Today: Perfectly smooth DIY hummus in a fraction of the time -- thanks to a simple, brilliant trick.
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You will go to picnics and barbecues this summer, and there will be that person who brings the laziest contribution this side of a bag of Doritos: the store-bought tub of hummus. Maybe a sack of wet baby carrots to go with.
And you won't judge them, because you're nice.
Tubbed hummus has become that friendly convenience food that everyone accepts -- it's the new, improved French onion dip. It's so popular, it even comes in guacamole flavor. (Now you can start judging.)
But that stuff in the tubs -- as healthy and quick and easy as it may be -- is never going to be as good as the real thing. The real thing is rich and sultry and alive. It is tumbling over with nutty tahini and pricks of lemon and garlic and salt. It tugs at you so hard you want to drink it, not pop it open as a sensible snack.
I have the real thing for you. And it's a hell of a lot easier to make -- and faster -- than you'd think.
There are a few camps in DIY hummusry: from the people content to grind up a can of chickpeas, rustic-like, to those who methodically peel each chickpea for optimum smoothness.
As Food52er ejm wrote to me, "Besides being amazingly simple, it accomplishes the holy grail of smooth silky hummus without the craziness that is peeling the chickpeas." From Kristen Earle, "It's the lightest, creamiest, richest hummus I've ever been able to conjure. I'll never eat store-bought hummus again."
So it's simple and the results are perfect, but here's the real coup: Most from-scratch hummus recipes involve simmering the chickpeas for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Ottolenghi and Tamimi's are done in 20 to 40 minutes. How?
Plenty of hummus recipes (even earlier versions from Ottolenghi himself) call for soaking or simmering the chickpeas with a little baking soda shaken into the water. Hervé This explains why in Molecular Gastronomy -- it's all about pH: alkaline environments soften legumes more quickly by weakening their pectic bonds, while acidic environments keep them stubbornly hard. This is why you never want to simmer beans with vinegar.
The version in Jerusalem does them one better: after soaking, the drained chickpeas are sautéed with baking soda for a few minutes, before dumping in the water to simmer the chickpeas -- a technique learned from Tamimi's grandmother.
"We chose Sami's grandmother's way because we believe the friction helps the breaking down of the skins and gets the baking soda to penetrate the skin better," Ottolenghi told me. This brief, direct contact allows them to cook much faster and puree smoother. Without peeling.
A couple final clever tricks seal the deal: you'll blend in ice water at the end to help lighten up the emulsion. And you'll rest the hummus for 30 minutes, to let the flavors and textures settle in. And then you'll pour olive oil all over it and scoop it up with torn bread in heavy, spilt-over measures.
Now just imagine what will happen when you're that person who brings this to the barbecue.
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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Photos by James Ransom, except Ottolenghi and Tamimi by Wes Rowe via Serious Eats
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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."