Hummus is defined as a thick Middle Eastern sauce, but, actually it is more like a dip (for chips) or a sandwich spread (like mayonnaise), made from mashed chick peas and seasoned with garlic and lemon juice. If tahini (sesame-seed paste) is added to it, its proper name is "hummus bi tahini". Middle Eastern markets all sell it and Middle Eastern restaurants all serve it. There are as many versions of hummus as there are hummus makers and it is super-easy to make!
My first experiences with hummus some 30+ years ago, were, unfortunately, a waste of calories, as the two hummus makers I knew obviously didn't like flavor or spice. It wasn't until Joe and I were at an NCTA (National Cable Television Association) convention in Las Vegas in 1983 that I experienced the "real deal". I bought some hummus from a food vendor that was serving it with freshly-baked pita wedges. I happened to be really hungry at that moment and the pita bread smelled and looked so good I could not resist it, meaning: the bread. As for the hummus, I was completely unprepared for what I tasted. It was amazingly unlike any of the "tasteless glop" I had been exposed to in Central Pennsylvania... full of garlic-y goodness, lemony lusciousness, subtly sesame, and, some secret spice blend called: za'atar.
I became a hummus lover!
Upon our return, the first thing I had to do was learn how to make pita bread. Yes, I've always been a "gotta learn to make the real deal" kind of cook. And, learn I did. At the time, Joe and I had a friend who hailed from Australia. Colin worked at the same company with Joe, but Colin was also an accomplished cook and he talked me through the "secret" process of successfully making "pitta", as he called it. It was not only successful, it was easier than I ever expected it to be!
My recipe for: ~ In Praise of Perfectly Baked Pita Bread ~, can be found in Categories 2 or 5!
Let's talk chick peas: canned vs. dried (& freshly cooked).
Like many things is life, you only get out of something what you put into it, and, chick peas are no exception. The people who put chick peas in a can are making a lot of money. The people who put dried ones in a bag are not. The people who eat chick peas out of can, eat chick peas out of a can. People who cook dried chick peas, do not eat canned chick peas. Enough said? Not yet. The hilarious thing about this bag of dried chick peas is: nowhere, in any language, does it tell you how the hell to cook them! No ******** wonder people eat canned ones!!!
Well, as it turns out, the other name for chick pea is garbanzo bean. They are a legume, which means:
#1. You soak and cook them just like other dried beans, which I am going to show you how to do, and:
#2. Before you buy a bag of them, eyeball them carefully. If they appear shriveled or dried up, no matter how long you cook them, they will NEVER get soft.
These are picture perfect!
I'm cooking this entire bag, because what I don't use for hummus will get frozen for future hummus.
2 pounds prepackaged, dried, chick peas
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
4 quarts cold water.
~ Step 1. Place chick peas in a large colander and sift through them with your fingertips. Remove anything foreign: little twigs or stones sometimes make their way into the bag. Under cold running water, thoroughly rinse them.
~ Step 2. Transfer the rinsed chick peas to an 8-quart stockpot, add four quarts of water and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a vigorous simmer and cook for 4 minutes.
Note: I do not soak my beans overnight. Instead, I use my own method of quick-soaking, which works like a charm every time:
Every 1 minute of simmering is equivalent to 3 hours of soaking!
Remove chick peas from heat. Add:
2 tablespoons sea salt
Cover and set aside for 4 hours. The chick peas will be soft to the tooth and ready to be cooked!
Note: The alternative to this method is to soak beans or chick peas in 4 quarts of lukewarm water, 12 hours or overnight, in a covered stockpot.
~ Step 3. Return pot to stovetop. Add a few cups of additional water, if necessary, to cover chick peas by 1". Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a simmer and continue to cook until check peas are very soft, 45-60 minutes.
~ Step 4. Drain, rinse under cold running water and cool completely. Use immediately, store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or freeze.
1 2-pound bag of dried chick peas, when cooked, yields 12 cups, and I like to freeze my cooked and cooled chick peas in 1 1/2 cup portions. Why? Because:
1, 15 1/2-ounce can of garbanzo beans, when drained, yields 1 1/2 cups, and most hummus recipes are written using 1-2 cans of drained beans. That being said, when I want hummus, I want hummus, and if I don't have cooked beans in my freezer the canned ones will do just fine!
Let's talk garlic: raw vs. roasted.
When I'm making hummus I like to add both. Roasted garlic, for its smooth, nutty, subtle garlic-y flavor, and, fresh cloves, for their sharp and distinct garlic-y flavor.
2 large heads garlic, roasted
2-4 large garlic cloves
~ Step 1. Cut 1/4" of the top off two heads of garlic and remove any excess papery skin. Wrap each head in aluminum foil and roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
My Hummus Recipe.
2 15 1/2-ounce cans garbanzo beans, well-drained , or 3 cups cooked chick peas
2 large heads garlic, roasted as directed above
2-4 large garlic cloves, run through a press (Note: Using less than two garlic cloves is not enough garlic. That being said, more than four is too much garlic. Make your decision based upon your love of garlic!)
1/2 cup tahini paste, roasted not raw (sesame seed paste)
6 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably fresh (about 2, large lemons)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of za-atar spice blend, for garnish
A bit about tahini paste and za'atar spice blend: Tahini is ground sesame seeds, similar to peanut butter. It's smooth and oily, and always needs a good stir before using it. When using tahini to make hummus, check the label to make sure it is made from roasted sesame seeds.
Za'atar (zah-tar) is the Arabic name for wild thyme and denotes an herb mixture that contains dried sumac and sometimes sesame seeds. Dried sumac has a tart, lemon-y flavor. Za'atar is delicious sprinkled on yogurt, fish, chicken, rice or any savory dish you enjoy with fresh lemon juice!
~ Step 1. Prep, measure and place all ingredients, as listed in the work bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with a steel blade.
Note: If you never roasted garlic before, all you need to do with it (after it has cooled), is pick up the entire head and squish it. All of the lovely, golden, garlic'y goodness will come oozing out of it!
~ Step 2. Using a series 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, combine the ingredients. Turn the motor on and process until smooth, about 15-20 additional seconds.
Note: Hummus is best if left to sit, at room temperature, for 1-2 hours prior to serving with a drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkling of za'atar. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. It can be served chilled, but I think it best at room temperature:
Hummus... Yummus. Nothing Ho-Hum About This!: Recipe yields 3 cups.
Special Equipment List: 8-quart stockpot (optional); colander (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; aluminum foil; food processor
Cook's Note: If you are a true-blue hummus lover, I'd say cooking the dried chick peas is they way to go. The finished product has a bit more texture to it than the canned ones (which are "creamier) can offer. As I mentioned earlier, they freeze well, and, add texture and character to salads and main courses too. Plus, while those chick peas are soaking: think of all the fun things you can do with your spare time!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)