Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the Kitchen: Hummus

Chances are you fall into one of three categories when it comes to hummus — you love it, you hate it or you're too freaked out to try it. I know, the consistency can get to some people. That's why I never loved guacamole, until I made it myself and left it chunky. But hummus, I dig me some hummus. I eat it almost everyday, in fact.

What's so great about hummus anyway, you ask? I'll give you three simple reasons, it'll make you healthy, wealthy and wise. Really, it's true! Let me break it down…

Healthy: The two main ingredients in hummus, chickpeas and tahini, are both good for you. Chickpeas do not contain any cholesterol or saturated fats and they are rich in protein, making hummus a favorite among vegetarians. Chickpeas are also known to be effective in preventing build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels. Tahini is also high in protein and is an excellent source of calcium.

Wealthy: Ok, so it won't technically make you money, but it will save you money! Buying hummus at a grocery store can add up quickly, but if you make it yourself using dried beans and fresh ingredients, it's insanely inexpensive!

Wise: Two more ingredients found in most hummus recipes are garlic and lemon juice. Both are filled with antioxidants that reduce stress in the body. They also work to improve immune functions and fight off bacteria and viruses. Hummus contains plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for improving intelligence and maintaining a healthy heart. On top of that, it also has iron, vitamin B6, manganese, copper, folic acid and amino acids that can promote good quality sleep and uplift one’s mood.

Ready to give it a try? Here's the recipe…

15 oz chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooked & chilled*
1/3 cup tahini (ground sesame paste)**
4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (soybean or canola will work, too)

You'll also need a large food processor to make this. And by large I don't mean gigantic, I just mean bigger than those mini cuisinart choppers. I imagine you can also use an immersion blender or Vitamix, if you have one. In fact, the Vitamix would probably work best of all!

*I generally always cook with dried beans. Aside from being super cheap, I like that they are naked — no added salt or any other funny business. You can find dried chickpeas at most grocery stores and will pay about $1 for a one pound bag, which will make you about two batches of hummus.

**You may be wondering what tahini is and where the heck you can find it. This is the only ingredient you may have trouble locating. You probably won't find it at most local grocery stores, though you should be able to find it at any whole foods or natural grocer. You can also find it at a mediterranean market, which is where I purchase mine. It looks like natural peanut butter, with the separated oil sitting on top. Just be sure to stir up it really well before using it.

If you are using dried beans, soak and cook them according to the package directions, then weigh out 15 oz. I'm kind of a nut about weighing food and a little kitchen scale is really a very useful tool. When I'm trying a new recipe or baking something precise, weighing helps you get exact amounts or help you judge amounts that you can later eyeball. I meant to measure 15 oz chickpeas in cups for those without a scale, but I forgot, so I'm sorry! I'll update the post next time I make a batch (which will be soon, Im sure).

If you are in a hurry, just can't deal with dried beans or can't find them, you can use canned beans. Just be sure to drain and rinse them well before using. I've never weighed a 15 oz can after it was drained and rinsed, but it should be close enough to 15 oz to do the trick.

A couple things to note for those using dried beans. I always soak them overnight, as opposed to a quick soak method, and I also add a little baking soda to both the soaking and the cooking water. It allows the water to penetrate the chickpeas more easily, which reduces the cooking time and produces a better hummus. I also find that chilling the cooked beans, as opposed to pureeing them warm, makes a big difference in the creaminess of the finished product.

Another element that affects this is the chickpea skins. Did you just imagine yourself sitting around peeling popping hundreds of chickpeas out of their skins just pop into your head? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. It takes a little time and patience, but the result is worth the effort. After cooking the soaked beans, chill them until cold and the skins will just pop right off most when you squeeze between your fingers. This is not a mandatory step, just one that creates a smoother, richer and better tasting hummus.

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I'll continue now by saying this is one of those flexible recipes. Aside from the chickpeas and tahini, the other ingredients can be adjusted to suit your personal taste and texture preferences. And really, even the tahini is adjustable. A little more will give you a little creamier result, but also more of a sesame taste. Adding additional lemon juice will help balance this out.

I'll tell you that I like my hummus pretty middle of the road when it comes to flavors. I'm not a huge fan of garlic, I don't love it too lemony and I definitely don't love spicy foods. Perfecting hummus to your taste preferences is kind of an art. The measurements I provided here are how I love it, but they can all be adjusted. If this is your first time making hummus, I suggest you stick with the recipe and then add more or less of any seasonings to suit your taste. Other spices you can include or swap out for the cayenne are cumin, coriander and paprika. There's lots of flexibility!

Start by blending the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in the food processor until well mixed, but not entirely smooth.

Next add the water and blend until smooth. If you'd like it thinner, you can add more water. This is also when you can give it a taste and decide if you'd like more lemon or other spices.

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You can get creative and add other flavors when pureeing, such as hot sauce, green onions or fresh herbs like parsley. Pine nuts and pureed roasted red peppers are also popular additions to hummus. You can buy jars of roasted red peppers packed in oil at most grocery stores. Simply drain the oil, reserving it, and puree the peppers in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding oil as needed/desired. If you want to make your own (which I recommend!), quarter red peppers, discarding seeds and stems, and place them skin side up on a baking dish lined with foil. Place them under the broiler until the skins begin to blister and peel. Remove them from the oven and wrap them in the foil or seal them in a zip top bag. Once cool, the skins will peel off easily leaving you with roasted red pepper flesh which you can then puree (add your favorite oil when processing if needed).

However you like it, humus is a delicious and versatile snack that is loaded with nutrients. Serve it as a dip with pita, flatbread, crackers or veggies such as sliced cucumbers, carrots and baby romaine or bok choy leaves. It's also delicious as a spread on sandwiches and wraps or for topping a salad.

If I've inspired you to try hummus for the first time, I'd love to hear about it! Alternatively, if I've inspired you to make it homemade for the first time, I'd love to hear about that, too. If you're still scared of it, well, better luck next time.

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.


Nicole said...

Thank you so much for posting this recipe and how you make it! I have been wanting to make my own hummus for a while now, but have been really apprehensive about it. After reading about how you make it, I think I am now brave enough to give it a shot!

Tracy said...

Question: what section of the store will I find the tahini? We have a natural grocery store - will I find it with peanutbutters and almondbutters??

lillyella said...

Hey Tracy!
I'm not really sure. I always buy mine at a mediterranean market. I don't think it will be with the nut butters, but any store associate should be able to direct you. Good luck!

The Cat Hag said...

The benefits sound awesome, but I am still a little scared to try it.

I might try making my own though, so I would be able to alter it to my taste. :)

The Cat Hag

Angelica said...

I have tried it before but I added jalapeño and cilantro and end up breaking my mixer! :(. I will diffinately give this recipe a try when I get a new one

Tim Vidra said...

This looks amazing!


Jacqulynn said...

Yum! Thank you so much for posting your recipe! Can't wait to try it :)

Nicole said...

Tracy, I found mine in the natural section of Giant, and with the kosher items at my super Walmart. There is also an international supermarket near me that has it in the Indian foods section. Hope that helps!