St. James the Great

St. James the Great was one of Jesus’ closest companions, even being part of the Transfiguration. He and his brother John were both fishermen and among Jesus’ most earnest disciples. He is not to be confused with James the Lesser or James the Just, which tradition celebrates as the same person on May 1st.

Some traditions say that he traveled to Spain, where he is now the patron saint, to preach the gospel. James the Apostle was beheaded in Jerusalem (Acts. 12:1-2), but tradition says that his body was placed on a ship and sent back to Spain, where he is buried under the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. His tomb became the destination of one of Europes most important pilgrimage routes. This pilgrimage has recently been rediscovered as million now walk the Camino to seek spiritual renewal. His symbol became the scallop shell, because they surrounded his burial chamber, and pilgrims all over the world carry scallop shells as a sign of their spiritual journey.  

On the feast of St. James it is good to go for a prayer walk or a mini-pilgrimage to a sacred place in your community. One could also celebrate with a meal of scallops.  However, we are making a gracious helping of an Israeli  favorite—humus.  We have fallen in love with this dish while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, and have found this to be an easy to prepare and crowd pleasing appetizer.

Saint James the Great by Guido Reni (1572 – 1642); Oil on canvas; between circa 1636 and circa 1638; Height: 1,324.10 mm (52.13 in); Width: 987.55 mm (38.88 in); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston



1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, grated
5 cups garbanzo beans (canned)
Liquid from the canned garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 cups tahini paste
1 tablespoon olive oil (for serving)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (for serving)
1/4 teaspoon paprika (for garnish)
feta (for garnish)


  1. In a small bowl add the 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice and the 4 garlic cloves, grated and let sit for 3 minutes.
  2. In a food processor add the 5 cups garbanzo beans (chick peas), the lemon juice/garlic mixture, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Puree the mixture for 5 minutes, stopping a few times to wipe down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the 1 cup of liquid from the canned garbanzo beans in a steady stream while blending. Continue blending for another 2 minutes once all the liquid has been added. The mixture should become light and creamy.
  3. Turn the food processor off and add the 1 1/4 cup tahini paste. Blend for 10 seconds. Scrape down the bowl then blend for 10 more seconds.
  4. Let the hummus sit until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Garnish with olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, and feta. Serve with fresh pita.