Why is the best hummus always in restaurants, especially Middle Eastern ones? I think I make a delicious, flavorful hummus that has a great consistency and is better than the ones you find in the supermarket. But, it doesn’t compare to the silky, light and creamy hummus that I’ve had in restaurants. I want that kind. The kind that will drip, not plop, off your pita if you’re not careful. The kind you can suck up with a straw. You know what I mean.
I got into bed with a book the other night, because reading helps me wind down and relax from my typically crazy day. But of course, I read cookbooks in bed before I go to sleep which is an absolutely terrible idea because that does nothing to quiet my overactive brain which doesn’t stop thinking, thinking, thinking! Regardless, I was reading Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s not-so-new, but gorgeous book , “Jerusalem.” So many recipes, so little time, people. I turned to their recipe for “Basic Hummus” and I swear I almost flipped the page without so much as a glance, because like I said, I already have a perfectly great hummus recipe which I have actually turned into four different flavors. But then I thought “have some respect, you never know.”
The word “supersmooth” caught my attention immediately and then I knew I found it — the hummus of my dreams. Let me jump to the chase. The Ottolenghi hummus is the kind I love at restaurants and they tell me all their secrets. Most importantly, the chickpea skins are removed after cooking and before pureeing. I know!!! Why didn’t I think of that? But before you think I have the kind of time to sit around peeling chickpea skins, think again. After soaking and draining the chickpeas, they are cooked with a little baking soda and then water is added to boil the beans. The skins float to the top of the pot and you just skim them away. I know!!! Brilliant. They also add a lot more tahini (sesame paste) than I do which makes the hummus so creamy. And water. I would never have thought to add water, but it really makes the hummus lighter and cleaner than adding the chickpea liquid which is how I do it. “Better late than never,” is what I was thinking.
I wouldn’t say that my first attempt came out quite as smooth as Ottolenghi’s primarily because not all the chickpeas lost their skins and I was not about to go peeling them, but it was really, really good and very smooth. You can see the image of that below. I also tasted the hummus after adding 2/3 cup of tahini instead of the recommended 1 cup + 2 Tbs. and I thought it was divine. I made it a second time and did take the time to pull off any skins that didn’t come off during the boiling process and the hummus was a tad bit creamier, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra 12 minutes it took me to do that. You should do whatever makes sense to you and if you have the time, feel free to pick out every last skin. For that matter, you can buy canned cooked chickpeas and pull off the skins and proceed from there.
I served this to friends the other night, friends who have had my hummus a million times and they all said “where did you get this? This is so good.” I know, a tad insulting since the implication was that I could not have made it, but I was totally fine with that. Since then, we’ve enjoyed this immensely with pita bread and raw veggies (wow, I could actually hear you yawn through the computer), slathered on a baguette with grilled veggies and slow roasted tomatoes (my recommendation), and dolloped on a Greek salad with chicken souvlaki (we had this for dinner the other night — major hit!). There is an insanely beautiful picture in the book of the hummus topped with whole cooked chickpeas, pine nuts, chopped parsley, cooked lamb and the whole thing drizzled with olive oil. A-mazing.
No matter how you make it, hummus is rather nutritious and especially high in protein and fiber. It’s one of the more healthful spreads and dips, provided you don’t go to crazy on the pita bread or chips. I have even used it in place of mayonnaise in chicken salad. I have even eaten it with a spoon. I have even dreamt about it. You will too, until you make it!
supersmooth, light-as-air hummus
adapted from “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)*
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ½ cups water
1 cup light tahini paste (Ottolenghi recommends 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons, but I thought anywhere between 2/3 and 1 cup was great)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
6 ½ Tablespoons ice cold water
Unrefined olive oil and sweet paprika for finishing, if desired
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with at least 4 inches of cold water. Allow to soak 6-8 hours.
- Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the drained chickpeas and the baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by at least 2 inches. Cook, skimming off and foam and skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas cook faster this way and may only need from 20-40 minutes to become tender, but possibly longer. You know they’re done if you can squish a chickpea in between your thumb and forefinger.
- Drain the chickpeas. You will have about 3 2/3 cups. Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until you get a stiff paste. With the machine running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Lastly, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes until you get a really smooth and creamy paste. I actually set my timer for 5 minutes and washed the dishes in the meantime.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the hummus to rest for at least 30 minutes. If not serving right away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. If desired, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
*Or you can use 2 15-ounce cans of cooked chickpeas, drained, and peel the skins manually. Place the peeled chickpeas in the food processor and proceed with Step 3.