As the morning fades away and races rapidly towards noon, there’s rarely any question in my mind as to what’s for lunch. A creature of habit at the core, I’m almost always drawn to the same tasty, easy, and comforting staple: Hummus. Whether it’s in pita with falafel, spread on toast or bagels, nestled on top of chips or balanced on fresh veggies, it’s all good to me. The sheer volume of hummus that I alone go through in a week is enough to boggle the mind, so I like to think that I know a thing or two about it. Unfortunately, I tend to be very picky as well, and have only found one brand thus far that pleases my palate. Even the recipes I’ve tried at home haven’t quite lived up to that one supermarket commodity, so for ages now it’s been the only hummus in my heart. Always on the lookout for a decent alternative to shake things up a bit, I was excited with the prospect of trying out hummus by Summer Fresh, a label I had never heard of or seen up until now.
Available in a wide variety of flavors, sometimes topped with additional goodies like a drizzle of olive oil, whole chickpeas, or additional spices, or just in a standard package. Although they make convenient little to-go packs, the crackers included aren’t vegan, so just plan to scoop a dollop into some Tupperware if you want to take it to work or school with you. I wish I could have tried every last kind of hummus to get the full spectrum of flavors, but at least I got a taste of what these people could do with the humble chickpea.
While I wouldn’t normally bother with anything sounding as bland as Original flavor, I figured it would give me a good baseline for this hummus at least. Much to my surprise, it was anything but tasteless; a myriad of spices gives it an unexpected complexity, so much so that it’s hard to describe. A hint of lemon brings a nice hit of acid into the picture and all of the ingredients work to best compliment the chickpeas. Perfectly smooth and creamy, not the least bit gritty like most other commercial hummus, I was most impressed by the flawless texture. You really need to taste this for yourself, but believe me, this is not your average “plain” hummus.
Roasted Red Pepper is usually one of my top three favorite varieties, so I had high hopes for this one. Living up to its name, this luscious orangey-red spread boasted a bright, fresh peppery essence, with a detectable note of char, as if the peppers had just come off the fire. This is one that I would buy obsessively if I could find it with ease.
Another classic, Roasted Garlic is popular with many of my friends, so it’s always good to have around for parties. This one that I tried was topped with unadulterated chunks of roasted garlic, olive oil, and herbs, making for an impressive presentation straight out of the container. Intensely flavored with the both sharp and sweet flavors of garlic, fans of the stinking rose would be quite pleased to have this spread in their fridge. Luckily, it’s not over-the-top garlicky, but it definitely makes no bones about expressing its namesake to the fullest.
As an added bonus, I also got to try some of the other spreads made by Summer Fresh. They have a wide range of products, but beware- Many of their pestos contain dairy, and if you venture further through their product line, some of their soups and salads aren’t even vegetarian.
Although I wouldn’t call either of these two spreads “pesto” they are nonetheless labeled as Artichoke Pestoz and Peri Peri Pestoz, respectively. The artichoke version is certainly no looker, a pale greenish yellow shade and a bit lumpy, but the flavor makes up for its cosmetic failings. Singing out with pure artichoke flavor, this veggie is clearly the star of the show here, and it’s not sharing the spotlight with any other lesser ingredients. I think it would be awesome as a dip at a party, perhaps warmed up with a bit of Teese melted over the top. Talk about delicious!
Somewhat intimidated by the dark, fiery red peri peri, I knew that this stuff would be hot before even cracking the lid. When the label itself warns “hot” in no unclear terms, you’ve got to think that this stuff has some serious fire power. Looking much like chili paste with a bit of oil that stubbornly refuses to stay incorporated, just a whiff of this stuff tells volumes of its intensity. Taking the tiniest bite of this on top of a cracker, my mouth was instantly lit on fire, and the heat did not dissipate easily. I would recommend this only for real hot-heads who love serious spice, but it could also be a great ingredient in some hot dishes, where it could be dispersed more evenly to lessen the intensity.
If only I could find this stuff locally, my beloved Tribe hummus might actually have some competition on their hands!
[Written for Go Dairy Free]