The Secret to Perfect Homemade Hummus

Kemp Minifie


Homemade hummusHomemade hummusHummus has hit the big time! Just look at the increasing amount of refrigerated shelf space in supermarkets devoted to this Middle Eastern dip/spread. As handy as it is to buy, the store-bought stuff just can't match the flavor of homemade, which is why I wasn't at all surprised to see a question on the Epicurious Facebook page about the real deal.

Q: Kelly Davis asks, "What is the secret ingredient to make homemade hummus rock? Mine is found wanting."

Kemp: Since I'd just been in contact with Suzanne Husseini, author of Modern Flavors of Arabia, for last week's blog post, I asked her about hummus. She's got a very simple recipe in her book that involves puréeing freshly cooked chickpeas with ice cubes along with tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and garlic, because the ice not only cools down the chickpeas, but it also acts as an abrasive to break them down. Husseini likes to add a little plain yogurt to "bump up the creaminess."

Here are a few more tips for your hummus improvement project:

Peel Your Chickpeas: Okay, this may sound way too precious, but it does make for a smoother result. Whether you're using fresh or canned, submerge the cooked chickpeas in plenty of warm water and gently rub off the skins, then let the skins float to the surface and pour them off with the excess water.

Freshly Cooked Taste Best: Husseini keeps cans of chickpeas in her pantry for when she needs hummus quickly, but she prefers to cook the chickpeas from scratch. Soak them in plenty of cold water overnight, then drain them and add fresh water for cooking. The cooking time can vary depending on the age of the chickpeas, but mine were tender after simmering one hour.

See more: Mac & Cheese: The 3 Best Store-Bought Options

Skip the Baking Soda: If you are cooking dried beans and your recipe includes baking soda, don't use it. It's an old practice to soften the skins, but it doesn't merit continuation. According to the US Dry Bean Council, baking soda "robs the beans [including chickpeas] of the B-vitamin thiamin."

Mash Your Garlic With Salt: The food processor can purée some things, but it can't purée fresh garlic; the garlic remains as tiny nubbins that get stuck in your teeth (perfect for date night!). If you mash your garlic with some salt using a mortar and pestle, it swiftly turns into a smooth paste. You can achieve the same effect by mincing the garlic, then mashing it with salt and smearing it to a paste on a cutting board with a large heavy knife.

Use the Freshest Tahini You Can Find: Try to buy your tahini at a Middle Eastern market if you have access to one. If not, read your labels carefully. Avoid brands of tahini that say they are toasted. True tahini is a purée of raw sesame seeds, not toasted. The color should be pale. If the oil has separated from the solids and is floating on the top, it may be a sign of age, but I've bought plenty of separated specimens and it's fine once I purée the contents in a food processor. After that I store it in the refrigerator, which keeps it from separating again.

Freshen Up Canned Chickpeas: If using canned chickpeas, drain them in a sieve and rinse them really well under cold running water. Put them in a pan with plenty of fresh water and simmer them for 1 minute, then drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water in case you want to thin the hummus later.

Use Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice: Don't even think about using those little lemon-shaped squirt bottles!

Save the Olive Oil for Garnish: Hummus gets its creamy texture from the chickpeas and the tahini. Olive oil is only added as a final drizzle on the plate before serving, along with some chopped parsley and a light dusting of paprika or cayenne.

See more: Quick and Easy Dinners

Tasty Additions: These might not be classic, but one or more could take your hummus from good to great!

- Parsley Oil
: Purée 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves with 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a blender, then strain and use right away.
- Toasted Pine Nuts
: Fry them in a little olive oil and drizzle them with the oil over the hummus.
- Toasted Cumin Seeds
: Toast them in a dry skillet or fry them like the pine nuts. Cumin seeds and pine nuts make a terrific combination. Other flavorful seeds to toast are fennel, anise, coriander, and caraway.
- Roasted Garlic
: Substitute it for the fresh.
- Spanish Smoked Paprika
: Whether you use the dulce or the piccante, that hint of smoke kicks it up a notch.
- Flaky Maldon Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
: You can't lose with these two.
- Power Up Your Pita:
Toast your pita loaves whole (uncut) over a gas flame or broil them lightly on both sides under a broiler. Lightly brown the outsides and watch them puff slightly. A little bit of char adds that smoky quality so many of us love. When cut into wedges, they'll be ideal: a little crisp on the outside and still tender on the inside.

If you need a recipe, try my homemade hummus, inspired by Suzanne Husseini's.

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