February 05, 2006
Hummus / Hommus / Hoummos
I never really know quite how to spell it. Certainly, some of the variety of spelling comes from whether you are translating from Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, or any of the languages from throughout the regions where the dish is consumed. I tend toward the most popular spelling, hummus, but I'm happy to eat it in any language.
Hummus is fantastically cheap and easy to make, and a little goes a long way. It is a favourite snack, alongside vegetables or pita bread for dipping, or smeared across a tortilla in a callous disregard for each cuisine's autonomy - or, fusion, as we like to say here on the west coast. I even have it on toast, for breakfast now and then. It packs easily for lunches, makes a terrific afterschool/work snack, and if you don't use an enormous amount of olive oil, it's a fairly healthy way to sneak a little non-meat protein into your life, your kids, your household. Plus, with raw garlic in there, I'm convinced that I'm getting some great health benefits, too.
There are an awful lot of different recipes out there, too. I've tried a lot of variations: with tahini, with nut-butter, with green herbs, with a miscellany of spices. I've made it fat-free, low fat, high fat, and with yoghurt. I tried Orangette's White Bean Hummus to my great delight, and I am quite likely to make a batch of hummus starting from dried chickpeas that I cook myself. However, I like to keep a can or two of the beans in my pantry, so that I can whip this most simple one up at almost literally a moment's notice. It's a lot leaner than the varieties that you get in Greek restaurants, but that's my intention. I'm happy to eat the rich stuff when I go out; at home, I want a dependable, tasty workhorse-recipe that doesn't go straight for the thighs.
Hummus from the Pantry
1 19 oz. can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained - liquid reserved
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 lemon - juice only
1 tablespoon the best-tasting extra virgin olive oil you can afford (optional)
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground cayenne
In the belly of your food-processor, blender, or Multi-Quick chopper container (guess what I got for Christmas?), place the drained chickpeas, peeled garlic, lemon juice, spices, and olive oil. Pulse, chop, or blend on a low setting until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add about 1/3 cup of reserved liquid from the chickpeas, and process again. Stop, scrape the edges of the bowl, and continue to process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If the mixture is very, very thick, add a little more of either the reserved liquid or fresh water, and continue to process.
If you are not using the olive oil, you will need to add a little extra water/liquid, as the dip will firm up considerably in the fridge. The goal is for a creamy consistency about the thickness of a sour cream-based chip dip, or a loose mayonnaise.
Taste, adjust for seasoning if necessary (I seldom add salt if I am using canned chickpeas) and remove to a lidded container to store in the fridge until needed. This makes about two cups.
Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of cayenne or paprika, and, if you're feeling fancy, a little anointing of olive oil. Provide flatbreads or vegetables to scoop it up.
If you are using a blender, you will probably have to stop and scrape a little more than if you are using one of the other tools, but you will get a very fine texture, which is to be prized.