When I was a teenager hummus was a unknown and totally exotic foreign food.
Those years were recent enough that I probably should have know what hummus was, but I grew up far enough upstate as to be rather isolated from the food trends and cultural open-mindedness of the big city.
In the 90s in Auburn, NY, the closest most people ever got to experiencing foods from other cultures was Chinese take out or one of the many MANY old school Italian restaurants.
Or maybe Taco Bell.
When I entered high school I met a whole new group of friends; among them were the punks, hippies, goths, skate boarders, hacky sackers, vegetarians, and vegans of the alterna-teen umbrella. Falling in with a different crowd meant hearing new music, having new adventures, and experiencing new foods.
Sushi! Indian! Falafel! So new! So Exciting!
One of my favorite discoveries was hummus.
Growing up with staunchly American cuisine and lots of convenience foods, Hummus was completely foreign and exotic to me. It was simply bursting with unfamiliar spices and bold flavors that I’d never encountered before my teen years. Even the texture was new to me, and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
I still remember the first time I tried to get my mom to buy some for me in the grocery store and she had no idea what the heck it was or why in the world I’d want to eat it.
One of my favorite things about hummus even today is how versatile it can be. It makes a great dip at parties, a delicious spread on a sandwich, and even works as a side dish or major part of a meal. One of our favorite things to do when we make our own hummus is to thinly slice, marinate, and broil some chicken breast and serve it alongside some sliced cucumbers, grilled pita wedges, and giant bowl of hummus for dipping.
There are many different ways to make hummus and just as many flavors you can blend into it. Personally, I prefer a classic approach with lemon, garlic, and cumin. I also like to take the extra step of soaking and boiling dried chickpeas rather than using canned. I think dried chickpeas have a slightly cleaner flavor and make it much easier to control the amount salt you add.
This recipe can be made thick and chunky, or creamy and smooth, depending on how long you process everything. I myself like to let the food processor whir and whir until the hummus is unbelievably smooth and silky. While it’s really traditional to serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, I like to add some extra in while it’s pureed for even more velvety creaminess.
While the flavors in this recipe are very traditional, I like to turn up the volume and add a little bit extra lemon and garlic to make sure they really shine through. If you’re not as big a fan of raw garlic, feel free to skip one or two of the cloves.
Classic Creamy Hummus
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup tahini
juice of 2 to 3 lemons
3 to 4 cloves of garlic (less if preferred)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
Wash the chickpeas three or four times, or until they don’t cloud the water when submerged. Check for stones and other non-chickpea debris.
Soak the chickpeas in clean water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda for at least 8 hours or overnight. Wash and drain them, and soak again in new clean water for a two or three more hours. The grains should be almost double their original size.
Wash and drain the chickpeas once more and put them in a large pot. Cover with water and add remaining baking soda and NO salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the grains are tender enough to be easily smooshed between two fingers. It should take about an hour to an hour and a half. As they cook some foam may form on the water and skins may rise to the top. Try your best to skim off as much of the foam and as many of the skins as possible. The fewer skins you have the creamier and smoother your hummus will be. Once finished, drain them and reserve some of the cooking liquid.
Let the chickpeas cool for a bit before adding to a food processor. Pulse them a few times before adding the remaining ingredients and processing until you get the desired texture. I like mine super smooth and creamy so I just let it go for a bit, but if you like yours chunkier just pulse it until it comes together in a thick chunky paste. If the Humus is too thick, add some of the cooking water or some more lemon juice or olive oil. Try to get it a bit thinner than the consistency you desire, as it will thicken a bit once it’s refrigerated. Check for seasoning, and if you’re happy with the levels of salt, cumin, garlic, and lemon, you’re done!
Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and some chopped parsley if desired.
This recipe recipe doubles very easily, but you do not need to double the amount of baking soda used for either soaking or cooking.