Ask Kemp: Hummus Tips and Recipe

Hummus has hit the big time! Just look at the increasing amount of refrigerated shelf space in supermarkets devoted to this Middle Eastern dip/spread. As handy as it is to buy, the store-bought stuff just can’t match the flavor of homemade, which is why I wasn’t at all surprised to see a question on the Epicurious Facebook page about the real deal. Q: Kelly Davis asks, “What is the secret ingredient to make homemade hummus rock? Mine is found wanting.” Kemp: Since I’d just been in contact with Suzanne Husseini, author of Modern Flavors of Arabia, for last week’s blog post, I asked her about hummus. She’s got a very simple recipe in her book that involves puréeing freshly cooked chickpeas with ice cubes along with tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and garlic, because the ice not only cools down the chickpeas, but it also acts as an abrasive to break them down. Husseini likes to add a little plain yogurt to “bump up the creaminess.” Here are a few more tips for your hummus improvement project: Peel Your Chickpeas: Okay, this may sound way too precious, but it does make for a smoother result. Whether you’re using fresh or canned, submerge the cooked chickpeas in plenty of warm water and gently rub off the skins, then let the skins float to the surface and pour them off with the excess water. Freshly Cooked Taste Best: Husseini keeps cans of chickpeas in her pantry for when she needs hummus quickly, but she prefers to cook the chickpeas from scratch. Soak them in plenty of cold water overnight, then drain them and add fresh water for cooking. The cooking time can vary depending on the age of the chickpeas, but mine were tender after simmering one hour. Skip the Baking Soda: If you are cooking dried beans and your recipe includes baking soda, don’t use it. It’s an old practice to soften the skins, but it doesn’t merit continuation. According to the US Dry Bean Council, baking soda “robs the beans [including chickpeas] of the B-vitamin thiamin.” Mash Your Garlic With Salt: The food processor can purée some things, but it can’t purée fresh garlic; the garlic remains as tiny nubbins that get stuck in your teeth (perfect for date night!). If you mash your garlic with some salt using a mortar and pestle, it swiftly turns into a smooth paste. You can achieve the same effect by mincing the garlic, then mashing it with salt and smearing it to a paste on a cutting board with a large heavy knife. Use the Freshest Tahini You Can Find: Try to buy your tahini at a Middle Eastern market if you have access to one. If not, read your labels carefully. Avoid brands of tahini that say they are toasted. True tahini is a purée of raw sesame seeds, not toasted. The color should be pale. If the oil has separated from the solids and is floating on the top, it may…

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