Where's the book?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Make hummus, not wars

We eat a lot of hummus. A lot. Both at home and out. And I've been making hummus at home for years. I've tweaked my recipe this way and that, based on other recipes, hints from other hummus makers, and bits and pieces of information I've managed to wheedle out of the maker of my favorite hummus to date, Rawia Bishara, owner/chef (and soon-to-be cookbook author) of the terrific middle-eastern restaurant Tanoreen, in Bay Ridge.

Rawia at Tanoreen
But after years of making decent hummus, good hummus, and better hummus, I have finally made perfect hummus. Hummus nirvana. Hummus heaven.

And it's all thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and cookbook author. Quite the man of the moment, I'm sure you've heard of Yotam by now. I've made many of his recipes, but I think I can confidently say that I've made the hummus, from his latest Jerusalem book, most of all. What makes it different? Glad you asked. It's not the ingredients, which are the basic chickpea--lemon--tahini trio of all good hummus. It's not some crazy trick like peeling the chickpeas (thanks for nothing, Smitten Kitchen, That's several hours of my life I'll never get back!). It's the simple technique of agitating the soaked chickpeas with baking soda, which softens the beans (yes, I know it's a legume) and allows them to puree to a smoother, creamier texture. It's the best hummus I've ever made. Maybe the best I've ever had.

I love you Magimix!
(It also helps that I have a brand-new, super-powerful food processor, the Magimix by Robot-Coupe. It's quiet and incredibly strong and easy to clean. I haven't been this excited by a new kitchen appliance since I lost my old Robot-Coupe, which died a couple of years ago after over three decades of loyal service. I bought a high-end Cuisinart to replace it and hated every loud, bumpy whirr of it. Robot-Coupe makes only commercial processors under their own name these days, but they make Magimix for home cooks. Never again, Cuisinart!)

But back to the recipe at hand. I've made this hummus using the overnight soak as well as the quick soak method (boil one minute, sit one hour). Both worked just fine. I haven't tried it with canned chickpeas, because...why? I add a little more garlic because I like it, and sometimes a dash of cumin. Sometimes extra lemon, sometimes more tahini. You really don't even have to measure -- just taste. Whatever you do, the result is the creamiest yummiest smoothest hummus you've ever made -- maybe ever had.

   1 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   6 1/2 cups water
   1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tahini (or more if you like it)
   4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (watch out for those bitter pits!)
   4 cloves garlic (or more, or less)
   6 1/2 tablespoons ice cold water
   Olive oil for serving (optional)

So good

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in lots of cold water or use the quick soak method. 
  2. Drain the chickpeas. Put them in a medium saucepan over high heat, add the baking soda, and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Don't add water -- you're just agitating the chickpeas with the baking soda.
  3. Now add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam or skins that float up, for about 20-40 minutes. You don't have to be terribly diligent about the skimming, just do it once or twice. When the chickpeas are done, they will squash easily when pressed. 
  4. Drain the chickpeas and put in your (hopefully Magimix) food processor. Process to a stiff paste. With the machine still running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Then slowly drizzle in the ice water and process for about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy. 
  5. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate until serving, which is best at room temp. Top with a drizzle of good olive oil and whatever else you like -- a spoonful of chopped parsley, a handful of chickpeas, a sprinkle of za'atar...whatever. The recipe says the hummus will keep in the fridge for three days. I think it would last longer, but good luck keeping it around!

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