Hummus is one of those things that 20 years ago most Americans would never have even heard of it but today you can find 10 different varieties of it at Trader Joe’s and at least one bowl of it at any party. Within the Jewish community there is a fascinating phenomenon that seems to become more prevalent the more common place hummus becomes: as soon as an American Jew has spent more than a day in Israel, when the come home, they develop a compulsion to pronounce hummus and pita with an Israeli accent. It comes out “hoooomus and peeeeta”. I find this infinitely annoying for some reason. Gordon is actually one of the worst offenders of this and we have gotten into stunningly long debates over it. I used to just shake my head and roll my eyes when people did it but now I find it much more amusing to pretend like I can’t understand them … “what is it you’re saying?” are you trying to say hummus and pita?”
This debate pales in comparison to the proxy that hummus has become for the entire middle east conflict, wrapped around who actually invented hummus. Additionally, the Lebanese and Israelis have been continually out doing each other to get in the Guinness Book for the biggest batch of hummus. I’m not kidding. For a great parody of this I recommend watching the short musical film “West Bank Story”, which chronicles the romance of an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian girl whose families run competing falafel stands.
One thing I think everyone can agree on is that hummus is delicious and versatile. It’s a great appetizer dip when served with raw veggies or pita and its a great condiment for falafel, grilled meat or any kind of sandwich.
If you are pressed for time you can used canned chickpeas, but starting with dried beans will make for a much smoother textured hummus, plus they are incredibly cheap. hummus is also extremely adaptable. You can work in roasted peppers, extra garlic, oregano, sun-dried tomatoes etc. I like to replace the cayenne with ancho chili powder and sprinkle smoked paprika in top.
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
1/2 cup dried chickpeas 2 quarts water 2 teaspoon salt for boiling chickpeas 3 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons 6 tablespoons tahini , stirred well (see note) 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling 1 small garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon) 1/2 teaspoon table salt 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin pinch cayenne 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
- Pick through and rinse chickpeas. Place beans in large bowl, cover with 1 quart water, and soak overnight. Drain. Bring beans, 2 tsp salt, and 1 quart water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup bean cooking water, and cool.
- Combine lemon juice and bean cooking water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.
- Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream ; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
- Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle reserved chickpeas over surface. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.