“We grew beautiful salads, a dozen different kinds, and several herbs. There were shallots and onion and garlic, and I braided them into long silky ropes and hung them over rafters in the attic.”
— MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating
The first time I ate hummus was in a college dining hall around 1996. I slathered the garlicky, lemony concoction on a big hunk of bread and fell in love. Flash forward to 2016 and hummus has taken over. My local ShopRite sells multiple brands and probably a dozen flavors from classic to a shockingly-colored beet. But, let’s be honest, those supermarket hummi are pretty lackluster. The consistency approximates wallpaper paste and the flavors are thin, at best (except for the spicy ones, which tend to hit you in the face with SPICE, foregoing complexity). Compared to, for example, the silken, creamy, rich hummus served at Green Chicpea, a Newark cafe that makes some of the best falafel and Middle Eastern food I’ve ever eaten, it hardly seems right to call them by the same name.
With such great hummus so close to me, why make it at home? Frankly, because that delectable hummus is likely laden with gobs of tahini and tons of olive oil, giving it that creamy texture. Plus, my recently diagnosed ulcer gets grumbly when I eat raw garlic (along with raw onions, regular coffee, fried food, dried cranberries, &tc &tc), which is a central ingredient in hummus. Michael Solomonov, famed Philadelphia restauranteur of Israeli food recommends soaking chopped garlic in the lemon juice to temper its bite, but I’m just not going to take the chance of digestive upset ruining the pleasure of the meal. Making it at home means that I can use garlic powder instead, which seems to have none of the same aftereffects.
I’ve probably made hummus hundreds of times at home, but never really loved it. I’ve cooked my own dried chickpeas, I’ve used canned ones. Never seemed to get that lightness I wanted. Then I found the secret: chickpea flour. Cooked with water like polenta, it becomes a delightfully smooth and creamy hummus that tastes especially good as a sandwich spread. Here’s my new favorite recipe, made 3 times in the last 2 weeks. Spices, lemon, olive oil and tahini can be adjusted to taste.
1 t whole cumin, toasted
1 t dried cumin (or forget the toasted whole and add more dried)
1 t garlic powder
1 t salt
1/4 t berbere or other hot spice like cayenne
6 T chickpea flour
2 C water
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
2 T olive oil
2 T tahini
water if needed
Make slurry with chickpea flour and water by slowly whisking water into flour to form a thin batter. Put over medium heat until it boils whisking constantly for 1 minute. Turn heat to low and cook for 3-5 minutes, whisking occasionally. The mixture will thicken and begin to shine. Let cool. Some recipes call for putting the mixture into a food processor at this stage, but I find a whisk works just fine. Mix in the tahini, oil, and spices. If the mixture is too thick, thin with additional water or lemon juice till it’s the desired consistency. It will thicken more upon refrigeration, so you may need to add more liquid at that point as well.