COOK: Recipe for the Perfect Hummus

COOK: Recipe for the Perfect Hummus

I take my hummus seriously.  I don’t like the commercially prepared ones – especially after experiencing hummus made in a Middle Eastern restaurants.  Restaurant versions always seem smoother and creamier than my homemade recipe which is coarse and grainy.

Not anymore. I have discovered the secret.

The search for a recipe for creamy homemade hummus became a mission. (I know what you’re thinking but I really do have a life). I delved into cookbooks, magazines, the web and learned much more about the Middle Eastern bean paste called hummus. 

WHAT IS HUMMUS

A traditional hummus consists of cooked and mashed chickpeas (AKA garbanzos) mixed with tahini (sesame paste), fresh lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Accompanied by pita bread, hummus is typically served as an appetizer and is one of several small dishes that make up a mezze – a Middle Eastern platter offered as a meal or at the beginning of festive meal. (Which I have put on the blog to-do list - a mezze platter!)

JEOPARDY-WORTHY FACTS ABOUT CHICKPEAS

In my research, I discovered the ancient history of hummus and its ingredients: 

Grains and pulses were domesticated between 11,000-9000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent.

Grains and pulses were domesticated between 11,000-9000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent.

  • Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same plant.  Garbanzo is the Spanish name for chickpeas. They are part of the food group called pulses or beans - considered the second most important food group after grains. 
  • Chickpeas are one of the Ancient Crops: first domesticated and grown about 9000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region (Western Asia, the Nile Valley & Delta).
  • Some scholars believe hummus is one of the world’s oldest prepared foods.
  • The Romans enjoyed it so much that it was sold as street food in Ancient Rome.
  • Plato & Socrates discussed (they did a lot of that) the nutritional values of hummus and chickpeas in their writings.
  • India quickly incorporated chickpeas into their culture, using it as a main protein ingredient in their often-vegetarian cooking and now leads the world in chickpea agricultural production.
  • Hummus has become so popular in the US that farmers in WA & ID have increased their production of chickpeas by one-third.  The 2014 Farm Bill included funding for bringing chickpea/hummus to the nation’s school lunch programs.

CHICKPEA AS A PLANT

Botanically, it's a legume in the Fabaceae family.  Its Latin name, Cicer arietinum, means “chickpea that resembles a ram’s head” (notice the Latin "arie", like Aries) . The plant grows to 18 inches high, producing white flowers that self-pollinate, resulting in seedpods that hold 2-3 peas (they actually seeds). There are two types of chickpeas: desi, which are smaller seeds with a dark seed coat and the more familiar kahuli, larger and cream colored peas.  Though it is considered a tropical legume, it prefers cool, dry climates and is grown as a winter crop in India.

Kahuli and Desi chickpeas (Photo credit: Sanjay ach(Wikimedia)  Do you see the Ram's Head with horns?  Hmm..a little bit.

Kahuli and Desi chickpeas (Photo credit: Sanjay ach(Wikimedia)  Do you see the Ram's Head with horns?  Hmm..a little bit.

Typical of most legumes, chickpeas partner with bacteria in soil to draw nitrogen from the atmosphere, storing it in tiny nodules in the plants’ roots.  This benefits both the plant and the soil and reduces the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed for crop growth.

CHICKPEAS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Nutritionally, chickpeas (and many other pulses) offer an excellent plant-based source of protein, soluble & insoluble fiber, potassium, folate, vitamins B6 and C and are high in iron.  Most health-oriented dietary guidelines recommend a daily serving of pulses.  When eaten with a cereal grain like wheat-based pita bread, hummus serves as a complete protein, which means that it offers a portion of all nine essential amino acids.

The high amount of protein in hummus makes it a great snack to curb hunger. Measure out 2 Tablespoons and serve with carrot sticks for those mid-afternoon hunger pains.

Chickpeas can be boiled, roasted & sprouted. Food bloggers are now topping pastas and salads with canned chickpeas that are fried in oil and spices.  Chickpeas are also ground into flour and used to make both savory and sweet recipes.

And now, at last, my recipe for Perfect Hummus!

Hummus with fresh parsley 

Hummus with fresh parsley 

RECIPE: PERFECT HUMMUS

2 cups dried chickpeas (soaked & cooked) or 2 cans of chickpeas (often labeled as garbanzos), bean liquid reserved

3 – 6 Tablespoons of tahini, well-mixed (I use the Joyva brand)

1-3 Tablespoons olive oil, optional *

3 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

1-3 cloves of garlic

¾ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

NOTE: Have all ingredients ready to go when the beans are done cooking

1)   If using dried chickpeas, soak for 8-12 hours in water with ¼ tsp of baking soda (helps to tenderize the beans).  Drain and refill pot and cook beans until very soft (1-2 hours).  Strain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

2)   If using canned beans, dump beans and their liquid into a pot and heat until warmed. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid.

3)   HERE’S THE SECRET TO CREAMY, NOT GRAINY HUMMUS: Process the beans in a food processor or blender while they are warm. This ensures that the tough outer layer of the chickpea (botanically, it’s the seed coat which is designed to protect the seed while it waits for the right conditions to germinate) is ground into the paste.

4)   Add the garlic, lemon juice and a ¼ cup of the warm bean liquid. Blend until creamy. You may want to add more of the warm bean liquid to get your desired consistency.

5)   Be sure tahini is well-blended (do this in the food processor before blending the beans). Add tahini, seasonings and salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil while the processor is on. Taste test and adjust as desired.

6)   Move hummus to a bowl and if desired, add minced fresh herbs, or finely diced vegetables like olives, hot or sweet peppers, dried tomatoes or canned artichokes.

7)   Cover and store in fridge for one hour so flavors can meld.

*Tahini contributes a hefty amount of oil/fat to the recipe and I no longer add olive oil.

 ADDITIONS:  Hummus’ subtle flavor is the perfect medium to play with ground herbs and spices to create a unique blend.  Start with ¼- ½ teaspoon of one or more of these ground herbs:

Cumin, Coriander, Za'atar (Middle Eastern spice blend), Smoked Paprika, Cayenne, Thyme, Sumac, Roasted Garlic, Sesame Seeds, Flaky Flavored Salt

Do you have fresh herbs from the garden? Mince dill, cilantro, parsley, garlic scapes, mint or green onions and add a desired amount to the hummus.

Serve with torn pita bread and/or fresh veggies.  Use as a spread for veggie sandwiches or wraps.  Pair with falafel for a meal.  

Will keep for 5 days in fridge. Freeze smaller portions for a healthy snack on the go.

Get creative: Nowadays, new versions of hummus are being created using sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and avocados. Check out Bon Appetit's slideshow on creative hummus recipes: 16 Creamy, Dreamy Hummus Recipes

 


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