By Emily Paster
Last Saturday was the second anniversary Chicago Food Swap. It's amazing how this community has grown in such a short time. From the dozen or so swappers at that first event in December 2011, the Chicago Food Swap has grown to a community of several hundred people with events that regularly draw eighty or ninety. Each swap, it seems, is a mix of seasoned regulars who greet one another with enthusiasm and slightly nervous newcomers, who have no idea what a treat they are in for. Although I do this every month, I am still amazed every time at the diversity and creativity of the swappers' items and every time, I go home inspired and grateful. I also go home with an armful of delicious food!
This Saturday was no exception. The December swap took place at Enerspace Chicago, a co-working loft with an open floor plan and a terrific view of downtown Chicago. Our host for the event was Joelen Tan, a culinary educator and blogger who holds her terrific cooking classes at Enerspace on Saturdays. Joelen was a wonderful host because not only she did prepare items to swap, she also made hot appetizers to serve the group! The swappers definitely enjoyed that.
Our sponsor for the December swap was Cabot Creamery Cooperative, a wonderful dairy cooperative in New England that makes exceptional cheeses, butter, sour cream and yogurt. You have heard me praise Cabot for their outstanding dairy products and sustainable farming practices before. Just over a year ago, I got to attend an amazing food blogger lunch featuring Cabot products at my favorite Oak Park restaurant Marion Street Cheese Market. I have also featured Cabot cheese in some of my recipes, including this one for grown-up grilled cheese and this one for Cheddar Cauliflower Gratin.
Needless to say, I was delighted to have Cabot on board as a sponsor for the Chicago Food Swap. Cabot sent some of their products to two lucky swappers, who are also bloggers, to create an original swap item. Kelly used Cabot butter and sour cream to make an amazing peppermint fudge, which I got a piece of, and Alison used Cabot cheeses to make delicious flavored crackers. One lucky swapper also walked away with a Cabot Creamery gift box worth $75. That is a lot of cheese!
I wasn't sure what I was going to make for the December swap until the week before. That is unusual for me because I am such a planner. I caught a lucky break though when I found myself with four cups of cooked chick peas left over from a chicken couscous recipe that I had made for dinner one night. Hummus is usually a popular swap item but I never bring it home because most hummus contains tahini, which is a paste made from sesame. Zuzu is allergic to sesame, as are many people who are allergic to tree nuts. So I decided to use the leftover chick peas to make a tahini-free hummus and offer it as a swap item.
Without tahini, hummus runs the risk of being bland and not creamy. To combat that, I decided to add lots of roasted garlic to my hummus. I also added a teapspoon of harissa, a spicy North African chili sauce. It added a little kick and a hint of color to the hummus, and given that harissa and hummus come from the same part of the world, it can't be that heretical a combination, right? I thought that the results were outstanding. I definitely plan to make this hummus again and am delighted that Zuzu can now have some of this healthy snack. If you have someone in your life who can't or won't eat tahini, try this hummus on them!
This hummus recipe made four 8 oz. jars of tahini-free hummus and I traded them all away along with six loaves of orange-cranberry quick bread. In exchange, I brought home peppermint meringues, salted caramel marshmallows, a dozen duck eggs (!), some roasted cauliflower soup, veggie chili, apple jelly, raw milk cheese, a par-baked pizza crust, amazing cardamom sugar cookies, some of the cracker made with Cabot Pepper Jack cheese and probably more things I forgot. Not too shabby!
Roasted Garlic Harissa Hummus
- 4 cups dried chick peas, cooked according to package directions, or canned
- 4 heads garlic
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 tsp. harissa
- Salt and pepper to taste
- To roast garlic, preheat oven to 375.
- Cut off tops of the heads of garlic, exposing the cloves. Do not peel.
- Place garlic in a small roasting pan, drizzle tops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover dish with foil and roast in oven for 1 hour.
- Squeeze roasted garlic out of the paper husks into a small bowl and set aside.
- In a food processor, combine chick peas, roasted garlic, harissa and lemon juice and process into a paste.
- With food processor running, pour olive oil into the chick pea mixture and blend well.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables.
*Makes 32 ounces, which is a lot of hummus. Feel free to halve or even quarter recipe.
The next Chicago Food Swap will be on January 12 hosted by Mac & Cheese Productions. This small, forty-person swap is open only to those who have attended at least three previous Chicago Food Swap events. This is not intended to exclude people, but rather to give some of the long-standing members of the community a chance to connect in a more intimate setting. The Chicago Food Swap will be back in February with a free, open-to-all swap!