Smoothest, Creamiest Hummus
After last week’s twenty-first-birthday-meets-exams-and-too-many-papers final days of the semester, I returned to Washington this past weekend to spend my last real summer vacation at home. (By the way, thanks to those of you who gave me nice birthday wishes, they were so kind.) I figure I might as well live off my parents now while I still can before I’m unleashed out into what is commonly referred to as the “real world” a year from now.
And I must admit, I am already happily settling into this summer at home. I’ve been cooking and baking enough to make up for (and then some) my lack of what we’ll call “culinary creativity” during my final few weeks at school, when an omelet filled with random vegetables and cheese made up my dinner just about every other night.
A lot of the things I had written down as things I would like to make this summer are from a Lebanese cookbook I got awhile back. This is, of course, affirming that I am still on that Middle Eastern cuisine kick, or at least a more specified, narrowed version of it. In fact, when I declared confidently this past weekend to my mom and sister that, “guys, Lebanese food is the best cuisine in the WORLD,” my sister didn’t even look back at me while saying, “oh my god that’s the third time I’ve heard that.”
Anyway, at the top of that list of things to make was hummus—but not just any type of hummus. I wanted hummus that was silky smooth, thick, and incredibly creamy. A hummus that wasn’t overpowered by the taste of garlic, but that was subdued and mild, save for a strong, clear presence of tahini.
This is, of course, the description of the hummus I’ve grown to love from a Lebanese-Greek restaurant in my town. I had always enjoyed making (and eating) hummus the way my mom taught me, but after tasting the hummus from that restaurant, hummus of my dreams!, I realized I had to figure out a way to make it at home.
After consulting and following this awesome post from Ruth Reichl, I produced the hummus shown here—yes, the very hummus of my dreams. It was exactly what I wanted, and I’m going to go ahead and say that judging by the way my mom and sister spooned it up on pita and vegetables, it was what they were wanting too even if they didn’t realize it at the time. I think that what makes this hummus special is that 1.) it requires garbanzo beans cooked from scratch. Not only is the flavor better, but the texture of freshly cooked beans is especially tender. Soaking the beans overnight in baking soda before cooking them ensures this tenderness. 2.) The skins from the cooked garbanzo beans are removed. A bit of a time intensive task, but c’mon? Who doesn’t love mindless, relaxing things like tending after a big bowl of garbanzo beans? And finally, 3.) Lots and lots of tahini. And no olive oil, save for the garnish. I thought this sounded a bit weird, but trust me! Watch your food processor whir away (basically) nothing but a pile of garbanzo beans and tahini into a velvety smooth paste. It’s awesome.
I realize that it would be a little unrealistic of me to believe that I am never going to make hummus another way again. After all, on those sunny summer afternoons when I want some homemade hummus to snack on, it would be most definitely impossible to produce overnight-soaked and freshly cooked and chilled beans out of thin air. That being said, I can assure you that given there is enough time in advance, it is this recipe for hummus that I’m going to turn to in the future. I understand also that everyone has their own preferences for hummus—some like it spicy with garlic, or chunky maybe. But if you want the hummus I described above—amazingly smooth, subdued in flavor with tahini taking center-stage—give this recipe a try.
I served mine in a shallow platter in order to get the largest amount of surface area I could for topping the hummus with good olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and sumac. I love eating it with warmed, toasted wedges of pita bread and some sliced vegetables like red bell peppers and carrots, but I have to tell you my absolutely favorite way of eating it is with big piles of tabbouleh on top. The bright, lemony parsley salad with the richly creamy hummus is an incredible combination. Now, tabbouleh, that is a recipe I need to conquer but haven’t yet. Anyone have any great recipe recommendations?
Adapted from Ruth Reichl
Makes about 4 cups
1 3/4 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 tablespoon baking soda plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 cup tahini paste
1 lemon, juiced, or more to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
pine nuts, toasted (optional)
sumac, paprika, cumin or zahtar (optional)
Rinse the garbanzo beans and discard any small stones or funny looking beans. Put them in a medium-large bowl with enough water to cover the beans by a few inches. Stir in a tablespoon of baking soda and let soak overnight. The baking soda allows for the beans to be extra tender once cooked.
Once soaked, drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and put them in a large pot with enough water to cover the beans by at least two inches. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. (Don’t be tempted to add salt while they cook—this will only cause them to cook unevenly.) Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low, steady simmer and cover. In the beginning of this process, white foam will gather at the surface of the water—this comes from gases being released by the beans while being cooked. Skim off the foam and continue to cook, covered, over low heat until the chickpeas are very soft. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Once slightly cooled, rub the garbanzo beans to remove the skins while rinsing them under cold running water. This is something of a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it. Once the skins have been removed, refrigerate the beans until ready to be made in the hummus. The coolness of the beans will translate into a smoother hummus later on.
Once cooled, Put the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and the reserved 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for a good 3 or 4 minutes, until it is smooth and creamy. Reichl compares the texture to that of “just-made frozen custard.” Taste for salt and lemon juice. If the texture is too thick to your liking, add a few tablespoons or so of the reserved cooking liquid.
Top with a few good glugs of good olive oil, toasted pine nuts, or some spices like sumac, paprkia, cumin, or zahtar. Serve with toasted pita bread wedges.
I gave this little to-go container of the hummus to my sister so she could take it back up with her to Seattle. She said she’ll share it with her architecture department friends—apparently they love hummus but didn’t know it could be made from scratch. (What?!)