by Natalie Shmulik
There comes a day in every reporter’s life when he or she feels the need to comment on issues within the Middle East. Today is not that day.
So how does the Middle East factor in on a crisp, 25–degree morning in Cambridge? Why, in culinary form of course. Spread on nearly every pita, wrap, and crisp within the architecturally unique confines of the MIT campus, hummus, a Middle-Eastern staple, took center stage at The Fifth Annual Hummus Taste-Off, organized by MIT Hillel and MISTI Israel. The tasting event concluded the MIT Hummus Experience series, consisting of seminars, classes, and workshops, and drew a sizeable crowd of students, teachers, and chickpea enthusiasts.
Within a short, but effective, one-hour time period, attendees sampled each of the five competing hummus recipes (all were both vegan and kosher) and voted for their favorite batch. Contending groups endeavored to shake up the traditional hummus recipe (typically consisting of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, and garlic) by incorporating a variety of unique and unexpected ingredients, experimenting with pungent herbs, a variety of nuts and spices, and even citrus fruits. Each team was determined to outshine last year’s winning invention of Samurai Miso Hummus and for a chance to have their flavor combination recreated and packaged by Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods.
The tasting order put some entries at a slight disadvantage in the battle of the chickpea. As Gastronomy student, Sarah Morrow, pointed out, it perhaps was not the best idea to offer up an overwhelming palate hog like the Jalapeño Hummus prior to milder and subtler flavor contenders. Nevertheless, one group shone above the rest with their winning recipe of Grapefruit Black Tea Infusion hummus. It will surely be soon added to this collection of the most memorable hummus recipes of the series.
Following the tasting, attendees were ushered into a cozy room full of tables lined with coupons, recipe cards, and pocket-perfect hummus packets fit for the following day’s lunch. And if this was not enough, Rami’s, a restaurant situated in Coolidge Corner, supplied full-sized pitas stuffed with tangy pickles, crispy falafel fritters, lingering hot sauce, and of course a large slather of rich and creamy hummus. And the icing, or rather ice cream, on the cake: hummus flavored ice cream, courtesy of J.P. Licks. This cooling dessert ensured that hummus lingered on the mind and palate long after the event was complete.
Natalie Shmulik is a Gastronomy student. After successfully running her own restaurant for two years and working in one of the largest grocery chains in Toronto, Canada, Natalie ventured into the culinary world of New England. She is currently a member of the Gastronomy Students’ Association and is working on several food related projects.