Warming up to hummus

Why you may not be eating this comfort food correctly

hummus image

Comfort food season is here and, while I am not ready to hibernate just yet, I do enjoy cozy suppers on chilly nights. One of my go-to staples for weeknights is a hummus bowl.

If you have never thought of hummus in any way other than a dip, you are missing out big time! Homemade, creamy and warm hummus (yes warm--more on that soon) is luxurious on the palate and pure comfort food. Topped with grilled veggies, meatballs (or crumbled cheese like feta and/or browned halloumi for dairy meals), chopped olives, and lettuce, a hummus bowl is a grazing comfort food paradise. A different bite every single time you dig in. Or serve it in a warm pita--and make it a sandwich!

Never had warm hummus? Hummus out of the fridge is fine in a pinch when you are faint from hunger. But, warmed hummus, drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil? Now we've really got something. Warm hummus is somewhere between butter and a cream sauce especially in the way it coats the food and wraps around it in a flavorful umami cozy sweater.

Did you know hummus is easy to make from scratch? It's made up of just a few ingredients--and that means each one counts. Using high quality tahini, fresh lemon juice, delicious healthy extra virgin olive oil, and high-quality chickpeas is just about all you need. A bit of garlic, a pinch of salt, and maybe cumin, and you are almost there.

Heard enough? Let's get cooking!

*Hummus starts with dry chickpeas, not canned chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are ok for soups and stews, but not for hummus.

*Good quality tahini is a must. Experiment and taste with several brands until you find one you like. Good tahini is a pantry staple in a modern kitchen for it can be used in so many ways. Tahini vinaigrette for salads, garnishing a crispy schnitzel with a drizzle of tahini, and as a nice puddle on a plate for a piece of fish or chicken, tahini is an "it" ingredient.

*Great extra virgin olive oil is a must for garnishing your hummus--and really for everyday cooking. Try extra virgin olive oils from around the world and you will find that they are all so different.

*Garlic, fresh lemon juice, cumin, and salt round out the recipe. No add-ins are necessary and just clutter the simplicity of the dish.

*Oh, and baking soda. You know that orange box that boasts about hundreds of uses? This is one of them. Baking soda helps break down the tough skins making it easier for water to penetrate and soften the chickpea.


Homemade Hummus

Yields 3 cups

1 cup dried chickpeas

2 teaspoons baking soda, divided

½ cup tahini

4 or more large cloves of garlic

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

½ or more reserved cooking water

½ teaspoon cumin

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

  1. Place chickpeas and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl and cover with water to a depth of at least 2-inches over the chickpeas. Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Drain chickpeas and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add remaining teaspoon baking soda and cover with water. Simmer, occasionally skimming off chickpea skins that rise to the top, for at least 60-70 minutes until chickpeas are very soft, almost falling apart.
  3. Drain chickpeas and reserve 1 cup of cooking water (the starch will help make the finished hummus creamy). Transfer chickpeas to food processor and add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, ½ cup cooking water, cumin, and sea salt. Process until creamy and very smooth. Adjust consistency with more cooking water or even a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Adjust flavor with additional salt or lemon juice.
  4. Serve hummus warm, generously drizzle with delicious olive oil and topped with your favorite bowl toppings such as: crumbled beef, turkey, or lamb, feta and browned halloumi cheese (for a dairy meal), diced tomatoes, cucumbers, additional cooked chickpeas, sauteed peppers, sliced onions, fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint, and parsley.
  5. Leftover hummus? Reheat in either a microwave or stovetop with a few tablespoons of water, stirring constantly until warmed through and the right consistency.

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.  

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