Sunday, March 29, 2009


Hummus isn't hard to find these days. Its on restaurant menus and easily found in the supermarket. That should be a good thing, but its not if what you're buying isn't really hummus. The reason I ask is because I recently ordered hummus in a restaurant and was served a delightful white bean dip. Was I happy? No, I was not. Even though it was yummy, it wasn't hummus. Hummus is strictly made with chickpeas.

I spent this past summer in Israel which could also be called hummus land. The creamy garbanzo bean spread is everywhere. They have like a whole aisle of it in the supermarket and I was once asked if I wanted it on my hotdog! Its the Israeli version of our ketchup. Anyways, since returning home I've noticed that the hummus here doesn't taste right. On further inspection I've found the culprit. It's the ingredients, or rather lack of ingredients. Hummus should be made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. If the hummus you're buying doesn't list tahini, (a paste made of sesame seeds) then your loosing out on a vital ingredient. When I make hummus myself I have really noticed that the quantity of tahini is really what makes an authentic tasting hummus.Another ingredient to look out for is oil. Oil is found in a lot of commercial hummus, but real hummus does not use oil to bind the ingredients. You might see olive oil near the end of the ingredients and thats fine. When Hummus is served in the middle east, the top is usually hollowed in a little and olive oil is drizzled on top. Often times herbs like parsley or paprika will be added as a garnish.

Since returning to the states I've taken to making my own hummus because I've found that it is the closest to the Israeli Hummus I've grown accustomed to. When I lived in Jerusalem I used to walk to Mahane Yehuda, a crazy busy outdoor market and buy freshly made Hummus from a family that has been making hummus for who knows how long. Its hard to replicate that taste, but I've created my hummus recipe after trying and reading a number of different authentic ones. I'll post my recipe later in the post. However, if you aren't up for the task of soaking chickpeas overnight and shelling them. There are a couple of brands easily found in stores that I recommend.

1. Sabra Hummus
Its delicious and is an Israeli company. An interesting piece of trivia is the the word Sabra is another name for a person born in Israel. I love Sabra Hummus because it tastes authentic and I'm pretty sure it is sold in Israeli supermarkets under another name. A great thing about Sabra is that it has olive oil and other goodies on the top.
2. Trader Joe's Mediterranean Creamy Smooth Hummus
It comes in a larger size then the other Trader Joe's hummus and I think it tastes way better. It also has some pinenuts and olive oil on top. (I'm actually eating some as I type this.)

If you do plan on making your own hummus I highly recommend using dried chickpeas over canned. They can be found at your local supermarket usually in the Mexican or Middle Eastern section. Using dried chickpeas is admittedly some extra work, but the difference in flavor and texture is huge and its well worth the effort. Also make sure you have tahini/ tahina. it can be found in a can or bottle in Middle Eastern markets or sometimes in the Kosher/ Jewish section of your local supermarket.

Israeli Hummus Recipe
1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons to taste
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Olive oil for drizzling
2 tablespoon parsley

First rinse the chickpeas under water and look out for any that don't look right as well as any rocks that may have gotten in there. I usually use one cup of dried chickpeas and I soak them overnight in water. Change the water a few times so that the water is clear and not yellow. Your one cup of dried chickpeas usually expands to about two cups in the water.

After they've soaked overnight simmer the chickpeas in clean water until the skin separates and they feel soft. This usually takes at least an hour sometimes close to two. Drain the chickpeas, but reserve the liquid as you will need this later to thin out your hummus. At this point you can either separate the skin from the chickpeas which is what I prefer to do or just dump it in the food processor. I'm not sure separating the skin matters all that much. Next, add the tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cumin to the food processor.

Mix until the consistency is smooth. At this point you might have to add about a 1/4 cup reserved chickpea cooking liquid or more to get the right consistency. Be mindful of the fact that hummus will thicken up after you put it in the refrigerator. When it tastes right and you're sure about the consistency put it in a bowl or plate, drizzle on some olive oil, and garnish with some paprika or parsley. Enjoy with some pita and cut up veggies!

1 comment:

  1. The fresh Tahina at Trader Joes is really good. Try it. Its better than the canned kind.