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Let Them Eat Hummus

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Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Today: all about hummus, the perfect food for vegans and the busy alike. Gena's got us covered with pro tips on making the most of your chickpeas, plus a recipe for Sweet Pea Hummus.

When was the last time you made your own hummus?

Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it was an hour ago. But I’m asking because, no matter how popular is the marriage of chickpeas and tahini, a great many hummus lovers still resist making their own hummus from scratch. And they shouldn’t. Done right, homemade hummus is so much tastier and more versatile than brand name versions--not to mention cheaper. As a student, I rely on hummus the way some folks rely on coffee: it’s easy to make, rich in protein and healthy fats, satisfying, a perfect vehicle for vegetables, and easy to transport. Today, I’ll show you how you, too, can master the art of homemade hummus.

I’ve been known to whip up hummus in a 20 minute break between classes, as a late night snack, or first thing in the morning. If you have beans at the ready, the blending itself only takes a matter of minutes. Isa Chandra Moskowitz, an esteemed vegan food writer, once said that hummus is a food group for vegans. I agree, but I think it’s also a food group for students, busy working people, and anyone who likes amazing, nutrient rich food that’s ready in minutes. If you are vegan, working in your favor is the fact that hummus is familiar to one and all, which means it’s an easy vegan food to share. Attending a summertime party? Bring hummus as an appetizer. Making lunch for someone who’s skeptical about meatless fare? Try a hummus panini. Last minute guests? Let them eat hummus.

Most hummus recipes call for a base of chickpeas, lemon, cumin, tahini, salt, garlic, and sometimes olive oil as well. The proportions vary: some are very garlicky, while others are more mild; some call only for olive oil, while others call only for tahini (as you’ll see in a second, I think a mix of both works best). Some invite you to add fresh parsley. To start with, you’ll want to pick a basic recipe that sounds good, and then modify it to suit your own tastes. I like my hummus thick, tart, and not-too-garlicky, but you’ll find a version that’s just right for you. No matter what, you’ll want to use a food processor (full size, not mini) or a high speed blender.

It’s really easy to make hummus, but unfortunately it’s also easy to make bad hummus. Tiny factors--how much liquid you use, how much lemon, how much salt--can make or break a hummus recipe. With that in mind, I thought I’d share the things I’ve learned through trial and error.

1. Cook your own chickpeas
. Yes, it’s a little easier to use canned. And it’s OK to use canned; sometimes real life calls for real shortcuts. But if you can set aside a total of five minutes to a) submerge some beans in some water for a soak, b) turn on the stove to boil them, and c) strain them when they’re done, you can cook your own beans. It’s really easy to cook dried beans, and the hummus you make will be so much creamier than it will be with canned beans. Added bonus? Most folks find beans that have been soaked and cooked easier to digest.

2. If you do use canned beans, use canning liquid instead of water in the mixture. You know how some recipes call for using the water you boiled pasta in? Same concept: the starch will help thicken the hummus.

3. Warm up your beans. The absolute best hummus results from beans that have just been cooked and are still warm. If you’re using canned, you can also warm the beans up by blanching them in boiling water for just a minute or two, or even nuking them. If you can’t use warm beans, your hummus will still be delightful, but trust me when I say that the warmer your beans, the better your blend.

4. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil at the end.
There are a ton of hummus varieties out there. Some call for olive oil as the fat source, others for tahini. I personally prefer tahini--and lots of it--but drizzling in some oil at the very end will make your hummus take a magical turn; it’ll be as if the whole bowl just got elevated to new heights.

5. Don’t add too much liquid. The #1 reason most homemade hummus goes wrong is that people add way too much water, which results in a kind of chickpea soup--not the thick, creamy stuff we’ve come to expect from store-bought brands. Be conservative with your liquid at first; you can always add more later.

Use real ingredients. This means freshly squeezed lemon juice and garlic cloves: no bottled juice, no garlic powder, no compromises.

The following hummus recipe indicates one final, important point about homemade hummus: you get to pick and choose your flavors. Don’t get into a rut. Sundried tomato hummus, beet hummus, edamame lime hummus, sweet potato hummus--these are just some of the creative, seasonal hummus varieties I’ve tried. Today’s version features spring peas: I know you all just saw them in my quinoa with spring peas, basil, and hemp, but hey, we have to take advantage while they’re in season! And you’ll find that using them along with chickpeas yields a particularly light, delicate, and delicious hummus blend.

Sweet Pea Hummus

Serves 8

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 1/2 cups green peas, lightly steamed
3 tbsp tahini
2-3 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra)
2 tsp lemon zest
Optional: 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: parsley, dill, etc.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Hummus, Pea, Vegetable, Vegan, Raw Food, Gena Hamshaw