Saturday, November 8, 2014

Let's make some Hummus!

Hummus is yummy.  It's also fairly easy to make, is very filling, and is considered a healthy alternative to not eating hummus!  (Oh yea, and it's cheap.)

But before showing you how fun and simple it is to make, I have to make a little confession: I, although born in the Middle East, well, how can I say it, grew up thinking that hummus is, well, not so yummy.  Ok! I said it!  I thought hummus was not even good as spread!  I couldn't even imagine eating it as a meal.  Well, until a few years ago, when I went to some hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Israel, and "discovered" what everyone here already knew: hummus is yummy.  Very yummy.

See, eating hummus out of a plastic container that is sold in a grocery store is like eating scrambled eggs that was frozen, then defrosted, frozen again, defrosted again, mixed with preservatives, blended into some paste, and then served cold.  Just because that doesn't sound appetizing doesn't mean scrambled eggs can't be good.  They are just two very different things, that is all.

Fresh hummus is like good pizza.  Everyone has an opinion about what makes it good: fine or coarse, spicy or not, etc. etc.  I make no claims about what is the best "ultimate" hummus.  I'm just going to show you how I make good, fresh, hummus, with the hopes that it will inspire you, dear reader, to try to make it yourself, and see which style of hummus you go all-hummus about.

So here goes.  Years of experience, right here, on a little blog.

First, get some dried chickpeas.  I only ever saw the white (beige?) kind, but apparently there are also green ones.  I have no idea if they're any good.  So if you're doing this for the first time, get the white ones.  They probably sell them in a bag, maybe a pound or two.  Doesn't really matter which size you get, at least I sure as hell don't care.  Just find some dried chickpeas somewhere.  I'm sure you can find them.   Another "exotic" ingredient that you're going to want is tahini.  That is basically ground sesame-seed paste, and is awesome in and of itself.   You're gonna want to see my post on how to make tahini for this.  Don't worry, that's even easier, and keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

To sum it up, you'll need:

  • A bunch of dried chickpeas
  • Some pure tahini paste
  • Some tahini sauce (see sister recipe)
  • A real lemon
  • An actual garlic (you won't need the whole thing, just 1 or 2 cloves, depending on taste.)
  • A little salt
  • Maybe some olive oil
  • If you have some parsley, all the more power to you.
  • Ah and as decoration (and definitely not a must), some za'atar or sumac.  Not a must, people.

Pre-soaked, frozen chickpeas waiting to be cooked.
Start by putting all (or a good amount) of the chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight.  The chickpeas will expand, so make sure you have a bunch of extra water in there.   The reason I recommend using all the chickpeas is that soaking the chickpeas is annoying, and after you soak them, you can keep them in the freezer for a long time anyways, so may as well get it over with once.  Having soaked chickpeas in the freezer has the additional benefit of letting you be spontaneous.  You can just wake up one morning and say to yourself: I want to have a nice bowl of hot hummus for brunch, and guess what?! You'll be able to have one, because you, in your infinite wisdom, have kept pre-soaked chickpeas in the freezer!  That's right!

Cooking with a pressure cooker
So fast-forward to you having soaked your chickpeas, you can put some (either from the freezer or from last night) in a pressure cooker.  Don't have one?  Sucks for you.  Consider getting one.  It's amazing.  Really, it is.  But don't worry, you can still make hummus without one.  It just takes a little longer, but no big deal.  Take the amount of soaked chickpeas that you want to make, put them in your pot (or pressure cooker), cover with them with about an inch of water above the highest chickpea, and cook them until they're soft. The rest you can keep in the freezer for another day.  But how much to make?  Again, that depends on appetite and how many other things you'll serve with it, but a rough guesstimate is to cook about a cups worth (pre-mashed) per serving.  That seems to work for me.  Better make a little bit more than a little bit less, because if you make a little extra, you can throw them in rice or something else that you make.  Just don't use them to make another batch of hummus.  You can, in theory, but you shouldn't.  It just isn't the way. :)

Magic water.
  • In my pressure cooker, it needs about 10 minutes to reach full heat, 10 minutes of cooking time, and 10 minutes of "cool down" once I turn of the flame.  For you it may be different, it's ok to over-cook it a little, but don't under-cook it.  If the chickpeas aren't soft and edible when done, keep cooking.
  • In a pot, well, I'm not really sure how long it takes to cook, because I'm fortunate enough to use a pressure-cooker.  You can add a half-spoon of baking soda to the boiling water, it speeds up the cooking time for some reason.  I'm guessing that it'll take about an hour for the chickpeas to get soft.  If this is your first time doing this, give yourself an hour and a half. 
Some like it coarse.
While the chickpeas are cooking,  you can go ahead and make some tahini sauce.  I have a little post that shows you how. (You are welcome!)  Tahini sauce not only goes well with hummus, but you can eat it with salad, or as spread on toast!  So, yea... Now is a good time to make some. :)

Now that the chickpeas are nice and soft, do not pour out the water that they cooked in.  It is magical water, that will give that extra-kick to your hummus.  Get a potato-masher, and mush-mush-mush the chickpeas with some of that magic water until you get a nice consistency.  What's a nice consistency?  Good question!  I would say that it depends on taste.  I, personally, like it coarse, and not too runny.  But better too runny than too dry. Keep in mind that mushing the chickpeas will make it absorb some of that magic water, so add water slowly, and to taste.  Now its time to add some flavor to your hummus.  Start by pouring in some 100% pure sesame paste (a.k.a. tahini.)  Stir it in with a spoon, as it takes a little time for the tahini to mix in well.  Add as much as you like.  I recommend to start with about a big spoonful per serving.  Add a dash of salt (just a little goes a long way.) Some minced garlic, and squeeze in a little bit of lemon.  I sometimes put in a little olive oil as well, but I think I do it more out of superstition than anything else. :)
A little tahini paste

Now the main part of hummus is complete!  Serve it as soon as it's ready, because it's order of magnitude better warm.  Plus, if it sits out long, it tends to dry up.  Best remedy for that is to mix in some re-heated (in the microwave) magic water.

The way I like to serve it is by spreading some on the bottom and sides of a semi-deep bowl.  Then, in the middle, put a nice spoonful of tahini-sauce, squirt some lemon and olive oil around the tahini, and garnish with some left-over whole chickpeas.  Finally, color it with a little za'atar or sumac (or both.)
The classic way to serve it is with some pita bread, a hard-boiled egg, and a nice, fresh vegetable salad (that can be dressed with either tahini sauce or lemon & olive oil.)  Pickles and green olives are great sides as well.  Usually, the pita bread is used to scoop some hummus, but large pieces of onion peels can be used as well (not for the faint of heart...)

Bon Apetit!

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