People put too many things in hummus! In the aisles of your local grocery store you’re sure to find an assortment of roasted vegetables and superfluous spices polluting the spread, let alone any preservatives or other unnecessary things like sugar. Like many other Levantine dishes, hummus (Arabic for “chickpeas”) is composed of a few basic components and the key to making it taste delicious is in the proportions of the ingredients and method of preparation.
When I make hummus, nothing goes in except chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, salt and raw garlic. I use dried chickpeas because the flavor and texture are better than what you get from canned beans (the brine that comes with canned chickpeas is awful). As for tahini, I usually use ready-made stuff. When you’re buying, look for a creamy consistency and a very pale beige color. My favorite in Chicago is the house-made tahini available at Middle East Bakery and Grocery on Foster Avenue. If you have sesame seeds and olive oil handy, you can make your own tahini.
Pickles are a delicious accompaniment to hummus. The bright pink pickled beets or mix of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and hot peppers known as turshi that are on sale at many Middle Eastern groceries are an excellent garnish for hummus. Just remember that less is more.
One note: the only potentially complicated thing you need is a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can use an immersion blender or even a potato masher, just substitute 1-2 tbs of water for the ice cubes.
3/4 cup dried chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 clove of garlic, minced
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-3 ice cubes
Pickles (for garnish)
Bring the chickpeas to a boil in a pot of salty water. Cook the peas until they are very soft and the skins are beginning to come off. This will take about 2 hours, but you can boil it for longer if you have time. The softer the chickpeas get, the smoother your hummus will be. Remove any of the chickpea skins you see floating at the top of the pot. I like to get a slotted spoon and stir the peas around so that more skins come off and then fish them out. This is not absolutely necessary but it again improves the texture.
Once the chickpeas are soft enough to crush easily with your hand and you’ve removed as many husks as you can stand, whip together the tahini, juice of one of the lemons, oil, garlic and salt in the food processor until consistent and creamy. This, by the way, is basic tahini sauce (taratour), which is a classic topping for falafel or fish and is a perfect partner to sour yoghurt.
Put the two or three ice cubes in the food processor (this is a trick that a friend taught me- it makes for an amazingly fluffy and light hummus). Strain the chickpeas and while still piping hot, put them in the food processor so that the ice cracks and begins to melt. Then, blend the entire mixture for several minutes until completely smooth. Add some olive oil if necessary during the blending.
You can serve the hummus immediately, still warm (my preference), or chill it and serve it later.
To serve, spread the hummus on a plate and liberally dress it with the juice of the other lemon, salt and more olive oil. Add a few pickles, or put them in a bowl to the side. Serve with hot bread.