Thursday, June 3, 2010

Recipe: Hummus (WCN! June '10)

This is hummus at its most basic.  There are only a few ingredients, so they're all important--I'll comment below the recipe on each of them.

Jonathan's Hummus
2 cans chickpeas, drained
2 large cloves garlic
1 big spoonful tahini
1 1/2 tsp toasted ground cumin
1 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste

Chop up the garlic cloves in your food processor along with the tahini and cumin.  Add everything else but the olive oil and grind it up as fine as you can.  As the processor is running, add the olive oil in a slow stream and process until it's smooth.  Taste and adjust.

Chickpeas: I have made hummus starting with dried chickpeas, and not only is it a pain in the ass, it's not nearly as good.  The process of cooking the peas in the can gives them a creamier texture.  You could duplicate it in a pressure cooker, I guess, if you really wanted to.
Garlic: We find that a ratio of one good-sized clove to one can of chickpeas makes good "company hummus"--that is, pleasantly garlicky but not so much so that your parents or your co-workers will make faces.  Doubling that makes it a big garlic slap in the face, which isn't a bad thing, but I like hummus with more balance.  When I make it for myself, I use three great big cloves to two cans.  If you want to tone the raw garlic flavor down, thread the cloves onto a wooden skewer and dunk them in boiling water for about a minute.
Tahini: Tahini is sesame seed paste; you can find it in the "ethnic" section at Wal-Mart or at any hippie store.  Lots of people say you can substitute peanut butter--I mean, of course you can.  You can substitute freakin' strawberries if you want your hummus to taste like strawberries.  Hummus made with PB will taste like PB.  Buy some tahini--it lasts pretty much forever in the fridge.
Cumin: It's worth it to toast whole cumin seeds and grind them yourself.  The toasting really wakes the spice up.  A cheap coffee grinder is awesome for whole spices like this--just don't use the same one you use for coffee.  (And for God's sake, label them.)
Lemon: Use an actual lemon.  Accept no substitutes.
Olive Oil: Use extra-virgin here, but don't break out the $35 bottle.  The subtleties of real top-notch oil will get lost with all of these other strong flavors.  Save the good stuff for a salad or for dipping bread.  Use as much as you need for a nice fluffy texture.

Note: If you want it to be pretty, dust it with some paprika and garnish it with thin slices of the other half of the lemon.

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