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Hummus 36
  • 19 Jun 2010 08:58:26

Here I present details on how I make hummus.

Hummus as an artform

Cooking in general, and hummus in particular, is more of an art form than a science to me. There are plenty of technical types of information on this website, so under food you won't find so many.

I also rarely make hummus in the same way, so in that sense it would be impossible to give an exact recipe.

Strict hummus basics

Pure and proper hummus should only involve five ingredients: chick peas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Roughly speaking this is in the descending order of abundances I use. The only item some people are not familiar with is tahini; tahini is to sesame seeds as peanut butter is to peanuts. In fact, tahini is rather similar to peanut butter in general, although of course the taste itself differs namely in bitterness. In North America, I have the most success finding tahini either in Kosher food sections or, unsurprisingly, near the peanut butter. Note that at least Italian airline authorities consider tahini a liquid, so it generally cannot be taken as carry-on.

I will basically cover instructions using these main ingredients, but I will also note what kind of additions or swaps I've found most effective.

Chick peas

For the chick peas, I strongly recommend dried ones. Using canned ones can sometimes lead to a slightly creamier texture overall, but I think the flexibility of the dried ones is more fun. Also, metal cans are the heaviest item for shipping, and in general the worst for the environment; I think paying for the shipping of water is really silly. And these savings show in the cost of dried to canned peas as well.

If you go for the canned ones, all you need to do is open the cans and rinse them. Do not put that filthy chick pea packaging water into your hummus.

For dried ones, there is more preparation time, but in general this is not much of your personal time. In some way or the other you need to hydrate the beans. Usually I will flash boil them (here meaning get it to a rolling boil for maybe 2 minutes), then cap it, and toss the pot on a cooling pad on the counter overnight. As I tend to like some salt in my hummus, adding a lot of salt to the chick pea water speeds the cooking aspect of the process and also adds some flavor. Keep in mind you will discard most of this water, so adding a lot of salt should not be a huge problem. You can also add a bit of olive oil to the water if you like, but the results appear the same to me. The next day, you should boil the peas again until they are easily edible by non-woodchuck species. In general, note that some power of the soaking time is inversely proportional to the boiling time the following day (like I said, it's not a recipe since I didn't bother to find the exact empirical relationship of these two variables). At any time they are cooking, you can expect some whitish foam to surface. I suggest removing this material from all boiling beans, as removal will decrease flatulence. However, in any case, do not be surprised by the foam. Another interesting thing about using dried chick peas is that hummus you make in different cities, presuming you are not averse to tap water, will have a slightly different taste from this contribution.

Crushing devices

The lazy people (myself included) will vastly prefer a food processor for making hummus. However, potato mashers or even a bent fork and determination will do the trick (if you have the free time).

Order of operations

You need to have everything prepared, which is basically the chick peas which should be hydrated and the garlic which should be peeled. As for peeling garlic, one trick to ease the process is to use the flat side of a knife and the heel of your palm to smash the garlic cloves; this method is generally not recommended because you will inevitably lose some of the flavorful juices to the knife and cutting board. For something like a cereal-bowl sized portion of hummus, I'd add around 1-2 cloves of garlic, but I also tend to like garlic. Please make sure the garlic is fresh!

If you are using manual crushing tools, then you should mince the garlic (a garlic press is very much desirable in this case) and smash the peas. Don't add any of the tahini or liquids until the chick peas are more of a crumble.

If you are using a food processor, then I insist to add the garlic first, otherwise biting into a big chunk of garlic that didn't get chopped is inevitable. After that add the chick peas.

At this point, the order doesn't matter at all, and you're basically dumping in olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and water until the taste and consistency seems good to you. Fresh lemon juice and high quality olive oil are always superior, and I presume the same can be said for homemade tahini, which I've yet to try my hand at.

Your first time making hummus, I suggest you add twice as much olive oil as your initial guess, and go a bit heavy on the lemon juice. If you haven't acquired a taste for tahini, then you can go a little light on it, but personally I use a lot. How much water to add is never clear, but for initially dried chick peas, likely you will need more. Basically you can assume to add at least a small amount of water any time making hummus, and the amount is determined strictly by having the taste but not the consistency you are after. Thus, to be specific, if you are inexperienced, make water the last ingredient you add so that you don't overdo it, since the water won't affect the taste signficantly (or at all if it's perfectly purified).

Garnishings

I think the nicest garnish is liberal paprika, followed by a swirl of olive oil, a dash of sesame seeds, unpitted green olives around the outside, and a few sprigs of parsley. For the green olives, if they came in a vinegar, please rinse them first or the dripping vinegar will sour your hummus taste significantly. Having any or all of these garnishings is not necessary, but since you'll already have at least the olive oil, I like to add a bit to the top.

Spicing options

I think the spice that goes the best in hummus is certainly cumin. Salt, as mentioned above, I tend to like as well. Any kind of pepper will work, depending on what kind of spice you want to add, and I am most oft to add black or cayenne. Do not add vinegar based hot sauces. If you want to garnish with some tomato slices or add tomato directly, basil is a good compliment. Parsley is never bad, but I'd say stick with the fresh stuff. You can feel free to try just about anything you want, and I've had good results (with certain blends) using cinnamon and also nutmeg.

Bean additions or swaps

Pretty much any bean can be used to make hummus. If not chick peas, I am most often using lentils of any color. Personally, I like to make hummus about 1:1 with chick peas and lentils since chick peas are very low on protein. One time the supermarket in Japan didn't have chick peas, so I just used like assorted beans intended for a salad, which worked out just fine.

Vegetables and Fruits

You can directly add any vegetables into the hummus, but aside from onion I tend to stray away from this. The basic reasoning is that when you add any vegetables and grind them, they will release water, and even having a lot of experience with hummus, this always messes up my texture balance. For most cases, garnishes, or even vegetable tray dipping style, is likely preferred. In terms of things I recommend trying (but anything can likely work): olives (any color), tomatoes, carrots, onion (not red!), cucumber.

Serving

Basically you should eat hummus with pita bread or vegetables. Personally my favorite is a thick flax seed pita (flax seed has Omega fatty acids). But you can eat it however you want, including with a spoon. It's good on toast or sandwiches. Really it will go well with basically any kind of bread or anything with a lot of bread in it.

Storage

Hummus can easily sit out during a party and overnight from hosts who are too lazy or intoxicated to clean up. It will still be perfectly good the next day. This is because of high content of lemon juice and olive oil. I suspect part of the origin is related to the fact that it does not go bad easily, although I never researched the point. In general, however, put it in a covered container in a cold place. Since refridgeration systems tend to have very dry air, the cover should prevent the top layers from drying out.

Most unusal hummus

I think my most unusual hummus to date was rather baba ganug styled. The bean base was purely red lentil. In with everything else I threw a bunch of unflavored yogurt, honey, and cinnamon. I'm not sure what I made was actually hummus, but it was really good.

Queer ideas

Something I never tried which occurred to me while writing this page is that in principle one could swap the water with a stiff alcohol. For general consumption this is highly not recommended. However, hummus is by far my favorite party food, and in such a case a small amount of a good vodka or gin could perhaps be interesting. If this idea struck you as interesting simply from a palate perspective, then if you added a larger quantity to the boiling water of the chick peas, then you could just get the flavor without the side effects.

Psychedelic mushrooms, which are legal to consume in some parts of the world, can also be added to hummus, although the distribution of such a food ought to come with a fair warning and not violate any local laws. The taste of these mushrooms is rumored to be rather unfavorable to many people, and the variety of strong tastes in hummus might have a positive effect in this regard. However, mushroom flavor of any form is not a taste that is well suitable for hummus, as I can attest from experiment with non-psychotropic mushroom varieties.

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