Kate’s open studio happened yesterday (and quite successfully I must say, attempting to temper my husbandly pride) and among my jobs was being on hummus duty, not a bad job to have. If you want to cut to the chase of the recipe, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
My relationship with hummus began as a high school student. These days it seems like hummus is pretty ubiquitous – they have multiple brands at any supermarket, it seems to be an option at any place that sells wraps and so on. In the early 90s it was not so, but I was fortunate to grow up near Mamoun’s Falafel Palace. When I got to Rutgers, I was delighted to see how many places (including the “Grease Trucks”) served Middle Eastern food . . . until I tasted it and realized that not all hummus is good. That remains true, as I find most supermarket hummus (Cedar’s, Tribe of Two Sheiks, etc.) to be virtually inedible, probably because they make it so acidic to prevent spoilage. Sabra is decent, the Middlesex Fruitery sells another pretty good brand called Lenny and Joe’s, and there’s a great Israeli deli in New Haven (Westville Kosher Deli) that makes some real-deal hummus. But aside from being a little messy, it’s really not that hard to make your own, something I began doing not long after I began learning to cook as a college student. I did some rather unsuccessful experimenting (note: if you’re thinking of replacing the chickpeas with black beans and replacing lemon juice with orange juice, I suggest you reconsider and learn from others’ mistakes), but in the process learned what was essential and what was negotiable.
Assuming you have a food processor (in college I used to mash it with a fork – no joke), hummus can be made pretty quickly. It’s a little messy, but the actual making of it is fast. There are a few steps that can take a little more time – they make a significant qualitative difference, but even the quickie-shortcuts will still result in better hummus than you can generally get in a store, at a deli and so on. The biggest of these is the chickpeas. We have a pressure cooker and use it to cook them from dried. If you think ahead and pre-soak, this is actually a pretty quick process; without a pressure cooker it’s more time consuming (though it’s one of those things that can mostly be going on in the background while you do other things). If you must use canned, that’s okay too, though the higher the quality the better the hummus.
Our basic recipe (for about 4 cups of hummus) follows, with much wiggle room allowed with pretty much all of the ingredient amounts. Suggested variations follow.
– 2 medium/large cloves garlic
– about 3 cups of chickpeas (either 2 15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed, or 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and fully cooked)
– 1 cup tahini (ground sesame seed “butter,” easiest to find at health food stores or Middle Eastern groceries)
– juice of 2 lemons (between 1/4-1/3 cup, good-quality bottled will get the job done if necessary)
– ¼ cup good olive oil (up to ½ cup if you like it really rich)
– ½ cup water
– 1 ½ tsp salt
– pepper and/or other herbs (see below) to taste
1) Either crush the garlic or throw it in the food processor and pulse for 10-15 seconds.
2) add the remaining ingredients and blend that sucker up for anywhere from 1-5 minutes depending on how creamy you like it. Likewise, add more water if you like it thinner/creamier.
3) taste for seasoning and eat up.
Yep, that’s pretty much it, and once you get a little experience with the basics, there are lots of ways to vary it. A few ideas include:
– Dried herbs (anything vaguely Mediterranean – oregano, basil, cumin, though you can be creative)
– Fresh herbs (whatever you like, really – mint is good, if it’s a “savory” mint and not a mint better suited for iced tea; cilantro is great if you and your other diners lack the “cilantro tastes like soap” gene; for Kate’s open studio I used chives, garlic chives, sage, thyme and oregano, all from her garden)
– More or less garlic depending on your tastes, or replace with (a larger amount of) roasted garlic.
– Sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers or olives. If it’s something tough (like many sun-dried tomatoes), add with the garlic in step one to ensure even distribution.