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Little family, large appetite

I come from a very little family.

My mother Toni and her identical twin sister Tina measure a mere five feet tall in their (very small) stocking feet. Family lore has it that at age seven, they were still sufficiently Lilliputian that the nuns in their Catholic grade school would pick them up, prop them on one habit-cloaked hip, and tote them around. Tina’s daughters, my cousins Sarah and Katie, are likewise petite, having topped out just shy of the five-foot mark. On my father’s side, my half-sister Lisa has done her best to turn the tide, climbing to the unprecedented height of 5’3”, but ultimately I, at a whopping—nay, titanic—five foot five, am the female giant of the family. My father—an inch and a half under six feet and certainly no colossus—must have fought hard to sway the odds, or perhaps it was all the bovine growth hormone I was forced to guzzle with my nightly glass of milk at the family dinner table.

Either way, if there’s a jar of jam to be fetched from the highest shelf of the cabinet or a cookbook to be brought down from the top of the refrigerator, I’m the woman for the job. My relatively impressive stature comes in handy quite often when we’re all in the kitchen together, because for such a little family, we collectively have a rather sizeable appetite. The demand for hard-to-reach food and food-related items is nearly insatiable. And this past weekend was no exception, when a handful of us convened in California to celebrate Katie’s attainment of a hard-earned B.A. in architecture.

As one might expect, the high point of the festivities was to be a party, involving seventy guests, coolers crammed with beer and wine, white lights strung from the back deck, a rousing lip-sync performance of the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Streets” by yours truly (a special request from Sarah, who loves to exercise my talent for remembering easy-listening lyrics), a bonfire on the “beach” (the former site of our childhood sandbox and aluminum swing set), and of course, a generous spread on the dining room table. In the preceding weeks, Katie and her boyfriend Andrew had dutifully tasted and tested wines, and we exchanged a flurry of e-mails and phone calls, carrying out the menu-planning ritual that that lays the groundwork for any proper family event. With minimal haggling, it was decided that three sides of salmon, grilled and painted with pesto, would be sufficient, along with chicken sausages; Tina’s trademark corn salad; a green salad with candied pecans, sliced cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes; crudités; an assortment of cheeses; blue and yellow corn chips; and salsa. Most importantly, however, there would be an uncommonly luscious white bean hummus, a recipe created by a Little Family within our little family, a subdivision official enough to require capitalization.

In 2004, when Katie spent several months living in Boston with Sarah and Sarah’s husband Jim,* the three came to call themselves the “Little Family,” both for the size of their household and for the stature of its female members, and for Christmas that year, they assembled The Little Family Cookbook, a compilation of some of the dishes they prepared during those months together. “We did a lot of cooking, a lot of eating, and some might say a lot of drinking,” they explain. “In these pages we share with you the fruits of our labors and the grapes and malts we paired them with.” Full of vibrant color photos, beverage suggestions, and such enticing section headings as “White Beans, White Beans Everywhere!”; “We Love to Coook Indian”; “Baa-Baa Yummy Lamb”; and “Slow Cook This,” it can be hard to decide where to begin. But the white bean hummus—unusually smooth and creamy, with the airiness of whipped cream—isn’t a bad starting point, or even springboard for, say, an entire party.

Nutty with tahini, it finishes with a smart kick of lemon, and slathered on a wedge of pita or scooped up on a carrot stick, it’s rich enough to keep a crowd fueled for hours of rigorous reveling. And at the end of a night of what lesser-than-little people might call a lot of eating and drinking, there’s nothing I like better than being asked to reach up to the tippy-top cabinet above the oven to retrieve a Tupperware for leftover hummus. After all, the next morning, our appetites will surely be enormous, even though we are not.

*For surviving prolonged exposure to two giggly sisters speaking with a faux-Russian accent, Jim deserves a Time Magazine “Man of the Year” Award, or at least, as we say, three “attaboys.”

Little Family White Bean Hummus
Adapted from The Little Family Cookbook

2 large garlic cloves, or more to taste
1 20-ounce can or jar white beans, drained and rinsed well
2/3 cup well-stirred tahini
¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
1 tsp salt
Cumin, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

In a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves to mince them thoroughly. Add the white beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and a pinch or two of cumin. Puree well, scraping down the sides of the food processor bowl with a spatula as needed. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the hummus is as thick or thin as you like (I use about ¼ cup). It should have a very smooth, light, almost whipped consistency. Taste to check for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Serve the hummus at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil, and eat with pita.


Blogger amylou said...

Thanks, Molly! This is exactly what I am in the mood for today. I just made a half batch for dinner and it looks heavenly. (And from my little finger dip I can attest that it tastes darn good as well).

6:50 AM, May 22, 2005  
Blogger TanTian said...

Sounds delish. Do you think I can get the proper consistency in a blender? Mark and I are Quisinart-impaired Amy--I'm so impressed that you only had a finger dip sample! I would have consumed a fist full "testing" it before serving.

10:07 AM, May 22, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Amy, you didn't waste any time, did you? So glad to liked it, m'dear!

And TanTian, hmmm, the blender: it should work fine if you mix it in small batches. Maybe stir the ingredients together in a bowl, and then zizz them in the blender little bit by little bit? That should work alright. When my friend Keaton and I lived together in our junky little shag-carpeted apartment in college, we made regular chickpea hummus in the blender--and, come to think of it, falafel too. Let me know how it turns out...and enjoy your fistful!

11:32 AM, May 22, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

It was one of those very rare times when I had every ingredient on hand. You have to take advantage of times like that. The hummus was fab served with carrots, radishes, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.

And TanTian, if I test too much while cooking, I satiate my craving and end up wanting something else for dinner.

12:01 PM, May 22, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Amy, bless you, dear heart (as my grandmother would say), for not pointing out my typo. "So glad TO liked it"? Ummm, yeah. At any rate, your dinner sounds delicious. Bonus points for the radishes.

9:28 PM, May 22, 2005  
Blogger Compmouse said...

Do you toast your pita's so you can dip it? Or do you just spoon it onto the pitas?

6:00 AM, May 23, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Compmouse, I generally leave my pitas untoasted, although I do occasionally warm them a bit, wrapped in foil, in the oven. If you are more of a pita dipper, however, you could just as easily cut your pita into wedges, brush them lightly with olive oil, and crisp them in the oven. Mmm.

10:56 AM, May 23, 2005  
Blogger Compmouse said...

That's actually what I usually do for when I make roasted tomato hummus. I'll even flavour the olive oil with a bit of garlic for that extra bit of flavour before drizzling it over the pita chips.

11:52 AM, May 23, 2005  
Blogger margrocks said...

loverly site molly - beautiful writing + photos. came to you through clotilde over at chocolate + zucchini.

seems we have the same (excellent) taste in templates.

be back soon.


7:34 PM, May 23, 2005  
Anonymous maria said...

what a great recipe AND post. you're such a good story-teller! thank you ... mav

2:44 AM, May 24, 2005  
Blogger Loner said...

Just happened to stumble into your blog - LOVED the write up about the quiche which I am absolutely making this weekend for my family and this white bean hummus is on tap for later in the week - I have teenagers and filling htem up is rather difficult! The pictures are just beautiful! Thanks for sharing - Stace

6:21 AM, May 24, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Sounds delicious, Compmouse! You're one step ahead of me...

Thank you, margrocks, for making the trip over from C&Z--and for such generous compliments!

And mav, you're very welcome. Speaking of storytelling, I found a great quote the other day through my friend Gigi, a fellow writer: "I don't care how eloquent your phrasing. Unless you're a storyteller, you're not a writer." It's by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and it really resonated with me and with everything I'm trying to do with Orangette.

And Stace, thank you! Jimmy's quiche is most certainly filling, and the hummus makes a nice-sized batch...good luck filling up those teenagers! My mom could sympathize with you (although thankfully not because of me): she has vivid memories of buying entire Cure-81 hams for my (then teenaged) half-brother David in the early 1980s...ooof.

8:55 AM, May 24, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

Molly, that looks delicious, and I will simply have to try it for my next batch of hummus. I've heard of using white beans instead of chickpeas, but I've never tried it. You are very convincing!

9:21 AM, May 24, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

Molly, I'd been craving something like this for the last little while, but was wary of a traditional hummus (too heavy). Your recipe sounds perfect! I can't wait to try it this weekend. One other thing - short girls unite! I'm a whopping 5'2". I have to get on my tiptoes to hug my 5'10" sister-in-law.

5:56 AM, May 25, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Molly! Good morning! Props to you and all your Little People for having such ardent appetites :) This yummy yummy dip was a perfect and VERY well-received beginning to a dinner party thrown Monday night, in celebration of parents who were able to forge their ways into the wilds of Manhattan from Philadelphia, USA and Raglan, New Zealand. It was a marvelous night and while the sweet company no doubt had something to do with it, I think the fact that we were all practically mainlining this stuff may have helped. Yum.


8:47 AM, May 25, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Dawna, I think you'll be very impressed with the white bean trick. The creamy texture of white beans makes for a hummus that's smoother than the regular chickpea type, and the flavor is also a bit lighter, a bit less earthy. Not that earthiness is bad, you know, but variety is nice.

Tara, I hope you'll keep me posted on your weekend hummus-making adventure...and yes, raise your fist for short girls everywhere!

And Lisa, great news! Sounds like a wonderful, wonderful night, so I'm thrilled that Little Family hummus could be a part of it...

7:22 PM, May 25, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

Molly, I finally tried the white bean hummus - so wonderful! I added a teensy pinch of cayenne instead of cumin, and enough parsley to get some lovely green flecks. This is a new favourite - thanks!

3:02 PM, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Dawna, thanks so much for reporting back. I'm thrilled to hear that the hummus was a success, and I'll remember your parsley and cayenne rendition for next time...

10:39 PM, July 11, 2005  

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