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Hummus + Zhoug

The best hummus is homemade.

The first time that I made hummus from scratch, I had no idea what I was doing. I was 22 and had just moved back to New York after college, living on my own for the first time.  Armed with a brand new food processor that I had scrimped and saved for, I remember that the chickpeas that I used came straight from a can. Too much garlic was thrown in as whole cloves. There was no lemon juice; in its place was lots of olive oil of dubious quality.

Needless to say, that batch of hummus was gritty, harsh, and unpleasant. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would possibly want to go through the trouble of making hummus at home when you could buy a tub of much better stuff at the supermarket just a few dollars.

Fast forward almost 15 years and times have certainly changed! The thought of store-bought hummus now makes me gag a little. Far superior hummus is so ridiculously easy to make that it boggles my mind why anyone would bother with the other stuff unless they were pressed for time, lacked a food processor, or were camping in the woods.

So what is so different now?

First of all, I know much more about food and cooking than I did when I was fresh out of my undergraduate university, the happy result of having read more, traveled more, eaten more, and cooked more. Secondly, I’ve had some really amazing hummus — more amazing than anything that came out of a supermarket tub. Those experiences alone have given me benchmarks against which to judge my own.

Finally, I have recently had much more practice because my hardcore punk rocker boyfriend is a vegetarian and is addicted to hummus.

You read that right: he’s a VEGETARIAN.

The universe can be very ironic 😉

For the first few months we were dating, I would always feel a little stab in my foodie heart every time  I opened his fridge and saw half-empty containers of mass-manufactured hummus. That little stab soon became a nagging inner voice : “You should do something about this,” it whispered, “No one should have to eat this way.” Once the semester was over, I resolved to stock his fridge and freezer with enough dip to keep him properly fed for weeks.

Homemade hummus is not hard to make, but it does require some advanced planning. You need to soak the dried chickpeas overnight (always use dried ones for superior hummus, never canned). Once soaked and drained, you need to cook them until they are almost, but not quite mushy.

And for truly ethereal hummus, you need to remove the chickpeas’ skins before puréeing them. Ah, the chickpea skins. They don’t need to go. In fact, it’s fiddly and annoying to get rid of them. However you set out to accomplish it, the act alone will make you feel like you need to be treated for OCD.

But trust me when I say that it makes a big difference. If you want hummus the texture of velvet, get rid of those skins!

So how do you do it? You can either rinse the cooked chickpeas under cold water until they are cool enough to handle and then pop each one out of its skin with your thumb and forefinger, keeping the peas and discarding the gross membranes (sometimes I think they look like sad, used bean condoms).

Or you can try another technique that I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s recipe for hummus in Jerusalem: toss the soaked and drained beans in baking soda, the grit of which loosens the skins from the peas. With this method, after you cook the chickpeas to a very tender state, the skins kind of disintegrate into a nasty slurry that you can pour off in repeated changes of water. It’s kind of like rinsing rice until the water runs clear.

I’m not sure if making your own hummus is as cost-effective as buying it already made, especially if you use nice tahini and fancy dried chickpeas to do it. I think that because of the volume that I make each time, it works out to costing about the same. That being said, the results are really incomparable.

When my boyfriend dragged a tortilla chip through that first silky, creamy batch and popped it in his mouth, his eyes went wide and he said, “I can’t go back!”

Trust me. You won’t be able to either.

* That is my boyfriend impatiently holding his bowl of hummus because, when you date a food blogger, the camera always eats first.

** You can top hummus with almost anything: harissa, chopped eggs dusted with dukkah, tofu :-(, shawarma or, as pictured, zhoug. Also known as zhug or skhug, it is a spicy Yemeni condiment made from parsley, cilantro, garlic, chili peppers, and olive oil. The recipe is also included below.

Ingredients:

For the hummus (recipe adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s recipe in Jerusalem:

1 lb. bag of dried chickpeas

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2 cups of good tahini

The juice of four lemons

4 plump cloves of garlic, crushed.

Ice water

Salt

For the zhoug:

1 bunch of parsley, thick stems removed and remaining leaves and stems coarsely chopped

1 bunch of cilantro, thicker stems removed and remaining leaves and stems coarsely chopped

2-3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 plump garlic clove, crushed

The juice and zest of one lemon

A pinch of sugar

Olive oil

Salt

Additional garnish:

Sumac

To prepare:

1. Place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with about 2 inches of cold water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them soak overnight.

2. Before cooking, drain the chickpeas. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the chickpeas and the baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly to loosen the skins. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas completely and bring everything to a boil. Be sure to watch the pot carefully as it can easily boil over. Reduce the heat to a simmer and as the chickpeas cook, skim off any foam and skins that rise to the top. Depending on how fresh the dried chickpeas were, it can take anywhere between 20-40 minutes to fully cook them. You will know when they are done when they are very tender and break up easily when you use a wooden spoon to press them against the side of the pot. Once fully cooked (they will be soft but not mushy), carefully pour off most of the liquid. Any remaining skins will have morphed into a sticky, unappetizing slurry that you can eliminate by very gently rinsing the chickpeas in several changes of fresh, cold water, kind of like rinsing rice until the water runs clear.

3. Once rinsed clean, drain the chickpeas and process them in your food processor with a pinch of salt until it you have a thick, stiff paste. Add the tahini, the lemon juice, and the crushed garlic and process everything together. Adjust the seasoning, including adding extra lemon juice or extra garlic if you want your hummus brighter or more garlicky. With the food processor running, add ice water, a little bit at a time, to thin the hummus out to your desired consistency. Your hummus is now complete!

4. For the zhoug, process the parsley, the cilantro, the serrano peppers, the crushed red pepper flakes, the ground cumin and coriander, the garlic, the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and a pinch of salt together. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a thin stream until you have the consistency of pesto. Add a little ice water to even out the consistency and adjust the seasoning.

5. To serve, top the hummus with the zhoug and a sprinkle of sumac.

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26 Comments

  1. Ah, the universe is a strange place. 😉 Yes, once Steve followed the directions and peeled a ton of cooked (dried) chickpeas by hand. Never again!

    • Hi Michael! I love the Jerusalem cookbook as well, actually all of his cookbooks are terrific. And the way that he and Tamimi go through the age-old discussion over who makes the best hummus is extremely well-done and fair. A thought-proviking read, even if you don’t make the hummus. But you did make the hummus and a ton of other recipes from the book! That’s awesome! Can’t wait to do some more cooking and blogging myself 🙂

  2. poodle

    Yay for hummus! And Yay! For punk rock boyfriends that are vegetarian. Okay, maybe not the vegetarian part. If it makes you feel better I married a bald guy and I was a hair stylist. Life is weird like that.
    I love hummus. While I’m sure I would love your version I don’t think my hubband would notice the subtle differences that make it better than the usual stuff. Maybe I’ll try it this weekend and see.

    • The next time you are in town, I will give you a tub to take home with you if you don’t end up making it yourself!

      And yes, the universe is certainly weird like that. But I was a vegetarian for years, so it has been a good opportunity to revisit some old recipes (it kind of feels like visiting old friends, weirdly enough).

      That being said, sometimes I just have to have a steak. Or a super gory cheeseburger. Or fried chicken covered in bacon bits 🙂

    • Hi Nicole, I like to use Sahadi’s own brand of tahini, but when I can’t find that, I like the Joyva brand tahini (it comes in a fancy can).

    • I can’t give the meat either! Sometimes weekends with the boyfriend can feel a little like Lent! Come Monday, pork carnitas are a necessity.

      I love hearing other people’s experience cooking the same of similar dishes! Any tricks you use for your hummus?

      And thank you for the comment! RAWK 🙂

  3. I really can’t add anything to your recipe BUT … I’m definitely going to try the skinless version 🙂
    *thumb, index and baby fingers, jammed high in the air* 🙂
    (you know … Gene Simmons “claims” to have “invented” that Rock salute … hmmmm)
    Stay hungry 🙂

    • Haha! Do it! And let me know how the skinless version compares!

      I’m sure that Gene Simmons has claimed to invent a lot of things 🙂

      Happy eating! 🙂

  4. What! I had no idea hummus could be so velvety. If only I hadn’t recently developed an allergy to chickpeas :(((

    • Oh Edna! Food allergies are tough. I’m sorry to hear that you have developed an allergy to chickpeas. Just chickpeas? Or legumes? Hopefully not all nuts/seeds/peas …

      • It’s totally random, my body just decides once in a while it doesn’t like things. So I can still eat apples/peaches/chickpeas/etc, it just makes my throat super itchy for a while!

  5. Love your photos! Just a thought.. some time try using great northern beans instead of garbanzos. i much prefer the smoothness and softness of them. And they don’t stiffen and dry up, or become mealy like garbanzos over time.

    • Thank you for the kind words about the photos, Chef Mimi! I was a little nervous since I shot them with my iPhone and not my real camera. My phone is just so convenient.

      As for the Great Northern Beans, that is a wonderful idea. I love any idea for more kinds of bean spreads/dips. Would you still use tahini or maybe another kind of nut/seed butter?

      • actually, I don’t. i make a white bean dip – you make make it so many ways. i make one with cumin, coriander and cayenne, plus fresh garlic, (actually published in Gourmet magazine, another with garlic and fresh rosemary, and I think there’s another one on my blog made with roasted red bell peppers. So many options.

  6. This post made me so happy in so many ways, bean condoms be damned. In fact, now I need to send you a package. Can you email me a mailing address? Isn’t it weird to be friends and not know each other’s physical addresses? Ah, modern times.

    • I’m so pleased! Yes, bean condoms be damned. I did drive someone almost crazy a couple of days ago by picking them out of a garbanzo bean salad. I don’t care; they just looked like such a sad pile of used latex on the side of my plate.

      Emailing you physical address now!

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