The Diner Things


Mike’s City Diner chef/owner Jay Hajj has been churning out presidentially approved country-style grits and Pilgrim sandwiches for two decades, but he grew up on Middle Eastern specialties like saj bread and kebabs before his family left for Roslindale during the Lebanese Civil War. Now he’s sharing all the goods in Beirut to Boston. Hitting shelves on May 23, the cookbook is packed with staples that put his South End eatery on the map as well as Middle Eastern dishes, including this homemade hummus he perfected day in and day out for five years at Temptations Cafe, the Brookline ice cream turned falafel shop he bought at age 18.

Creamy & Silky Homemade Hummus
Makes about 6 cups
– 4 cups cold water
– 2 tsp. baking soda, divided
– 8 oz. dried high-quality chickpeas
– 2 cloves garlic, mashed
– 2 to 3 oz. fresh lemon juice
– 1 cup tahini, shaken well
– 2 tsp. kosher salt
– 1 tsp. white pepper
– 1 tsp. cumin
– 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
– 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped

Step One: Pour the water in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Add the chickpeas. There should be enough room in the bowl to allow the peas to double in size. Soak overnight.

Step Two: Rinse the chickpeas under cold water and place in a medium-sized saucepan. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas by 2 to 3 inches. Add the remaining baking soda. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Fresh chickpeas should begin to split after an hour. Commercial chickpeas can take 2 to 3 hours. When some of the chickpeas have started to split, shut off the heat. Let cool uncovered for at least 2 hours. Drain the peas, reserving the starchy water. Set aside about 12 whole chickpeas to use later as garnish.

Step Three: Liquefy the garlic and lemon juice in a high-speed food processor for about 1 minute. Add the drained chickpeas, plus 6 ounces of starchy water. Blend for as long as it takes for the mixture to become completely smooth, anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes—but longer if necessary. If the mixture is so thick that the processor slows down, add some additional starchy water—but only enough water to get the processor running again. Add the tahini, salt, pepper and cumin and blend until completely creamy. Blend in the olive oil. If the mixture remains chunky, it’s possible that you did not cook the chickpeas long enough. The hummus will still taste fine, but will not have the perfectly creamy texture desired. Check the taste and add more salt or lemon juice if desired.

Step Four: Refrigerate the hummus until ready to serve. Check its taste again when chilled and season as desired. Serve in a bowl and garnish with the reserved cooked whole chickpeas, chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

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