These days, hummus is so ubiquitous that you can pick up a tub at most any store. You can even find snickerdoodle and brownie batter hummus — abominations that are enough to make the mind reel and the taste buds go into perpetual hiding.
But for a real treat, try making hummus yourself.
In his first cookbook, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Chef-Owner Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s landmark Zahav restaurant, provided a detailed recipe for making hummus from scratch with dried chickpeas that need to be soaked overnight before being cooked until — yes — mushy to get the best consistency.
In his second cookbook, Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy, Solomonov and business partner Steven Cook acknowledge that few Israelis make hummus at home because they can get their hands on great versions so easily at supermarkets or hummusiyas.
In contrast, the quality of store-bought hummus in the United States can vary greatly, as anyone who has bought a tub can attest. To make it easier for home-cooks here, Solomonov provides a more streamlined hummus recipe in his newest cookbook that makes use of canned chickpeas instead. “5-Minute Hummus” really does come together as fast as it implies. As Solomonov quips, it will take you longer to clean your food processor afterward than it will to actually make this wonderful hummus.
Tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin and a smidge of garlic get whizzed in the food processor until thick. Ice water is then streamed in with the machine running. It’s the key ingredient that magically turns the mixture lighter and creamier. Lastly, add the chickpeas and blend until smooth.
When the recipe ran in the New York Times, many commenters were aghast at the amount of tahini (toasted ground sesame seeds) in the recipe. Yes, it is a lot. But this is what makes this hummus so flavorful and luxurious. You could cut the tahini way back, but then you’d just have basically a thick chickpea dip, not true hummus with a velvety texture and profoundly nutty taste. After tasting this one, I now realize it has to be this surfeit of tahini that also makes my gold standard for hummus — Oren’s — so devilishly good.
That being said, this hummus is quite rich. The recipe says it makes 4 cups or 4 servings. But I defy even the most ravenous among us to eat an entire cup at one sitting. Instead, I think this serves more like 6 to 8, so I noted that in the recipe.
If you want to make the hummus the centerpiece of a meal, Solomonov provides some concise recipes for various toppings, such as “Japanese Eggplant with Muhammara” and “Broccoli and Pine Nut Pesto.”
I made his topping of ground chicken that gets sauteed in a pan with tomatoes, grated onion, and a generous amount of cinnamon. It also gets seasoned with a mixture of preserved lemon, water and honey that gets blitzed in a blender.
Garnished with cilantro and pine nuts, the chicken has an aromatic sweet-savory quality almost like that of Moroccan bisteeya.
Mound some atop the hummus, and go to town with a basket of warm pita bread.
(Makes about 4 cups; serves 6 to 8)
Quick Tehina Sauce:
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1 lemon
1 (16-ounce) jar tehina or tahini
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Make the tehina sauce: Nick off a piece of the garlic (about a quarter of the clove) and drop it into a food processor.
Squeeze the lemon juice into the food processor. Pour the tehina on top, making sure to scrape it all out of the container, and add the salt and cumin.
Process until the mixture looks peanut-buttery, about 1 minute.
Stream in the ice water, a little at a time, with the motor running. Process just until the mixture is smooth and creamy and lightens to the color of dry sand. Now you have Quick Tehina Sauce, which is perfect on falafel.
Make the hummus: Add the chickpeas to the tehina sauce and process for about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, until the chickpeas are completely blended and the hummus is smooth and uniform in color.
Ground Chicken with Tomatoes
(Serves about 6 as a topping for hummus)
1 preserved lemon rind (store-bought or home-made), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, grated
1 pound ground chicken
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Warm pita bread
In a blender, puree preserved lemon, honey and water until smooth. Reserve.
Heat canola oil in a large skillet and add grated onion. Cook for a minute or two, then add the ground chicken and continue cooking, stirring until chicken is just cooked through. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon sauce, crushed tomatoes, cinnamon, and ginger. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring to prevent burning. Top with chopped fresh cilantro and a handful of toasted pine nuts.
To serve: Spread a generous amount of hummus on the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with some of the chicken mixture. Enjoy with pita bread.
Adapted from “Israeli Soul” by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
A Variation: Hummus with White Miso