Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alternative Hummus Salad

She stood in front of the classroom wearing patchwork pants with brown nubbins in her hair. Her clothing was worn and unwashed, though it had been intentionally made that way. She reminded me of an orphan child in a production of "Oliver Twist". Her presentation partner, who stood next to her, was a slightly taller more blond version of the brown haired girl, but only by appearance and first name. They were self identified members of a freedom movement, a few generations late.

The girl with the brown nubbins, whom we affectionately referred to as "Julie Patchouli" because she walked around saturated in Patchouli essential oil, held in her hands a bundle of dried garlic bulbs. Her presentation partner held a steaming hot cup of tea, which she carried around in an environmentally friendly and socially conscious mason jar.

It was my first week of organic chemistry taught at an ultra liberal alternative college, and we were instructed to pick a topic relevant to organic chemistry and give a short presentation on it. Julie and Julie were giving us a talk on allicin, an organic compound in garlic which antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and helps thin your blood. Julie pulled off a clove of garlic and popped it into her mouth raw "it is best if you eat the garlic raw, because chewing releases the enzyme which converts molecules to allicin, if you expose the garlic to air, the allicin content goes down."

I stared at her in amazement. I had never witnessed anyone eat a whole raw clove of garlic before. I was shocked to learn that garlic had anything to do with the dreaded 'organic chemistry' which all my friends tried to talk me out of taking.

The professor, a woman in her mid 60's who wore a T-shirt with the molecular structure of 'caffeine' on the front and 'theobromine' (aphrodisiac/stimulant in chocolate) on the back congratulated them on a job well done. She was always chipper for an old professor, probably owing to the fact that she drank 8 cups of coffee a day. Chemists are a unique breed.

Over the years I had many classes with Julie Patchouli, we even lived in the same apartment for awhile. She was an unbelievable cook, and taught me about the mysteries of whole foods prepared from scratch and with love. We weren't close friends, we kept each other at the closest distance our mutual skepticism would allow. However, I still remember every presentation that Julie Patchouli ever gave. I remember the meals that she cooked, I was inspired by her love for food and I am forever grateful.

I set out for a morning run with my running partner Matt, having eaten a lot of raw garlic the night before. Ever since Julie and Julie's presentation I have made it a mission to eat raw garlic whenever possible, provided I don't have somewhere to be that I need to worry about my odor that day. After about two miles I noticed that Matt kept looking over at me with a twisted expression on his face.
"WHAT?" I finally said. "
"Did you eat garlic last night, or something"
I giggled but was embarrassed. "Why, can you still smell it?"
"Yes" he said, "you stink" and we both fell over laughing.

Here is a hummus recipe which uses cilantro in place of garlic. This is the first time I have made hummus this way and it is awesome. I had to stop myself from eating it all before Christina gets home.

Cilantro Hummus: In a mini food processor, blend together 1 1/2 cups chickpeas, 1/2 Tbsp tahini, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 cup loosely packed cilantro, salt and pepper.

The Salad: Place some red leaf lettuce on a plate decoratively. Add 1/2 diced green pepper, 2 diced sweet carrots, a few cherry tomatoes diced, a few quartered mushrooms. Drizzle the juice from the remaining lemon half over the veggies. Top with cilantro hummus.

Christina's vote: "Stirred my middle eastern blood"

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