When I go to my neighborhood Middle Eastern joint, Oasis, my order is always the same: The falafel plate with pickled onions, tahini, hot sauce, red cabbage and hummus… and make it snappy! Okay, I don’t say that last part.
Let me tell you, the last time I got so much pleasure for 6 dollars, I was 13 and slightly obsessed with Wet N’ Wild glitter nail polish. The thought that I could make hummus anywhere near as silky smooth and luscious as they so masterfully serve never even occurred to me, and I was okay with that. “Leave the hummus to the pros” was my attitude. However, that recently changed.
Last weekend I was thumbing through my favorite cookbook of 2011, Melissa Clark’s tirelessly enjoyable Cook This Now. While drinking my morning coffee, I happened upon a hummus recipe that bears as much resemblance to store-bought hummus as lightning does to a lightning bug. It’s a bit garlicky, a bit lemony and a bit spicy. It’s mild and creamy with a rich, toasty flavor from the fresh chickpeas. With the day stretched out before me, I was not so daunted by the idea of using freshly cooked chickpeas. They require little more than boiling water and time, both of which I had plenty of. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, and on this rainy Saturday I was, it is suggested that you peel the cooked chickpeas. Even I was not about to peel every single one, but I did peel about half of them while watching Beverly Hills 90210 reruns. Hey… I said it was a rainy Saturday.
My newfound recipe is a gem, indeed, but this does not mean I will abandon my neighborhood falafel palace. What they do there, with grace and ease, is magic. What it does mean is that at least part of that magic has been gleefully demystified in my little Irish-Italian kitchen. Enjoy.
Melissa Clark, Cook This Now
MAKES ABOUT 3 ½ CUPS
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon, plus additional for serving
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 fat garlic clove or 2 smaller cloves, finely chopped
Pinch cayenne, plus additional for serving
1/3 cup tahini
3 cups cooked chickpeas, preferably cooked up from dried peas
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
Cumin salt or flaky sea salt, for serving (see My Two Cents below)
Combine the lemon juice, salt, cumin, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times until the liquid whirls around just enough to blend together. Drop in the tahini and ½ cup water.
Pulse until smooth. Add the chickpeas and puree until smooth and creamy. This might take several minutes, but stick with it. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until the mixture is combined. Taste and adjust the flavors if you think it needs it; you might need to add a pinch of salt. If you do, dissolve it first in a few drops of lemon juice or warm water first to allow for easy distribution.
Spread the hummus on a plate. Top it with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of cayenne. Finish with a sprinkling of cumin salt or sea salt.
*My two cents: Cumin salt is merely 2 parts sea salt to 1 part cumin. Mix and use in the hummus as well as on top.
Melissa Clark is careful to point out that, while canned chickpeas could certainly be used and would taste just fine, the “Stupendous” part of the title would no longer apply.
Crudite, pita bread and pita chips are all lovely partners for the hummus.
Tahini is a nutritious sesame paste worth investing in. It’s not terribly expensive, but one may be deterred from buying it because they wonder what else they can use it in. Tahini is also excellent swirled into a vinaigrette for salads or mixed into a dip for grilled chicken skewers.