As I paged through the May issue of Food & Wine last week, I came across a hummus recipe in an article about the food of Israel. I had always wanted to make my own version of this Middle Eastern chickpea spread in order to see how it compared to the store-bought stuff, so I flagged the page and started planning my upcoming weekend around this experiment.
Imagine my surprise when Cook’s Illustrated arrived at my door a few days later, also offering a recipe for the best hummus this side of the Atlantic Ocean. There was something in the air last week, and I have to say, it smelled of chickpeas.
A more intrepid blogger might have spent the weekend testing both recipes, then triumphantly declaring the winner in a decisive post. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I just couldn’t do it. Too much hummus, too little time. So this past weekend I worked on the Food & Wine version, and this coming weekend I’ll try the Cook’s recipe.
On Saturday morning I wandered into Sahadi’s, the Middle Eastern specialty foods store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Even though I only needed dried chickpeas and tahini for my hummus cook-off, I spent some time browsing the shelves filled with various types of ground flour, couscous, beans, nuts, and olives. After making my purchases I headed next door to the Damascus Bread and Pastry Shop for some homemade pita bread, also indulging myself with their sweet, sticky baklava. I need to find projects that bring me to Atlantic Avenue and its Middle Eastern shops more often.
Upon my return home, I focused on making my hummus. I put 1/2 pound of dried chickpeas and baking soda in water to soak, and by the next morning the chickpeas had expanded and softened. Some cooking time on the stovetop, a few whirs in the food processor with olive oil, lemon juice, and cooking water, and I had my chickpea spread. In Food & Wine’s recipe for hummus masabacha, the hummus is garnished with some whole chickpeas, a few sprinkles of cumin and paprika, and enhanced with a separate lemon-spiked tahini sauce.
The hummus, while creamy and nutty on its own, definitely improved with the lemon tahini, which I had spooned into the center. As I dragged the tahini sauce into the hummus with my pita bread, it infused the spread with a lightness and intense lemon flavor missing from the chickpea mixture. The Food & Wine article explains that authentic Israeli hummus is not as strongly flavored with lemon and garlic as Americans might be used to, and the masabacha variation is a little fancier than what one might order everyday.
I’m interested to see how the Cook’s Illustrated recipe compares. I’m also wondering how much hummus I can eat in a week. I guess I’m about to find out.