Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shuffle, Kick, Hummus a Tune

Hey, do you guys ever make your own hummus?

I don't really have a recipe for you, so you'll kind of have to go on intuition, but here are some guidelines to get you started if you're sick of paying five bucks a pop for little tubs of oily goop that almost never taste the way you expect them to.

The basic ingredients are chickpeas (garbanzos), tahini, olive oil, salt, lemon juice and garlic. You can make great hummus with either canned or dried chickpeas; the tradeoff is that although going canned is much more convenient, dried generally has a better flavor and sometimes a better texture.* If you really really dislike tahini, I've heard you can omit it without much trouble, and of course you can get rid of the garlic, but why would you?

Now the main goal here is to get all these things to emulsify so that the hummus ends up smooth, light, and creamy rather than grainy or heavy on the tongue. Food processors are best for this, but a blender will work too as long as you're okay with constantly stirring stuff around to get it all down toward the blades. So now we've got all our stuff together, let's get to work.

First in are the chickpeas, garlic, and a little bit of salt. I usually start with one good-sized clove of garlic for every can's worth of chickpeas. Use the pulse button on your machine to get things relatively finely ground and uniform. You'll still be grinding as you add everything, so don't worry too much about it. Next, you'll add some tahini, maybe 1-1 1/2 tablespoons per chickpea can, and mix it in by hand a little before you process it.

At this point, your hummus should be ALMOST smooth and closer to a paste than a nice spread. Now you add the olive oil, extra virgin if you've got it, just a little bit at a time or in a slow stream. Food processors usually have holes in the top specifically so that you can drizzle in oils for emulsification. Blenders are less conveniently designed, but sometimes you can leave the blades going, open up the top, and if you see a little tornado going down into the center of your hummus, you can just drip the oil in from there. Once the hummus reaches a consistency you like, stop and taste it. It will be a little bitter because you haven't added the lemon juice yet, but tasting will give you an idea as to how you want it flavored. Adding lemon juice will take the bitter edge off and make it lively in your mouth. If it seems a little bland, adding a little more salt will enhance all of the flavors. You can also add more garlic, but be careful because a little bit of raw garlic goes a long way.

After you've got the flavor where you want it, you can absolutely be creative with it. One of the things that makes hummus so much fun is that it's a great base for other flavors. Try adding some fresh herbs or spices (parsley and cumin are the most common), olives, tomatoes, capers, fruits or nuts. Go wild. It makes a cheap snack/meal with some tortillas or pita bread, and because there are so many possibilities it's pretty difficult to get sick of it.

Anyway, I've got some chickpeas waiting for me in the kitchen AS I TYPE. Remember it's only five days 'til Armistice Day. Invite your enemies over and get them fed.

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