Let’s go wipe some hummus
Let me first say that I am not an expert on hummus making or eating, but to say I am an enthusiast is putting it mildly. I have been making hummus for a very long time, I suppose since I got my first cookbook as a wedding shower gift 24 years ago, since the recipe I have used, until recently, is in that book,The Silver Palate Cookbook, Hummus bi tahini, p.346. I read that book cover-to-cover, many-many-many times and the recipe is easy to find, on the last page before the index. My mother-in-law gave me her food processor when she down-sized and I think this and baby-food were the only things I made in it for quite a while.
Eventually, I knew the recipe by heart and when I just looked at it before writing this post I see there is a note by “tahini” in the ingredient list that says “available at specialty food shops”, which back in 1993 was true! I remember seeking it out and finding it only at the Italian/Greek stand at the farmer’s market. Tahini has become more widely available over the years, and now the average grocery store has tahini on the shelf with peanut butter. (Tahini is the greek word for sesame paste, below you’ll see the word “Tehina” which is the Israeli word for the same thing.)
The Silver Palate recipe is very good. And easy. Two things I love in a recipe. I’ve made it repeatedly for 23 ½ years and made many variations of it, sometimes adding roasted peppers to it or black beans, though the pure variety is my favorite. It’s greek style hummus, with a lemony, garlicky bite and a hint of cumin. I have loved it in sickness and in health, with olive oil and paprika and pita chips, all the days of my married life.
Until last fall.
When I stumbled upon (I know this isn’t new, but it’s new to me…so give me a break here, I’m a woman obsessed) “the best hummus outside Israel”, per Zagat, in the Whole Foods Philly grocery store, of all places! It’s like they knew there were a few of us fools, just bumbling around the world, not able to get a reservation at Zahav, and not knowing how f***ing amazing this hummus is. So Dizengoff, a spin-off restaurant from the famed Zahav in Philly, which specializes in Israeli-style hummus, bless their hearts, has a take-out stand in WF Philly, an hour away from my home.
Problem: it’s an hour away from my home.
Solution: Michael Solomonov shares his secrets in Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking and he wants us (practically begs us) to love making this hummus as much as they do. (Guess what; he even knows it’s why we buy the book.) “Let’s go wipe some hummus.” According to Chef Solomonov, that is what Israelis say when they eat hummus, scooping it up with pita bread. And I’m a sucker for a new groovy phrase. So, I am game. The first 45 pages of the book are dedicated to his love for food, and the magical hummus with many variations, though I will admit I am happy right now just spinning my wheels in his Hummus Tehina for a while longer. I’ll get on to more of it, one of these days. I will!
One of the secrets of this dreamy hummus is “an obscene amount of tehina”. (“Exactly how obscene an amount…were you talking about? Profane or really offensive?”) There is a recipe in the book for their own Basic Tehina Sauce, which my hubs and I now eat on almost everything (it makes alot!). You can find the recipe here, at Serious Eats. The other secret is over-cooked chickpeas. Who knew? It makes total sense when you think about it, that overcooked-to-mushy chickpeas will result in the creamiest product. This recipe uses dried chickpeas that you soak overnight, which requires very little more than the effort to remember to do it. I’ve also soaked them from early morning to mid-afternoon. Turns out they don’t really care, as long as it’s several hours. I suppose that you could also cook some canned chickpeas until they are mushy to make your hummus extra creamy, as well.
So here is really the great revelation, for me. I’ve never really thought of hummus as a meal in itself until I ate it the way they serve it at Dizengoff. They serve their hummus in a bowl with incredible toppings and the best BEST hot pita bread. The following dishes that I am going to show you are inspired by dishes that I have eaten there, but the possibilities are really endless. These are my current favorites:
Diced cooked beets with dill, olive oil
Shredded carrots and watermelon radish, marinated in cider vinegar, olive oil, dill and fennel gomasio
Cucumber and red onion, marinated in apple cider vinegar then tossed in olive oil with tumeric, dill and two-tone gomasio
Roasted eggplant and tomato with olive oil, spicy olives and oregano, fennel gomasio
Even if you don’t want to go so far as to make your own hummus, I hope that you find these ideas inspiring. It’s a really satisfying meatless meal, if you’re trying to expand your vegetable-based meal repertoire. I hope you get creative and let me know if you try any of these or have your own favorite ways to eat hummus. I’ll keep you posted on the Dizengoff menu, on my Instagram, next time I visit! 😉
Here is the Recipe from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
1 cup dried chickpeas
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups Basic Tehina Sauce (plus a little bit more for the topping)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil, for drizzling
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl with 1 tsp baking soda and cover with water. (they will double in volume). Soak overnight at room temp. The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
- Place the chickpeas in a large pot with remaining 1 tsp baking soda and cover with water by at least 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, scoop off foam that rises to surface, and simmer for about an hour, until the chickpeas are tender and falling apart. Then simmer a little more. The secret is over-cooking the chickpeas. Drain.
- Combine chickpeas, tehina sauce, salt and cumin in a food processor. Puree the hummus for several minutes until smooth and uber-creamy. Then puree some more.
- To serve, spread in a shallow bowl. Dust with paprika, parsley, more tehina and olive oil.