Real hummus, which I tasted for the first time as an 18-year-old in Tel Aviv, is ethereally creamy, rich with olive oil, redolent of fresh lemon, lots of garlic and good tahini, plus just enough salt to make it pop. It was revolutionary to me just how good it was, scooped onto a warm piece of hot-out-of-the-oven pita.
Though many countries claim hummus as their own, the chickpea-tahini-olive oil-lemon-garlic preparation of hummus is Egyptian in origin. Its complete name, ummu bi ana, means "chickpeas with tahini" in Arabic. And while, yes, it is available in plastic containers at your local grocery store, hummus made from scratch is in its own category. Here's how:
Start with dry chickpeas. Don't give in to the desire to use canned—they're really not as good. Besides, $5 worth of dry chickpeas will last you a whole lot longer than $5 worth of canned beans.
If you have the time, soak them overnight, with some baking soda. If, like me, you are less patient, do the quick soaking method and stir some baking soda into the chickpeas and water, simmer for a few minutes, then cover for 10 minutes. This helps loosen the peels, and as you will find, this is the key to the smoothest, creamiest hummus.
The beans cook low and slow. Don't worry about them getting too mushy—they're just going to be pureed.
After cooking for a long time, it's into the food processor with tahini, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt.
Don't forget the extra olive oil to garnish. This is not a low-fat food. Don't ever bother with a hummus that claims to be low-fat.
I like to top mine with zaatar, an oregano-based spice-and-herb blend. If you can't find zaatar, sumac, paprika, chopped parsley or cilantro, or even just freshly ground black pepper works nicely.
Don't you just want to dive in with a hot piece of pita?
2 cups dried chickpeas
3 tablespoons baking soda
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to garnish
1/4 cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
Pick over the dried chickpeas and remove any that are still green.
Put the chickpeas in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and add enough water so the chickpeas are under about 2 inches of water.
Stir in the baking soda.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the temperature to medium and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Let the chickpeas sit in the pot, covered, for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer.
Run cold water over the chickpeas until they are cool to the touch.
Working in small batches, rub a handful of chickpeas between your hands to remove the peels.
Repeat until most of the peels have been removed from the chickpeas.
Place the peeled chickpeas back in the pot and cover with 2–3 inches of water. Cover the pot with the lid.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Let the pot simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Once the chickpeas have finished cooking, lift the lid and use a slotted spoon to remove any peels that floated to the top during cooking.
Drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer and run cold water over them to bring them to room temperature.
Place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor. Run the machine until all lumps disappear and the chickpeas are very smooth
With the machine running, stream in the olive oil.
Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until the hummus is completely smooth.
Scrape the hummus into a serving bowl and garnish with a heavy sprinkle of zaatar and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with fresh vegetables, pita, pita chips, kebabs or anything else you like.