Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.
When I first heard tell of a Genius five-minute hummus, it sounded like a gimmick and, frankly, a lie.
For one thing, I thought that very good homemade hummus required dried chickpeas simmered into creamy oblivion. And for another, I know there are very few things I can accomplish in five minutes flat—making hummus couldn’t possibly be one of them.
And then I saw that the fabled five-minute hummus came from Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, the co-authors behind the cookbook Israeli Soul and chef-partners behind Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, which was named—ahem—the best restaurant in the country at this year’s James Beard Awards.
So what are Solomonov and Cook—makers of untold amounts of award-winning hummus the traditional way—doing in the quick-and-easy game? Very simply, Cook says, “we wanted to develop a recipe for hummus that takes away the excuse for buying store-bought hummus.” Simmering into oblivion won’t do that.
Brilliantly, they were also inspired to develop their recipe around a standard 16-ounce jar of tahini, since one of the more irritating barriers to getting truly great, consistent homemade hummus is having to stir and measure a portion of tahini from a jar that’s settled irretrievably into an oily top layer and stiff putty on the bottom. No need to stir here—just scrape it all into the food processor. Many minutes saved!
And it really is done in five minutes, if you have your ingredients nearby (if you need to gather them, give yourself another five or so). Solomonov even pulled it off on Vice Munchies in four and a half minutes with one hand taped to his head.
To clock in under five minutes, you might assume that everything just gets chucked in the food processor. Most quick hummuses on the internet do that, and the results are perfectly good. What makes Zahav’s 5-minute hummus shoot well beyond good to straight-up genius is the order they add ingredients, and when they pause to let the clock run.
They start with blending the tahini with lemon, cumin, salt, and a tiny amount of garlic until it looks peanut-buttery. Then they drizzle in ice water to emulsify with the tahini and whip up into a tan cloud that looks like Marshmallow Fluff.
Only then do two cans of chickpeas go in—a requirement for speed, as you probably expected. On this point, Cook wrote to me in an email, “I was surprised we got a little backlash.” Solomonov added, “Apparently, canned chickpeas can be considered blasphemy.” But as Cook has pointed out, canned chickpeas are often of very high, very predictable quality, while dried chickpeas can be less trustworthy—if they’ve been sitting on a store shelf (or in your pantry) for a while, they’ll be drier and harder to cook through.
Gena Hamshaw's (Vegan) Smashed Chickpea Deli Bowls
The challenge with canned chickpeas is that they’re cooked to al dente and then frozen in time, to easily drain and toss into salads, smashes, sautés, and so on. By cooking from dried, other homemade hummuses have the luxury of cooking their chickpeas to absolute mush, so that they have no choice but to whip up smooth. Happily, by starting with the airy bed of whipped tahini sauce and letting the canned chickpeas whir for three more precious minutes, not a bit of grainy grit remains.
But when do Solomonov and Cook really make it, since they have access to Outstanding Restaurant in America hummus anytime they want?
Both say they do quite often at home, especially for their kids. “It’s quick,” Cook wrote. “When you have a house full of screaming kids, sometimes quick is what you need.” Solomonov added, “Also, the kiddos don’t know the difference between five-minute hummus and 24-hour hummus.”
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."