel free to experiment.
- Spices, spices, ALL of the spices: Adding spices this early in the cooking process allows you to infuse subtle flavors without overpowering the recipe later in the game. Valued additions: Cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika. Things to avoid: Salt (yes, I said salt!), black pepper, anything overly pungent.
- Actually never enough garlic: Throw a few cloves in there! Don’t worry. There will be more.
- Want to ruin your vegetarian friends’ lives? Add some bone stock! Better yet, just throw some leftover chicken bones in there. Or, wait. You’re not the kind of person that just throws bones away after a meal, are you?? Long, slow cooking with bone stock imparts those subtle, complex flavors we were talking about earlier. Don’t forget to take the bones out before blending everything together! If you’re getting pre-made packaged stock (like a heathen, but whatever, you do you), make sure it’s natural, chemical free and unsalted.
- No Salt, Never Salt, Why Would You Ruin Good Hummus By Putting Salt In Too Early??? It’s tempting to throw salt in the pot along with your little chick pea babies. You’re concocting all those complex, subtle flavors now, so why not bring salt to the party? Because adding salt too early will toughen up your bean babies. They’ll become emotionally stunted and later on, when you try to introduce them to new ingredient friends like tahini and olive oil they won’t socialize well.
Bring your giant pot of chick peas and secrets to a boil, then down to a slight bubbling simmer. Stir often. Add water if needed. Remember that chick peas will expand to near twice their dry size while they cook, so make sure your pot is big enough. Go prep some other veggies, go on an extended lunch break, whatever, you’ve got a few hours–just make sure to stir, and check in every now and again to make sure a) you’re not losing too much water and b) nothing is on fire.
We at Muslim Girl cannot stress enough: setting your kitchen on fire is detrimental to the process of making good hummus. (Believe it or not, these things happen. We have to include this disclaimer, because one of our editors, not going to say which one, really did cause a very small kitchen fire while cooking once.)
STEP TWO: OH, YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE OUT OF CHICK PEA JAHANNAM?
Alright. It’s been a few hours and it’s looking like your chick peas are ready for the next step. You can tell your chick peas are done because they will be soft (not mushy), and the skins will begin to separate from the bean.
You are now facing a giant pot of cooked legumes, and need to shock them with cold water so they stop cooking. You will feel the need to try and accomplish this all by yourself, but this temptation is to be resisted. Sure, it’s probably physically possible for you to lift up 100+ pounds of cooked beans and boiling water, carry them to a sink fifteen feet away, and drain the chickpeas without dying. Being a woman in a professional kitchen is tough, and you need to prove how tough you are by lifting heavy things and pretending you never need any help ever, we get it. BUT if you accomplish this feat too often, soon enough you’ll find yourself going to physical therapy twice a week for a bad back despite not even hitting thirty years old yet, embittered by your youthful hubris while a polite woman in scrubs and ponytail named Carol pops your L2 vertebra back into place for the third time this month while she tells you about her boyfriend and Carol, I don’t care about your stupid crusty boyfriend–You deserve better by the way; he really sounds like a loser, why haven’t you dumped him yet?!–please just fix my stupid broken back, Carol please. Hypothetically, speaking of course. Just ask for help.
There are two ways to shock your cooked chickpeas: You can run cold water over them, or set up an ice bath. Either works.
You’re accomplishing two things here: You’re preventing the chickpeas from overcooking or getting mushy, and you’re rinsing them from the water they were cooking in. You may ask yourself: “Could I get away with skipping this step?” The answer is: Probably? Maybe, but your boss is watching so just rinse the daggum chick peas, okay.
Now comes the actual hell: You will need to separate the chick peas from the thin translucent shells now doubtlessly overtaking your giant pot of legumes. Sure, you could blend it all together and it might look like hummus, but if you leave the chickpea shells in with the recipe your hummus will end up gritty and unpleasant. Nobody wants that.
SO: Here are a few strategies on how to survive shell hell:
- Dump your cooked & shocked beans into a fresh container, and fill it up with water. The shells will separate and float to the top, giving you opportunity to get a spider or mesh strainer to fish them out.
- Spread your cooked chickpeas out on baking sheets. Pick out the shells individually.
- Cry. Because you’ve been doing this for what feels like a lifetime and there are still shells, so many shells, what kind of life have you led that this is your punishment, this unending task of shell removal just so some rich yuppies can have un-gritty hummus, dear God, Allah guide me, free me from this Sisyphean trial of neverending shells. Ameen.
Okay! Now that you’ve removed all the shells and weathered an existential crisis, you’re ready to move on to the fun part! Mixing it all together.
STEP THREE: GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER
There is something very important you need to ask yourself before moving forward from here: What kind of hummus do I want to make today? (Or in this case, high-volume professional chef that you are, you are more accurately asking: What kind of hummus does my client want today?) Simple and traditional? Loud and spicy? Experimental hipster nonsense? The flexibility and versatility of hummus means that you have a lot of breathing room to make this dish your own. So let’s break down the main ingredients, look in to a few likely additions, and maybe even dive in to some experimental hipster nonsense to boot.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS:
- Tahini: Ground, roasted sesame seeds. People get very proud and territorial about what they think is the perfect tahini for hummus, but there are a few simple rules to ensure you’re getting the good stuff: It should be coming out of a 30-gallon industrial tub, there should be very little English on the label, and your supplier should have zero relation to any companies on the BDS list.
- Garlic: Roasted garlic cloves will add a smooth, aromatic almost-sweetness to the dish. Raw garlic makes for a sharp, crisp bite. A killer secret is to mix in a little of both, creating a complicated palate with lots of flavor.
- Olive Oil: Most experts will recommend extra virgin, but Muslim Girl thinks an olive oil should have the right to live her life however she wants. No judgement.
- Salt: Alright, NOW, you can finally add some salt in to the mix. Not too much–salt can help bring out flavors, showcasing some while muting others, but put in too much salt, and that’s all anyone will be able to notice.
- Lemon Juice: Squeeze those babies yourself! Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a must. You can also zest the lemons beforehand if you’re feeling fancy; peeled lemon rind can be an impressive, delicate garnish in the end.
- Want your hummus a little creamier? Try a little greek yogurt to whip things up and add the tiniest bit of sharp tartness.
- Requiring vegan creaminess? A ripe avocado can do the trick (and adds some extra fresh unsaturated-fatty goodness).
- Want some spice in your life? Cayenne pepper, crushed chili flakes and harissa all make for welcome additions. This chef prefers a small addition of canned adobo peppers, with dried smoked peppers crushed for garnish. Customers rarely request it, because let’s be real, customers never know what’s best for them. Maybe one day they’ll understand.
STEP FOUR: MIXING IT ALL TOGETHER, WHIPPING IT UP
Your boss will tell you that blending all of the ingredients together in a small household food processor is important to creatively building flavor profile and not just because she doesn’t want to pay for an appropriately sized industrial mixer. Choose to believe her. You’ve already spent five hours staring at a pot watching chick peas simmer and fought with a client over which artisanal giardiniera would be better garnish, and your poor heart might not survive the knowledge that you still have two hours to go because your boss is too cheap to upgrade the circa-1998 Kitchenaid staring you down as you prepare to mix everything together.
Honestly, I thought this section might have been longer, but it’s actually pretty darn simple: You have your ingredients, you put them all together in a processor, and you press the button until it’s all smooth and blended together.
After you’ve processed everything together in small batches, tasted every batch individually and tweaked every iteration until the final product comes out perfect, it’s time to whip it up a little bit. A hand whisk is best, or maybe an old fashioned egg beater–you want to whip everything to get a little air into the recipe and lighten the whole thing up. This is a good opportunity to add a little more olive oil, or maybe another dash of cayenne, to make the product perfect and memorable. Take some time to admire, and be proud of your work.
STEP FIVE: TAKE A SEAT, ENJOY YOUR WORK, SMASH THE PATRIARCHY WITH YOUR CULINARY PROWESS
It’s a common practice in the kitchen that if your client is asking for two hundred and fifty pounds of product, you produce two hundred and sixty. Some times things go missing or measures don’t quite add up, so it’s important to give yourself a small buffer for leeway (without hurting your margins too badly).
Sample some hummus out for your friends and coworkers to taste. As a woman in the kitchen, it’s important to prove that you are much more talented than your male coworkers at least once a week. This is an opportunity to assert your dominance, emasculate some kitchen bros, AND share tasty treats with friends. We here at Muslim Girl call that a win/win/win.
But then again when you’re making hummus, it’s pretty darn hard to lose.
Happy International Hummus Day! How will you be celebrating?!