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Hummus Wars, Part II: The Winner Is Revealed

Cook\'s Illustrated\'s Ultimate Hummus

As promised, I have completed my hummus recipe smackdown. Last weekend I tested Food & Wine’s recipe for hummus masabacha, and this past Sunday I whipped up Cook’s Illustrated’s Ultimate Hummus. With such a title for its recipe, Cook’s must have been feeling pretty confident in its chickpea prowess. I whirred up the food processor and got ready to determine if the magazine was all bluster and intimidation, or if it really had the hummus goods.

In terms of the actual cooking process and ingredients list, there is little difference between the two recipes. Both start with dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight, although Cook’s doesn’t soak them with baking soda. Instead, Cook’s adds the baking soda while the chickpeas are cooking on the stovetop the next day. Both recipes use lemons, garlic, cooking water, tahini, and cumin, although in slightly different quantities. In the most significant differences between the two, Cook’s Illustrated eschews the lemon tahini sauce utilized by Food & Wine, and purees the cooked chickpeas and dry ingredients on their own before adding the liquid ingredients to the food processor in two separate stages.

Even though the differences in the recipes are slight, Jim and I strongly preferred the hummus from Cook’s Illustrated. It was mild but slightly nuttier in flavor than the Food & Wine batch, and was somehow much creamier as well. Also, the Cook’s recipe creates a more moderate batch of hummus than Food & Wine, perfect for us to share over the next couple of days without fear of wasting it.

So, I hereby declare Cook’s Illustrated the winner of my hummus cook-off. But really, there are no losers here. Both magazines produced perfectly good recipes for one of my favorite Middle Eastern spreads, and both versions are much better than the pre-packaged stuff from my corner bodega. And anyway, since I have been able to eat fresh hummus for a week straight, I think I am the real winner here. That’s all that counts.

(Unfortunately I cannot link directly to the recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website; you have to be a member of the website to see them.) 


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Hummus Wars, Part I

Hummus Masabacha from Food & Wine Magazine

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.

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