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My Little Chickpea

June 23rd, 2012 - By Lari Robling

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Making hummus should be simple; after all, it’s just mashing some chickpeas with a few other ingredients. Yet, the results are often disappointing. We go to Zahav, the renowned Israeli restaurant, to learn from the master of the chickpea, Chef Mike Solomonov. Turns out, it is simple if you know the tricks.



Zahav Hummus

I’m a good cook. So, why is a simple, healthy dish of mashed chickpeas, tahini, and seasonings, something that eludes me? When I make hummus the texture is grainy, the flavor flat or overwhelmingly “bean-y” and it looks, well… just gross! On a slow day at Zahav Restaurant in Philadelphia, they make at least five gallons of hummus. Who better for hummus 101 than Chef and partner Mike Solomonov? “I have to tell you, I’ve cooked a lot of things in my life, and this is the hardest thing to make consistently. The guys in Israel who I have found to be the best hummus makers do not share secrets at all.”

Fortunately, Chef does share secrets and I found myself standing in front of a stove with ten pounds of simmering chickpeas. “We’ve got dried chickpeas that we soaked overnight with baking soda and water. We rinsed it off, we threw it into another pot with fresh water and more baking soda, and now we are cooking it gently over the stove. It looks like a cappuccino a little bit. The top is kinda frothy, and what that is, is a little bit of the protein from the chickpeas that we are cooking.”

Chef Mike Solomonov

Solomonov says one secret is a tender bean, and the baking soda helps tenderize dried beans. But, what is better, dried or canned beans? “Well, that’s an interesting question. You assume dried, right? But, we’ve spent years and years sourcing the best dried chickpeas, and I can tell you that it is a hard thing to do. So, unless you can get very good quality dried chickpeas, I would recommend organic canned.” Canned or dried what’s next? “We’re going to go make hummus! The issue with humus at home is normally the chickpeas aren’t cooked properly, which we’ve already taken care of. Also, when you add your tahini or sesame paste, most people add it raw and it tightens up, which you don’t want. So, what we do is whip sesame paste with water, lemon juice, and garlic. Here take a look, nice and smooth right? This can be used as a sauce, can be used to dress a salad, it makes a great dairy substitute for caesar salad, it goes really well with grilled meat.” Chef reveals another technique, let the puréed garlic sit at least ten minutes in the lemon juice before whipping it with the water and the tahini. That takes the raw edge off the garlic.

The final step is purée equal parts of chickpeas with the tahini sauce. Season with a little salt, dash of cumin. Blend it and check. At this stage it looks like cottage cheese. “Excatly, some people actually prefer to eat it this way it’s ‘mashusha.’ We’re gonna let this go longer. I’ve added a bunch of cold water to it and hopefully it will look good when we take off the lid.”

Alright, I’m going to do a little taste-test here. “It’s weird, you get the chickpeas and you get the sesame paste and they sort of create their own thing, you know. It’s not too lemony, but there’s a little bit of acid. It’s not really garlicky, but, there’s some garlic in there too, you know.” If you don’t have a food processor or blender you can make the hummus by hand with a potato masher. A lot of work, but on the upside, you’ll burn off a few calories!

Kitchen Wisdom: How to Keep Your Hummus Humming
We’re not making 5 gallons of hummus as Chef Solomonov does at Zahav. So, you’ll have to come up with your own quantities that work for you. Also, the quality of the chickpeas and tahini can vary so keep that in mind as well. Here’s a guideline, though! Read more >>


Slideshow Photo by Flicker user / CC BY-NC 2.0
Zahav Hummus Photo Credit Michael Regan

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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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