I get so annoyed, actually fuming when I see mediocre or downright disgusting hummus served all over America. I guess I take it personally. In Dallas, it is served at American and Iranian and Greek and Indian restaurants, in addition to so-called Mediterranean restaurants. It never tastes how it should! Since Hummos is actually very easy to make and only consists of 4 main ingredients-chick peas, lemon juice, tahini and garlic- I have concluded that most people who prepare it don’t have any idea how it is supposed to taste.
Now, there are 2 ways to achieve a delicious hummus and it depends on the time you have available. The fast and easy version consists on using canned chick peas while the authentic way is of course to soak and boil the beans one day ahead. I will tell you this: both are good, except with the beans you avoid the extra sodium and sometimes a metallic taste. However, you absolutely must use freshly squeezed lemon juice and fresh and mashed garlic! Also, to save time, you can prepare the hummos,mash it in the processor or food mill and put individual servings of it in a freezer ziploc bag to grab at a later date when needed. I had a friend in California, Jamal, who upon showing me his apartment, proudly opened his freezer to point out the rows of neat little plastic bags of hummos that his mother had prepared for him on her last visit! Defrost it and season it with garlic and lemon juice and tahini when ready to eat it!
Hummos is an essential part of a Levantine mezze and is served in many different ways, either plain or with shawarma lamb slices on it or ground meat and pine nuts. The key is to achieve a balance of very creamy yet firm, with an undercurrent lemony and garlicky taste that lingers in the mouth after the hummos is gone. This will make you want to reach for more and more…and more.
2 cans of chick peas or 8 oz. of dried chick peas, to end up with 1lb. of cooked chick peas. If using dried chick peas, soak them in cold water overnight and add to the water a teaspoon of baking soda. Drain them the next day and cook them in 4 cups of water for at least 1 hour until they are very tender. If using canned chick peas, drain them and place them in a pot, add 2 cans of water and put on the stove to simmer for 30 minutes or so to get rid of the metallic taste. Then, take 2 cups of ice cubes and drop them on the chick peas and when it is safe to do so, rub the peas to get rid of as much skin as possible. This is optional.
3/4 cup of tahini ( or more depending on personal preference). You need to stir the container with a wooden spoon because the oil tends to come up to the surface.
1/2 cup of lemon juice, squeezed fresh if possible. Some people like to add a pinch of citric acid to add more tartness, this is optional.
1/2 cup of warm water, preferably from the cooked chick peas
5 cloves of garlic, or 1 tablespoon of toom, which is a garlic paste that you can prepare several days beforehand.
- After cooking the chick peas until they are very tender, or simmering the canned ones, put them aside and let them cool a bit while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Have ready and nearby the lemon juice, tahineh and garlic mashed with a teaspoon of salt.
- Drain the chick peas but keep about 1 cup of their cooking water in the pot. Keep 1/4 cup of chick peas for garnish. Now start processing the chick peas to a creamy paste in the food processor for a few minutes.
- Add the tahineh, then lemon juice and garlic.
- If it is too thick, add some of the cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time. Taste it. If it is lemony, garlicky and creamy and you absolutely love it, stop. If not, add more lemon juice, or garlic, or even tahineh to your satisfaction.
Pour the hummos in a bowl, garnish with the whole chick peas and a little extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika, if you wish. Serve with fresh pita bread or pita chips.
This quantity will serve at least 8 people generously. Hummos will keep for a week in the fridge without any alteration in flavor. To make garlic paste or toom, here again, you can plan ahead. Peel enough garlic cloves to equal one cup (5 oz.)and mash them to a paste with 3 teaspoons of sea salt in a mini-processor. Gradually add about 3 tablespoons of canola oil (or olive oil) to the mixture as well as 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Use the garlic paste for everything including this hummos, salad dressings, on sandwiches (it is healthier than mayo!), soups, stews, steamed veggies, baked potatoes, etc.
TIP: If you find that your hummos is too runny, I learned this trick from my mother who told me that restaurants in Beirut were doing it: tear the crust of one or several slices of plain American bread (white sandwich bread). Add the white fresh bread to the processor while mixing: this will give it body and texture without taking away the taste. Also, the traditional way to garnish the plate of hummos is with a touch of ground paprika and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.