I am absolutely, completely, hopelessly, ridiculously obsessed with hummus. I, like actress, Natalie Portman crave hummus and have the ability to eat my body weight in hummus (yes, that’s my pop culture reference for today.) My hummus obsession is attributed to my mother and my favourite restaurant, Nuba.
During my high school years, my mom flexed her culinary skills in a Greek restaurant. It was because of her and her vegetarian ways that hummus became a staple in our house. She made it all the time. This is way before hummus was viewed as cool. Hummus was definitely not popular, but now you find people eating hummus with everything, and you find it everywhere.
Now let’s talk Nuba. This Lebanese restaurant is my kind of eating. Tons of nibbles and noshes. A myriad of vegetarian options. The food is healthy and packed with flavour. I love the ambience, especially with a group of friends and the live music nights are always interesting. The hummus here is a revelation. The silken classic, fragrant with lemon bears no resemblance to store-bought hummus. In Lebanon, hummus is conceived as a side dish or a first course more than a complete meal.
While Nuba, does many Lebanese dishes, there are restaurants that only do hummus – they are common in many Middle Eastern countries. I’ve seen them in New York as well. Hummus with tahini, or sesame paste, is a classic wherever you go.
While I eat hummus, religiously, this ultimate party dip is perfect for all your holiday get togethers. Healthy and bursting with flavour. It goes well with the Christmas/New Year’s noshing landscape. This hummus, my hummus, usually gets devoured before dinner starts. It’s that good. Even hummus-hesitants will be gobbling it down.
My hummus is eerily smooth, almost whipped in texture. Bright with lemon, it comes dusted with kalonji, sumac, and sesame seeds with olive oil pooling in the centre. Okay for my version, I added some chilies, but it’s not mandatory. Overall, the taste is seamless and the garlic in a state of equilibrium.
The recipe is flexible, sometimes I add other ingredients like roasted beetroot, avocado, or pistachios to add more flavour profiles. Sometimes I add toppings like crunchy roasted chickpeas or spicy ground beef and pine nuts. Today though, I am a purist.
On to the chickpeas. I have used canned chickpeas when in a time crunch. However, cooking your own chickpeas and making your own tahini elevates this hummus to another level.
Cooking chickpea takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth the effort. Before cooking dried chickpeas, the first thing you will have to do is soak them. Place the chickpeas in a large pot and cover completely with cold water. Allow to soak overnight, about 12 hours. A teaspoon of baking soda can be added to help aid with the soaking process, but I find soaking in just water for 12 hours works effectively.
In the morning — discard the water, rinse the chickpeas well, drain and cook them in plenty of water. It usually takes about 45 minutes or longer on low heat. The cooking time varies depending on the freshness of the chickpeas, strength of the heat and quantity of the chickpeas, so you need to adjust accordingly. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
Now on to the best secrets when making hummus: Firstly, blend them in the food processor when they are hot with the other ingredients. This helps tranform them into an ethereal smoothness. Secondly, don’t be scared of using olive oil. It adds so much delicious flavour.
Its easy peasy from here. The food processor does all the work. Once you have pulsed and blended to your heart’s content, scoop out the hummus into a serving dish, pool on some olive oil and liberally use sesame seeds, Kalonji and sumac to create a Rothko inspired design. Then get eating. Hummus can be served with anything. My suggestions: pita, baquette slices, pretzels, tortilla chips, veggies, and olives. Or like me, spoonfuls of it. Yum!
The Best Hummus Recipe, Ever
7 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cooked chickpeas
4 tablespoons Tahini (homemade – see recipe below, or jar variety)
½ cup reserved chickpea cooking liquid (depending on how smooth you want it)
1 to 2 lemons juiced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (or more) & an extra sprinkle Himalayan sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground garam masala
1 teaspoon sumac
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac
Himalayan sea salt
In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the chickpeas and pulse a full minute or two, stop, scrape down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice from 1 lemon, salt, pepper, cumin, sumac, and garam masala and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil. Then add reserved chickpea cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it gets very smooth, light and creamy mixture. I find I need about ¼ to ½ cup of liquid, it varies every time. Taste and adjust seasonings. Adding more lemon or salt, if needed. Don’t add more garlic, since the garlic flavour gets stronger as it sits. It will be enough, trust me.
To serve: Pour into a glass serving dish. Drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with sumac, Kalonji, and sesame seeds.
1 cup white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sesame seeds out. Bake for about 5 minutes, take it out of the oven, mix it around a little, and bake for another 3 minutes until there’s a fragrant smell (do not over bake). Pour all the sesame seeds into a food processor and pulse until it becomes a paste, then add the vegetable oil and continue pulsing until it becomes a thick paste. Pour into a Tupperware container and refrigerate tahini once it has cooled.