Pass the Hummus

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Hummus bi Tahina (حمص بطحينة)

Hummus is perhaps the most well known Middle Eastern meze (appetizer) in the West. In Arabic, the word hummus simply means "chickpea", and Hummus bi Tahina translates to "Chickpeas with Sesame Paste". I'm particular about my hummus: chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. That's it. I avoid 'fusion hummus' at all costs: bright pink roasted red pepper hummus, avocado hummus, and even hummus with wasabi and ginger. Hummus is at its best when you let the chickpeas do all the talking.

My basic version relies on chickpeas and tahina for its flavor, with added lemon juice and garlic for a more complex taste. You can always add more garlic or use less tahina if you like. I prefer the convenience of canned chickpeas, but if you want to use dried (and have a few extra hours on your hands) by all means use those. Hummus is usually served with fresh pita bread, falafel (chickpea fritters), or grilled eggplant, but crackers and raw vegetables (carrots, red peppers, broccoli) are popular accompaniments outside of the Middle East.

1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (liquid reserved)
1/4 cup tahina* (sesame paste)
3 TBL lemon juice
1 TBL chickpea liquid
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Serves 4-6; *Tahina can usually be found in the international aisle of large grocery stores or in specialty stores ( e.g. Whole Foods)

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Add an additional tablespoon of the chickpea liquid or olive oil if the hummus is too thick. Refrigerate at least half an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Try adding one of the following as a topping for hummus:
  • Pine Nuts - 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted for 30 seconds in a dry skillet, or until fragrant
  • Chickpeas with oil - 1/3 cup whole chickpeas and a drizzle (1 TBL) of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pomegranate Seeds - 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds - how to cut and de-seed a pomegranate
  • Fresh Tomato & Basil - 1 small tomato, diced and 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped