Cooking with San Francisco Cooking School: How to Build a Better Hummus
Eat less meat. Eat more grains, veggies and beans. Reasonable goals? For sure. Still tasty? If you know a few tricks, absolutely. This year our column will focus on meatless dishes that satisfy on every level: taste, texture and ease—always!
Seems fitting to start with a starter: the now-ubiquitous hummus. Walk into any supermarket and you’ll see it packing the shelves almost as much as salsa. It might not be overtaking the nation’s most popular condiment, and my gut tells me that’s because these mass-marketed brands just can’t compare to the real deal. They can be gritty, flavorless, dense and downright boring.
Making your own hummus starts with a simple base recipe from which endless variations can be created. At its core, it’s a combination of chickpeas (garbanzos, to some), tahini (sesame paste), garlic and lemon.
- 1 pound cooked, skinned and drained chickpeas
- 2–3 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the smoothest hummus, you’ll want to start with dried beans that have been soaked in salted water overnight. Drain them well, then cook them until they are very tender. One trick I learned years ago was to add about 1½ teaspoons of baking soda to every pound of chickpeas when I’m cooking them. The acidity helps separate the skins from the beans and the skins rise to the top of the pot, allowing you to skim them right off once the beans are cooked. Skinless chickpeas have no hint of grit when they are puréed, so this is your first step to creating better hummus.
Throw your pound of cooked, skinned and drained chickpeas into a food processor and add 2–3 tablespoons tahini, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and about ½ cup water. The water is key here—it helps aerate the mixture when you purée it, creating hummus that is noticeably less dense than its water-free counterpart. Once the puree is smooth, keep the processor running while you add 2–3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil, just enough to add a bit of richness. Taste the mixture and season it as needed with salt (don’t be shy, it’ll need a few generous pinches), pepper and/or additional lemon or garlic to your liking.
Done. You’ve just made simple homemade hummus that will blow your mind if you’re used to the store-bought stuff. Now, about those variations. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.
To your base hummus, stir in any of the following to taste:
• 1 carrot (raw or roasted), rough cut, horseradish, orange juice, turmeric and ground coriander
• 2 medium cooked red beets, diced, dash or two of red wine vinegar, fresh mint or cilantro
• 1 roasted/seeded red bell pepper or 2 roasted/seeded piquillos, harissa, sweet or smoked paprika
• 1 cup blanched fresh or frozen and thawed English peas, fresh tarragon
You can, and absolutely should, play with your own variations. Just think of the base recipe as a neutral way to begin and build from there.
When you serve your hummus, think pita chips (homemade or store-bought do the trick), veggie chips or sturdy spears of your favorite vegetables for dipping. I like to top mine with a drizzle of good olive oil, toasted nuts, citrus zest, fresh herbs, crumbled feta or toasted spices. Be sure your garnishes complement the ingredients, and don’t overdo it. One or two tasty additions is all you need.
Hummus keeps for a few days in your refrigerator, and when you’re not dipping into it, you can spread it on a sandwich, slather it on grilled chicken or pair it with sliced avocado and some toasted bread for a killer breakfast. It’s packed with protein—and now that you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve, it’ll be packed with flavor too.
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Build a Better Hummus was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2017 Edible San Francisco. Photo © 2017 Nataša Mandić.