Around the Island

Hummus made at home

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Homemade hummus is worth the effort. This one has thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil to top it off.
Homemade hummus is worth the effort. This one has thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil to top it off.

The one-m humus is a fertilizer, the two-m hummus is an appetizer. Both are a blend of organic ingredients and part of a healthy life style. Both can be bought at a store but are much better made at home. There, the similarities end.

Hummus, a puree of chickpeas seasoned with tahini, lemon juice and garlic is a staple of Middle Eastern food. A drizzle of olive oil and spices such as paprika, thyme, cumin and sumac (a trendy spice, red and tangy) are just a few of the options for seasoning. Ever since the Egyptian-born cookbook writer Claudia Roden included a recipe for hummus in “A Book of Middle Eastern Food” in 1965, it has been a gateway dish for people new to these cuisines. More recently, cookbook authors such as Yotam Ottolenghi have raised the profile of Middle Eastern foods, explaining in part why you can now buy hummus at any grocery store in myriad flavors including chipotle.

The only challenging thing about making hummus is waiting for the beans to cook. Some recipes for hummus call for baking soda to speed up the cooking time, and it’s true that adding one teaspoon of baking soda to every gallon of cooking water will make beans soften faster and reduce the cooking time by as much as 75 percent. However, baking soda can also result in a mealy texture and a soapy taste. These are fatal flaws in hummus, where the creamy texture and nutty taste of chickpeas is the whole point.

Once you’ve got the basic hummus made, you can express your creativity as you decide which spices to dust over it and how to garnish it. Like tan pants, hummus goes with almost everything. It is versatile as a dip for raw carrots, radishes, or pita and equally happy between two pieces of bread with a smear of pesto.


1/2-pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Salt, ground pepper

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled, halved and mashed

3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

5 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Optional garnishes are reserved cooked chickpeas, a few roasted pistachios or pine-nuts, a sprig of mint, fresh thyme leaves, coarsely-chopped fresh parsley or a dab of pesto.

Spices to dust on top; paprika, sumac, or ground cumin.

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough cold water to cover them by at least 4 inches.

2. Drain, rinse and put them in a 4-quart pan with enough fresh water to cover them by about two inches. Bring to a boil.

3. Turn the heat down to a simmer and skim off any foam.

4. Add water if needed to keep them covered, but only hot water, since cold water will toughen them and add to the cooking time.

5. Cook until they are very soft, testing after an hour and a half. Total cooking time can be 2-3 hours, depending on how long they soaked and how dry they were before soaking. Add salt to taste about 20 minutes before they are done.

6. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid, and rinse the beans.

7. Save a few for a garnish and puree the rest in a food processor or blender with ½ cup of the warm cooking liquid and the garlic.

8. Add the tahini, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and more of the cooking liquid as needed to make a smooth, spreadable sauce. Add salt and pepper and adjust the consistency and add more lemon juice to taste.

9. Serve in a shallow bowl, garnished with a few of the reserved, cooked chick peas, or some roasted nuts. Drizzle with olive oil.

10. Dust with paprika or sumac, or a pinch of cumin to your taste. Garnish with a mint leaf, fresh thyme or chopped parsley.