7.1.10 Hummus With a Kick

Winning hummus 790 xxx
Guinness record-holding Lebanese hummus
This week, a friend asked me to post a recipe for hummus. This is a somewhat controversial issue: just ask someone from Jerusalem or Beirut. People in the Middle East are totally obsessed with this creamy stuff, as you can see by the gigantic vat above (weighing 23,520 pounds) prepared by Lebanese chefs who set the latest Guinness world record—beating Israel, which had previously beat Lebanon. So there’s the Galilee hummus or the Jerusalem kind, with or without fava beans, topped with warm chickpeas or served without. I suppose it’s like masala or gumbo, with every good chef developing his own version. Mine was inspired by a horseradish-laced hummus I once bought at Whole Foods. I was never able to find it again and, after hankering for it for months, I finally concocted the version which I humbly offer you here.
Chickpeas 790 xxx
Hummus (the Arabic word for chickpea)—also spelled hamos, homos, houmous, hommos, hommus, hummos or hummous—is traditionally made from chickpeas and sesame, crops cultivated in the ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds for more than 10,000 years. The chickpea is high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and vitamin C. It also contains B complex and is rich in essential fatty acids. Since it’s higher in omega-6 than omega-3, it should not be consumed to excess.There are a few good reasons for making your own hummus, instead of simply tossing a plastic container into your shopping basket. One is that truly fresh hummus is a revelation. (If you take the time to pluck off the chickpea skins, you will enter into a whole other realm of fluffiness.) Another is that you can blend it according to your own palate, with more or less tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. You can also add different spices—za’atar, vadouvan, pimetón or, my favorite, horseradish. You can roast the garlic if you prefer a smoother flavor. You can even incorporate almonds or walnuts if you like. Lastly, if you prepare it yourself, you can be sure that you are getting all the wonderful nutrients from the chickpeas. Here's an interesting excerpt from Nourishing Traditions about how to prepare beans and legumes:

“Traditional societies whose cuisines are based on legumes prepare them with great care. Beans are soaked for long periods before they are cooked—some varieties in acidic water and some in neutral or slightly alkaline water. The soaking water is poured off, the beans are rinsed and, in the case of chickpeas, the skins picked off. Sometimes water is replaced midway through the cooking process. Such care in preparation ensures that legumes will be thoroughly digestible and all the nutrients they provide well assimilated, because such careful preparation neutralizes phytic acid (which blocks the absorption of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc) and enzyme inhibitors, and breaks down difficult-to-digest complex sugars. Always add lemon juice or the liquid from fermented vegetables to bean and lentil soups. As far as canned beans are concerned, high temperatures and pressures used in the canning process do reduce phytate content, but the danger is that such processing overdenatures proteins and other nutrients at the same time.”

With just a little advance planning, you'll be making word-class hummus. My recipe calls for reduced amounts of tahini and garlic, because I think those flavors can overpower the buttery taste of the chickpeas. On the other hand, I love the spicy kick from fresh horseradish; you could probably substitute the prepared kind from a jar, but if you can find a fresh root, I encourage you to give it a whirl. I grate it with my microplane zester and its slow burn and subtle sweetness are quite addictive. (Add it to mayonnaise, too; fantastic on a roast beef sandwich or a grilled burger.)

Hummus with Horseradish

makes about 4 cups
  • — 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • — 2 tablespoons whey or lemon juice
  • — 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • — 3 cloves garlic
  • — 1/3 cup tahini
  • — 1 tablespoon flax seed oil
  • — 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • — 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
  • sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil, for drizzling

Place chickpeas in a bowl and cover with warm water. Stir in whey or lemon juice and leave in a warm spot for 24 hours. Drain, rinse and pick off skins. (Yes, this is an odious task. Coerce your child, with his nimble fingers, into performing it.)

Transfer to a pot, add salt and water to cover and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Then cover the pot and simmer chickpeas for about 4 hours, or until very tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.

You should have about 3 cups of cooked chickpeas. Set aside a small handful and place the rest in your food processor. Mash garlic with a little sea salt to form a paste and add this with the tahini, flax seed oil, lemon juice and horseradish to the chickpeas. Process until smooth.

Taste and add more salt, or any of the other ingredients, as needed. Hummus should be creamy and not too thick, so you can thin using a little of the reserved cooking liquid. To serve, mound in a bowl, garnish with a little pile of the reserved cooked chickpeas and drizzle with olive oil. Accompany with fresh pita and vegetable sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber, radish).

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Spiced Pita Chips

makes 4 dozen
  • — 6 whole wheat pita breads
  • — 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • — 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • — 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • — 1 teaspoon vadouvan
  • sea salt

Cut pita bread across center into quarters. Open up and place pieces, inside part up, on cookie sheets. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients and brush lightly on pita pieces. Place under broiler for a few minutes (watching like a hawk!) until lightly browned, or bake in a 250-degree oven until quite crisp.

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