The combination of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is thousands of years old. The first written recipe for hummus was recorded in 13th century Cairo, but variations on the dish are likely much older. Though hummus translates to chickpea Arabic, it is often debated whether the dish is Arab or Israeli. Furthermore, a handful of other Middle Eastern countries continue to argue that hummus is their national dish.
Hummus grew to popularity in the United States following the migration of the Lebanese to California around the time of the Lebanese Civil War. Israeli immigrants also introduced the dish to America and Europe. According to Yotam Ottolenghi, the best recipe for hummus is a controversial subject in Israel which often causes heated arguments. I feel this argument is commonplace around the world now, and perhaps this recipe (without sounding too presumptuous), partially inspired by Ottolenghi’s, comes close to culinary perfection.
For me, there are a few keys to the perfect hummus. First is balance; however, balance will be different to each set of tastebuds. I need a decent amount of acidity, the right hit of garlic, and a whisper of smokey spice. Too much tahini is overwhelming, but if you fail to use enough, you will not yield silky hummus. Next, I urge you to cook your own chickpeas. These cannot compare with the canned variety. Not in price, not in quality. Finally, the machine you employ to blend your hummus is important. A powerful food processor or blender will do just fine.
1.5 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked 12 hours
2-3 fat cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
2 tsp. cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste (likely around 4-5 tsp.)
1/3 cup of tahini
Start by soaking your chickpeas. You may add a bit of baking soda if you like. Drain the chickpeas and cook them by your preferred method. I like to use my pressure cooker as it is low energy and very fast (takes around 12 minutes to cook legumes). When your chickpeas are tender, allow them to cool. If you drain them in an effort to cool them faster, reserve some of the cooking water.
In a food processor or powerful blender, add 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and the garlic, then blend until a smooth paste forms. You may need to scrape down the sides of your instrument. Next, add the lemon juice, spices, and salt. Blend again. Finally, add the tahini to the mix and blend very well.
Taste for salt, and if you are like me, taste for acidity. Decant into a flat bowl, drizzle with the best olive oil you have, sprinkle with some sumac (for lemony depth), and some halved olives (not necessarily traditional, but this is my twist). Pomegranate seeds, parsley, and pine nuts are fabulous traditional options.