I have become a woman who stands by her sink peeling boiled chickpeas in order to make the perfect hummus. Or at least a better hummus. It’s an easy, meditative task that is well worth taking the time to do as it imbues the hummus with a fine texture and mellow flavor.
For years, however, I was a woman satisfied with store bought plastic tubs of pale and watery goop that passed for hummus. The transition from plastic tub of goop to homemade with stale tinned beans to homemade with fresh cooked beans was a slow and considered one, and one not without a few culinary crises.
Those crises would almost certainly have been avoided had I either been more patient or had I followed a recipe. But what’s the fun in that?
Besides – we all know the ingredients in a basic bowl of hummus: chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic, salt and olive oil. Three of those ingredients are added according to taste. Put in as much or as little as you wish. The fourth, tahini – well – I tend to go a bit heavy on. I love the earthy taste. So I’m not going to offer you a recipe. Follow your instincts and your taste buds. I will, however, offer some tips to add flavor, depth and texture. Trust me. The effort is worth it. Once taste of homemade hummus and you’ll be hooked.
- Rinse and soak your beans. I clean my beans with a good first rinse – picking out any bits of gravel, twigs, broken beans or beans that just aren’t up to par – and then I soak the beans in a pan with enough water to cover them at least 2 inches. The beans swell considerable so do make certain your pan is large enough. I’ll repeat this process – rinse and soak – at least three times before a final overnight soak. It sounds troublesome but it really isn’t. I begin in the morning and then when I’m home for lunch and again at dinner I’ll rinse and repeat. Finally, before I go to bed, the beans have their final rinse and soak. (I’m in water-starved California and all this rinse water is saved for toilet flushing and tomato watering.)
- The following morning, after pouring off last night’s soak water and giving them a good wash, the beans are ready to cook. Why all the rinsing and soaking? Soaking will reduce cooking time. Soaking and rinsing also break down the compounds that, for some, make bean eating an uncomfortably windy experience.
- When it’s time to cook, add fresh water but don’t salt the water. Salting the water will toughen the beans. We want our beans soft and silky.
- Bring the beans to boil and then take them down to a simmer until soft. I’ll test from time to time until I have the right degree of “done-ness.” This can take forty minutes to an hour.
- Save a little bit of cooking water. Save a few cooked beans for garnish.
- Peel those beans! When your beans have cooked, rinse them in cool water, drain and pour into a large bowl. My technique for peeling chickpeas is to fill the bowl with water and agitate (sometimes I’ll use a salad spinner). Some of the chickpea “skins” will float to the surface, others you’ll have to pop off.
- Don’t be stingy with olive oil. When I first began to make hummus that was my biggest mistake. I’d add too little olive oil and used water for added moisture. If you absolutely must add water then use the bean water you reserved from cooking.
- Add tahini. Blend and taste. Blend and taste. Keep blending. Keep tasting. I use an emersion blender but you could also use a traditional blender. Find the perfect balance of beans, olive oil and tahini for your taste buds. Add salt, fresh lemon juice and garlic as needed.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and the beans you reserved from cooking.
- One last tip – don’t be afraid to make your hummus in a large batch. It freezes beautifully.