The Perfect Hummus
I had never experienced real hummus (for it is, indeed, an experience) until I was 50 years old when I was taken to a Turkish restaurant (Istanbul Grill and Deli) in Houston, TX. Until that time, hummus was nothing more than a cold, flavorless paste in a plastic container in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. I sampled a few different versions of packaged hummus and tried to determine what all the fuss was about but I never acquired a taste for it.
Turns out, that sh*t in a plastic container ain’t hummus.
Hummus, according to one of my new favorite cookbooks, Zaitun, “is drenched in tahini and singing with citrusy flavor commonly topped with tangy chili-and-lemon dressed chickpeas and served with thick slices of tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers”. Oops, I drooled a little.
Real hummus elevates the unimpressive chickpea to a sophisticated dish that is to be served warm and creamy, drizzled with olive oil or garnished with exotic spice mixes like za’atar or paprika. It can be used as a warm spread on chicken or vegetarian sandwiches or eaten as a dip with crunchy vegetables. Hummus is a popular breakfast dish in Palestine and the word “hummus” means “chickpea” in Arabic.
I’ve offered suggestions at the bottom of this post for where to purchase some of the ingredients you might not have on hand. They are ingredients I trust and have in my own pantry - I buy the 2 jar order of tahini because it takes so much to make the hummus and I don’t want to run out!
adapted from the cookbook, Zaitoun
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl of cold water.
The next morning, drain the chickpeas and pour them into a saucepan with the baking soda, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes then stir and skim off the foam floating on the top. Continue to cook until the chickpeas are soft but not mushy, about 30 minutes.
Drain the chickpeas and place in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cumin and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Process until smooth, then add ice cubes and process another 2 minutes when the hummus should be light and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt or lemon juice. Hummus will thicken when cooled, so add a little cold water and process again to combine.
Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and leave to rest for 1 hour while the flavors marry.
To serve, make a small well in the hummus with the back of a spoon and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and you choice of toppings from the ingredient list.
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 garlic gloves, crushed
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 ice cubes
extra virgin olive oil for garnish
TOPPING: za’atar, paprika or ground cumin (optional)
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