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Hummus: Additives, Techniques, Recipes


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Geoff pulled open the front door of the apartment and stood aside. A small, bird-like woman stepped in, overdressed in the gaudy, fussy style that wealthy Upper East Side matrons favor. Her face was angular, with a prominent nose and brow. The dark eyes looked doll-like and fixed but the delighted smile that she showed Kabir and Geoff was warm. She must have been close to sixty but it was clear from her dress and makeup that she had no intention of ever admitting to that age. Her thin, jet black hair was teased to an unnatural height as if small birds had been plucking at it. There was something just a little off about her costume, as if she’d got the style right but the clothing didn’t quite belong to her. She carried a large plate of stuffed grape leaves in one hand and an equally generous plate of hummus in the other. There was enough there for a party of 20.

Pure bliss washed over Kabir’s face as he reached for the food. He cooed: “Abu Dhabi, you make the best stuffed grape leaves in New York City!”

Geoff’s expressions of delight were more restrained if equally enthusiastic. He handed Abby a Campari and lime. Kabir held onto the hummus but set the platter of stuffed grape leaves on the tiled table in the hallway. Abby asked for scissors and set to work there snipping sprigs of fresh tarragon to garnish the platter of grape leaves.

Kabir hustled me into the kitchen along with the hummus. “You have to taste this.” He offered me a spoon. “You see? This is how hummus is supposed to taste. It’s light – not too heavy on the tahini or the garlic, either. It’s silky but not entirely smooth so that the texture makes love to your tongue.”

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HUMMUS

Serves 6 to 8

This is my version of a recipe given to me by my good friend Mary Ann who makes the very best hummus I’ve ever tasted. If the oil in the tahini has separated (you’ll see it floating on the top), put it into a blender and blend until smooth.

Two 15 1/2 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 garlic clove pounded into a paste with 2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup tahini

Juice of 2 lemons, or more, to taste, plus 1 tablespoon, for garnish

1/4 cup cold water, or more, as needed

3/4 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil, for garnish

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Place the chick peas, tahimi, the juice of 2 lemons, 1/4 cup water and the cumin into a food processor and blend to a thick, grainy consistency. (Do not overprocess; what makes a hummus taste nice is the coarse texture; a mousse-like hummus does not have the same taste). Add more cold water if the hummus is too thick and more lemon juice, if you like.

2. Scrape out onto the serving plate. Drizzle with the olive oil and then with the lemon juice, and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with warm toasted pita bread or fresh vegetables.

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Here's something I wrote a while back:

Much like espresso, coming across a good plate of Hummus (khoo-moose) in Manhattan should not be a difficult task, but since in real life it is almost non-existent, I thought I'd share this with the board.

Ingredients:

Dry chickpeas

Tahini

Garlic

Salt

Lemon

Olive oil

Paprika

Parsley

Cumin

Ingredient footnotes:

Dry chickpeas

These tend to be kept in stores for many years, far exceeding their shelf life. If you can't find a vendor that can vouch for their relative freshness (i.e. this year's crop or at most last year's), try to shop where there is likely to be a high turnover rate so you won't waste time on stale, moldy peas. If high quality dry beans are not available, go for canned, but notice that there are huge differences in quality between brands. Since these are priced at around $1/can, you could just make a comparative hummus tasting. Canned beans that are not very soft will result in poor hummus. I've had some positive experience with a brand imported from spain that comes in glass jars, I forget the name.

Tahini

Again, freshness is key. Try to get some lebanese tahini that wasn't made more than a couple of months ago (of course this tends to be spotty). Some of the american made organic brands sold at Whole Foods tend to be very good, but you have to water them down as they tend to be almost solid (compared to the more liquid consistency of the middle eastern brands).

Olive oil

Use a robust evoo, either lebanese, israeli or some greek oil.

Preparation:

Soak chickpeas in water for 12 hours. Drain and wash peas, place in a pot with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook, covered, for 2-3 hours, until peas are soft. (if they're not soft after 3 hours, they're probably old and stale)

Grind chickpeas in meat grinder, adding around one clove of garlic per cup of cooked peas. (or less, if you're not a garlic fan) and some salt.

To the ground peas, add tahini - about 1/2 cup for every cup of ground hummus. Add lemon juice (about 1 tbsp for every cup of ground peas). Mix well, taste and add salt as necessary. If the mixture is too thick (and it probably will be), gradually add some of the cooking liquid until you get a creamy consistency.

Serve drizzled with some evoo, lemon juice, chopped parsley, paprika and (optionally) ground cumin.

P.S. Refrigeration is the sworn enemy of good hummus, but the cooked peas can be refrigerated (even frozen, I'm told).

M
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I have found that the hummus is gretly improved if you pinch each cooked or canned chickpea to discard the papery skin.

That's true, although the improvement is more pronounced if you use a food processor instead of a meat grinder. If you're preparing large quantities, rolling the peas inside a large towel separates most of the skins.

M
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I have often thought that we could make peace in the Middle East if we just got a bunch of mothers and grandmothers together from Arab and Israeli populations to cook a big feast and then everyone would sit down to eat together and instantly be friends. I cannot tell you how many gaps I’ve bridged with seemingly hostile people by simply introducing the topic of humus and inquiring about the person’s personal recipe. Inevitably, at the end of the conversation, the person laughs at me and chuckles over the turn in conversation and the dissipation of all hostility.

I make my humus from scratch just like I was taught in Nazareth in a friend's kitchen by her mother. My friend is a Christian Arab. The recipe is not measured or precise. Her mother makes it the way my father makes chicken soup -- a pinch of this, a palm-full of that, blend to taste and add more if it needs it. And her mother’s humus, like my father’s chicken soup, is always the best.

I’ll share, in a similar fashion, my humus recipe from my friend's mother's kitchen.

Start with 1 bag of dried chick peas (I use a bag, they buy it in bulk at the market -- my bag is 12 ounces). Go through the chick peas and remove any stones and pebbles. Also remove any overly dried chick peas and unattached skins.

Place the chick peas in a stock pot (I use an 8-quart pot) and add water. Some will float to the top, most will stay on the bottom. Add plenty of water because a great deal will boil off and it will also boil and bubble over so watch the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and bring water to boil, occasionally stirring (the baking soda may or may not be necessary; I'm told that chickpeas as farmed today don't need it but it doesn't hurt and could help improve their texture). When boiling, turn down heat and simmer until chick peas are soft -- depending upon the size of the pot and the number of chick peas, this usually takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour (sometimes even 1 hr. 15 minutes). As the time of readiness approaches, taste a chick pea. It is important that the chick peas are soft but you do not want them to be mushy -- that will ruin the consistency of the humus. At the same time, if the chick peas are mildly undercooked, it will be difficult to get a satisfactory creamy consistency. As the water boils, it will also likely foam. Remove the foam from the top and discard. Add more water if necessary. Stir occasionally.

When the chick peas are ready (before you remove them from the heat, taste a couple to “spot test” to be sure that they’ve all cooked) remove from heat and strain. If there is residue, rinse. I haven't found that removing the skins makes a difference, though I pick out any loose ones. Put the chick peas into the food processor. Blend chick peas. Drizzle tehina into the processor while blending. I generally use ½ of a pint container per 12 ounce package of chick peas.

Note: Before adding tehina, be sure the tehina is well blended. If the oil has separated out, mash/blend vigorously first with a fork until the parts are mixed, then with spoon until smooth. A few turns in the food processor is also helpful for smoothness. I try to buy the tehina in the plastic container from Lebanon at a store that sells to a Middle Eastern clientele. High turnover is critical to freshness. Never use the tehina in the metal containers. It tends to have a slightly metallic taste (and also tends to be a slow selling item in the stores that carry it).

Add ½ of the allotted tehina to the blending chick peas. Squeeze in juice from 2 lemons (don’t forget to remove the seeds -- they add bitterness when blended into the mix). Blend then taste. Add cupped palm-full of salt (about 1 teaspoon or a bit more) and blend -- stop blending and taste. Add two cloves of garlic minced. Blend on medium speed watching for smoothness. Taste. While blending, drizzle in ½ of the remaining tehina. Add the juice of 2 lemons, one clove of garlic thinly sliced and blend. If the mix tastes bland, add more salt. The salt can make the difference between a mediocre humus and a great humus. At this point, it is a matter of taste and how the ingredients have blended. Because you are tasting while you are blending, you will notice the difference that each of the ingredients adds to the mix. If something is missing, add that ingredient to taste.

At this point, I usually add the juice of one more lemon, the rest of the tehina, one additional clove of garlic and a bit more salt. If the mix is really rough (gritty or even a bit chunky -- usually because I jumped the gun and pulled the chick peas off the flame to soon) you can drizzle in a minimal amount of water (I take a measuring cup with a spout and slowly drizzle water in while blending and watch the consistency for smoothness). Oil is another way to smooth the humus out and lighten it up a bit but I consider that cheating.

This recipe for humus will produce a thick authentic humus similar to what you will find in the Middle East.

To me, the humus tastes best when it’s just out of the food processor and still a bit warm from the cooking. I take a scoop of humus, flatten it out on a salad-sized plate with a spoon and make a moat around the plate in the middle (the salad plate is now divided into thirds by thickness—the humus on the outside of the salad plate, the depressed, thinner racing track of humus in the middle of the plate (made with the smooth depression of the spoon) and the thicker island in the middle. In the moat I add a drizzle of flavorful olive oil 360 degrees around the plate, top it will a sprinkle of paprika and even one leaf of finely chopped parsley to the island. If you have company, each person should be served one of these plates with some piping hot pita bread. A few sprinkled pine nuts are also a nice addition (though it isn’t part of the recipe).

Taste that and then tell me we couldn’t achieve world peace and solve world hunger in one fell swoop.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Thanks Ellen! That was the most moving piece of writing on egullet yet. In my perspective. Thanks! If you were in front of me as I read it, I would be looking at you with tears.

The recipe I posted above was from our friend Mary Ann Joulwan. Lebanese Christian. And her recipe seems very close to yours. At least in the way she speaks about it..and the addition of water. Also she told me last night that "No one ever removes the skin". "We all need roughage Darling". She went on to explain how the skins will add more texture.. but in making it in a blender it hardly mattered. And why lose any nutritional value those little skins might have.

But above all, Mary Ann has your feeling about the region. She speaks of miscreants on all sides dividing the people. But food and culture when entertained as you so beautifully share build bridges that are not difficult to have only if those that care could govern the politics of the region.

She and I had spoken about the addition of bakind soda. I had asked her if she wanted me to add that to my recipe. She had said no. In her family, as also in most Indian homes, they never add baking soda to beans and peas. They cook them the little longer period but avoide adding more soda. It is not very good for the "elders" or for those with hypertension. "But, sure, if you want to hurry, do it". I have heard the same from my grandma about lentils, beans and chickpeas. The professional chefs would add soda to save time. Home chefs would not for they care about the healthful aspects of food as well.

Your addition of pine nuts sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing that great tip.

Would you have a recipe for a great baba ganouj? Does that deserve a thread as well?

Thanks Ellen! Your post has enriched my weekend like nothing else could have. :smile:

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Suvir, here's one that doesn't use any tahini. It was printed in September 2001 Food and Wine (the same one you had recipes in). Process cooked chickpeas with toasted and ground cumin seeds, lemon juice, pimenton (or other hot paprika) and cayenne, plus just enough olive oil so that the puree is very smooth. Season with salt, scrape into bowl, and drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

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  • 4 months later...

This seemed like an appropriate place to post a recipe for Tehina / Tahini Sauce (not the straight sesame paste, but the lemony condiment) that I got from a local Lebanese restaurant (Bennies in Englewood, NJ). I always had trouble making tahini because I was trying to stir the water & lemon juice into the tahini, this recipe does the opposite. Question - is the spelling phonetic, or is one the paste and one the sauce?

  • Tahini Sauce
    1/2 cup Water
    1/2 cup Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
    1 Tbs Salt
    4 Garlic Cloves, peeled
    1 cup Tahina, approximately
    Put the first four ingredients into a blender and whir to chop the garlic.
    While the blender is running, pour in the tahina.
    It should be just to the point where the mixture stops mixing easily.
    If it is too thin, add more tahina, if it is too thick, add a little more water.

I used an Israeli brand of tahina that was rather liquid and this came out perfectly. I serve it with felafel and roasted vegetables.

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Personally I do not think Hummus with out Tahini is the "real" hummus even though the word itself (hummus) means Chickpeas. There needs to be some Tahini to get the right taste. I use about 3 tbsp per can of chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, juice of two or three lemons, salt, cumin and about 2tbsp water or even more to get the consistency just right (like smooth guacamole) and plunk it all in the food processor, but if I add too much lemon juice because the lemons are not too tart I sometimes skip the water all together. drizzle with EVOO and enjoy.

On the other hand I HATE this hummus you find at some middle eastern restaurants where all you taste IS the Tahini. They are a disgrace to this wonderful dip.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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After 25 years of experimenting with various ways of reaching the sublimity of Thi-na (tahini). I went through lots of recipes and ingredients, and few years ago came to what I consider as Tahina perfection:

I use Karawan Tahina, (made in Nablus) with a picture of a dove/bird on the label.(its usually very fresh, with minor liquids separation. I am very happy that supplies get in Israel. ).

I follow a rule to do my Tahina "hand made", no blender/food-processor (Magimix ;-)) the mixing tool is a large wooden spoon.

For half a container (250 Grams) of Tahina I add separately and in that order:

1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice.

1/3 a cup of water.

Salt

Fresh black pepper

1 Teaspoon of crushed garlic

1/2 cup of chopped parsley ( I do it with knife...)

The matter of consistency may be balanced with additional water. We (my family) like our tahina thick.

As a matter of fact I once did try the exact ingredients in a food processor all at once versus the manual, slow food version, and guess which was better

"Eat every meal as if it's your first and last on earth" (Conrad Rosenblatt 1935)

http://foodha.blogli.co.il/

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I insist that tahina is a necessity for hommos. It is also a necessity for baba ghannouj, in which some miscreants put mayonnaise.

Beyond the preparation itself, presentation is also important. Too many simply pour it out into a dip dish and let it sit there. Even lousy store-bought hommos can be rescued, to a degree, with a drizzle of tehina sauce (that is the lemon-garlic preparation described above), EVOO and paprika or cayenne. Pine nuts either raw or lightly sauteed are a delicious addition. Parsely is absolutely essential. Sometimes I reserve some chick peas before crushing and serve them hot on the hommos below a drizzling of the other additions. Good Middle Eastern olives, pickles, cucumbers, turnip, peppers etc. are also important to give the dish some excitement.

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On the other hand I HATE this hummus you find at some middle eastern restaurants where all you taste IS the Tahini. They are a disgrace to this wonderful dip.

FM

Very true. All in the balance. A little bit goes a long way. Too much and it seems all sesame-y and too fatty. :sad:

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After 25 years of experimenting with various ways of reaching the sublimity of Thi-na (tahini). I went through lots of recipes and ingredients, and few years ago came to  what I consider as  Tahina perfection:

Thanks for the recipe. :smile:

So do you add this to the chickpeas and then blend in a blender to make Hummus?

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I'm with Boaziko all the way on the t'china, all the way.

As for humus: when I have time, I use dried chickpeas and soak and cook them and then use them. Yes, I use t'china in my humus.

New Yorkers: the most "Israeli" humus I have had in NYC is at Mabat. A perfect balance of humus and t'china. And presented the way it should be - a well in the middle with t'china, drizzled with olive oil, and served with pickles and olives and warm, fresh pita.

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[quoteThanks for the recipe.

So do you add this to the chickpeas and then blend in a blender to make Hummus? ]

Not yet. Regarding Hummus, I tried many times but did not "get there". There is still a long gap between my home end product and my "goal" which is one of the top Hummus places (in the world IMHO) ABU HASAN (ALI KARAWAN) in Jaffa.

It's Easier to drive there, although it doesn't look like a shrine or a temple, there are hundreds of people come there each morning to gat their portion of delight.

Anytime someone is in our neighborhood I promise a guided visit to get the hummus, and primarily the MASABAHA (and to clarify, I do not work in the tourist industry…).

Edited by boaziko (log)

"Eat every meal as if it's your first and last on earth" (Conrad Rosenblatt 1935)

http://foodha.blogli.co.il/

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I was glad to encounter this topic because I have long had a question about tahini that one of you may be able to answer. Usually when I buy tahini at the grocery it appears to be in a "raw" state. Very pale. But once, many years ago, I was able to purchase something called "Toasted Tahini". It was darker in color and had a slightly smoky taste. I must confess I thought it improved the taste of my hummus (though not necessarily making it more authentic). Since then, I have wondered which kind of tahini is actually called for in hummus recipes. Thanks for all the great recipes...can't wait to try them!

Lobster.

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