A Welcome Change: Remember those veggie trays with a big tub of ranch in the middle? The ones with lots of raw broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower? While I still see those at social gatherings from time to time, I’m much happier about what seems to have replaced them: hummus served with pita, chips, and crackers. I consider this a major improvement because raw crucifereous vegetables make my face itchy. Hummus, on the other hand, makes my face smile. I’ve got a real love for legumes in pretty much any form, and hummus has been a favorite of mine since my mother introduced it to me as a kid.
Here’s the problem: the store bought stuff (sorry, Sabra Salad) just pales in comparison to what you can make at home. Even if you go the shortcut route by using canned garbanzos, the flavor will almost always be better than the stuff that’s been sitting on the cooler shelf at the grocery store. I’m a big fan of fats, particularly natural fats, and getting to put more tahini (sesame seed paste) in the hummus to make it richer and creamier is a simple luxury I can afford. The good men behind Jerusalem offer a fantastic “basic hummus” recipe whose humble name belies how outstanding it is.
A Soak in the Cold Tub: Like many recipes involving uncooked legumes, you must soak the garbanzos overnight. I’d been holding on to this bag of Rancho Gordo beans for a couple of months with the intention of using them for hummus. I’d read about how great and fresh this brand of beans and products from Napa is for a while and finally bought a bag at their outpost in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. While they seemed pretty good, I couldn’t tell a major difference between them and the German brand I used when I made this recipe previously. However, I want to order some beans from Ranch Gordo because they have so many heirloom varieties that I’ve never even heard of and would love to try.
A Brief Sauté Before the Boil: After draining the soaked beans, you saute them over high heat for a few minutes with a bit of baking soda. Don’t worry, you won’t taste the baking soda in the finished product. After that, you add the water and bring it to a boil, cooking the beans for 20-40 minutes. While they cook you should periodically skim off any skins and foam that float to the surface. I am not sure why it’s important to remove these skins but perhaps it contributes to a silkier hummus.
Now for the Fun Part: I love watching disparate parts come together as a unified whole in a food processor. It’s oddly mesmerizing and I enjoy watching it the same way I sometimes like staring in the oven to watch things bake. After blending the beans on their own until it becomes a stiff paste, you then add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and a bit of ice water. The recipe calls for 6.5 tbsps of water but I added two more because I thought it was a tad too thick.
Mouth Luxury: All of the tahini that this recipe uses really pays off. It creates the best mouthfeel without the hummus being overly rich or even oily. Try the recipe yourself. You will thank yourself for going to the extra trouble. I served mine with some grocery store pita and it was lovely, but I’d like to have it with better quality pita next time. Eat it plain or top it with a bit of pine nuts, olive oil, and paprika like I did. Either way, it is outstanding and I am looking forward to trying the other variations offered in the cookbook. It might be a while until I write about that but stay tuned!