I’ve always been a big snacker. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy (ok, of course it’s because I’m lazy) but given the option I will make myself a series of snacks throughout the day rather than making a big meal. This is completely different from how I deal with feeding other people, but when it’s just me, more often than not I’m eating a snack.
Hummus is one of my favorite things to snack on. Hummus and pita bread, hummus and veggies sticks, hummus and….hummus. I’m not too picky about things like accompaniments. As far as snacks go, hummus is pretty inexpensive. A big tub from Trader Joes will only set you back a few bucks or so. But hummus is one of those things that is dirt cheap to make: I can make almost two pints of hummus for somewhere in the vicinity of a dollar. The only problem was my homemade hummus was never as good as the stuff I bought in the store.
I was pretty happy with my substandard-hummus life until last May when I went to Israel to visit my boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law. Hummus in Israel: (Or really any country influenced by the Arabic speaking world) it’s a whole different food. And when I got back I found I was no longer happy with my sad attempts at hummus. It always came out too gritty. At one point I heard that maybe peeling the chickpeas would help the texture so I tried that. Friends, let me give you a tip: peeling chickpeas is much more work than it’s worth and it won’t really help the texture of your hummus; the store-bought stuff will still be better. I pretty much gave up on homemade hummus and instead would reminisce about silky, creamy hummus every time I bought a commercially-made tub of it. But when I found a recipe for hummus in my new cookbook, Plenty (by Yottam Ottolenghi, an Israeli, and perhaps my newest food crush) I thought I would make one more effort at homemade hummus.
His recipe calls for soaking the chickpeas in water with some baking soda and then cooking them in water with even more baking soda. This makes a lot of sense since baking soda is alkaline and thus will act as a softener in the presence of heat. (Just like laundry detergent which is also alkaline. But don’t put laundry detergent in your hummus. Or any cooking). The effect was amazing; creamy and smooth hummus with just a whir of the immersion blender. And no peeling! The only problem with baking soda is that it can leave an unpleasant soapy or metallic taste if it’s not neutralized with acid. This recipe calls for lemon juice so don’t skimp on it or you may find a harsh chemical taste in your hummus. It you don’t want lemon you can substitute any other citrus or just plain vinegar. Either way, this is the perfect spreadable hummus. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some snacking to do.
Lightly adapted from Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi
1 cup dried chickpeas
½ tbs plus 2 tbs baking soda, divided
1/3 cup tahini
Juice of half a lemon (about 3-4 tsp)
2 tsp salt
Reserved chickpea cooking liquid
Garlic, roasted or raw – when I use it raw I keep it to 2 cloves or less so it won’t overpower the flavor
Toasted and ground cumin
Roasted red pepper
Sun dried tomato
Place the chickpeas in enough water to cover them by about 2 inches and add ½ tbs of baking soda. Soak, covered, overnight or better yet, soak them first thing in the morning so they’re ready when you get home from work.
Rinse chickpeas and place them in a pot with about a quart of water and bring to a boil. When the water boils, add the remaining 2 tbs of baking soda, reduce to a simmer and cook until the chickpeas are soft and their skins are falling off, 1-2 hours. (This only took me 45 minutes, your mileage may vary). Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Place the chickpeas, tahini, salt, lemon juice, and any flavorings you wish to add in a food processor or a bowl big enough for your immersion blender and mix for about a minute until everything is smooth. Slowly add cooking liquid until the hummus reaches your desired consistency (I like mine to be fairly soft so that it’s easy to dip into so I usually add between a half and three-quarters cup of liquid). Keep in mind that the warm hummus will be much softer than the finished product when it cools. Taste for seasoning. Eat warm or at room temperature, preferably with pita bread and hot sauce.