A few weeks ago, the lady and I were down at the Market, and we decided to pull in to the Zig Zag Cafe for a drink. First, a little word about the Zig Zag. If you’ve ever been to Seattle, specifically the market, the secondary attraction behind the market is the Pike Street Hillclimb. The lowest level is the Waterfront, where you can find such gems as the ferry terminal, Ivar’s Acres of Clams, Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe, and the Seattle Aquarium. The Third Level is, of course, Pike Place Market, home of delicious fish at the foot of Pine Street, the first Starbucks, and DeLaurenti’s Fine Foods, an Italian Market hosting Mario Batali’s dad’s Pancetta, an impressive selection of olives and European Chocolates, and great looking, authentically Italian-named cafe staff.

Right in the middle lies 150 steps leading between the levels, and on a patio with a fountain, you can find the Zig Zag. The guys buy scallops and salmon from me, and I’ve always meant to go down there for a drink and an appetizer to show a little bit of support, but that day seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Look at this guy, will ya? This is a bartender. All others, take note. In addition to the wisely chosen seafood selections on the menu, they have a bartender, Murray, who has been named by many governing bodies as the best bartender in America. Playboy, bestower of gentlemanly titles, and the more professionally sanctioned Tales of the Cocktail c0mpetition/gathering that took place last week in New Orleans. As we’re constantly on the search for new cocktails, ones that are no-nonsense, Zig Zag is an uncomplicated stop on the tour of Seattle’s spirit walk.

With all the hype surrounding Murray’s drinks, the menu looked like someone had opened up your grandfather’s liquor cabinet and started pouring at random. All sorts of the so called medicinal liquors were there, as well as strange whiskey/bourbon/grain alcohol combinations. The main difference between Murray’s drinks and the drinks of everyone else (it is important to make that distinction, because there’s now officially Murray, and everyone else) was that this was a drink with purpose. It didn’t have floral overtones that lingered on the palate. It was, simply put, an original strong drink with balance, which is sorely lacking in all bars these days.

You can go to the speakeasies of the world and they’ll be able to make you a sling, or a punch, or a fizz, or a flip, but the drinks that they invent are with a twist. I don’t want a twist. I don’t want your take on something, because I’m not going to leave your bar thinking that I really needed to try the rhubarb syrup mixed with celery bitters. I just want to leave thinking “Hey, that was a damn fine drink.”

And drink, we did. Just one. Mine had a name like “Drunken Sailor with a Rusty Nail”. While it was akin to ordering an unfortunately named Pancake breakfast at the IHOP, the drink was uncomplicated, straightforward, and strong.

Enough about the drink, though. Alongside the drink, we got a small bowl of mixed green and black olives cured in oil, toast points, and a small bowl of hummus. In the dimly lit back corner of the restaurant, it looked like something was green in our hummus.

I looked closer, and it was fresh basil. It went so well with our cool drinks. I went up to the chef when I saw him come out of the kitchen, with my compliments.

“Yeah, it’s really simple. We just take our dried garbanzos and make the hummus from scratch, then add fresh basil at the end.”

Sounds simple enough.

Went home, bought some stuff, tested it, and here’s my recipe:

Hummus

1 lb. dried garbanzos

1 Small can or jar of tahini (8-10 ounces)

Olive oil

Salt

1 Lemon

Water

Fresh basil

***

Soak the garbanzos overnight. Next, drain them, fill a large pot with water and simmer them for about 2-3 hours over low heat. You can use canned garbanzos, but I like the texture result with the dried.

When you can pull one out and mash it with the back of a fork, pull the pot off the heat, draining the beans.

Grab your can of tahini, open it, and pour the whole thing in. Add a few swirls of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, starting at 1 tsp and making your way up from there if you so desire it. Then, mash. Mash like you’ve never mashed before. Even with a hand blender, the hummus still had that rustic look. I don’t have a food processor, but I don’t particularly want one, either. Taste, adjust. Maybe put a little bit of black pepper in there.

Now, take your lemon and zest it. Zest it right into the hummus. Don’t be shy. Lemon is the vehicle with which you get the flavor to make your hummus burst with…hummusy goodness?

Yeah.

So zest it.

Then, juice it. Put all that juice right into the hummus and mix it thoroughly. Taste it again. Is it too thick? Add a little bit of oil. Too rich as well? Add a little bit of water. All the flavor’s there. You won’t dumb down your hummus by thinning it with water.

Then, the basil. If you have a plant, pull some leaves off of it, stack them on top of one another, roll them up, and slice it like you would if you were making those cinnamon rolls that came in the poppin’ fresh tube. Slice it into thin ribbons, so it looks like a swirl when you slice it. Congratulations. The culinary term for this is ‘chiffonade’, and now you can do it in the splendor of your very own kitchen!

Put the hummus in a bowl or on a plate, sprinkle it with a bit of paprika, some more lemon zest, maybe some sesame seeds, and that fresh basil. A perfect summertime treat!

If you choose to use canned garbanzos, I will not frown. Just like canned beans, they’re actually very healthy and a well cared for canned product. It’ll also save you about a day of prep time. As I mentioned, the texture of the hummus will be a bit smoother, but some people like that. For a hummus that resembles the tub that you get at the store, put it into a blender and hit whatever button it is that blenders have to make it smooth.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t put any garlic in there. Some recipes call for it, and some don’t. I read an article in the New York Times last month (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/dining/16united.html) that discussed the flavored hummus craze at length. If there’s one thing about this hummus that’s good, it’s that you can use it as a base for creating any number of delicious flavored hummi in your future.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a quick, cheap and easy accompaniment to your hummus, take a pack of corn tortillas, brush them with oil and cut them into wedges, sprinkle them with salt, and put them in the oven at 375° for 8 minutes. They’re about ten times as delicious as Doritos, much healthier because they’re baked, and a fulfilling way to make a snack at home.

One of the World's Biggest Plates of Hummus