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A New Way With Hummus

When you come of age as a vegetarian in the South, you end up eating a lot of hummus (and bad salads, but we've already discussed that).

And, frankly, hummus has become so widespread and popular that you think once you've had hummus, that's it. Done. Hummus is hummus is hummus.

But if you've ever tried to make hummus at home, you know this just isn't true. For starters, homemade hummus is worlds better than most store-bought. But then, even hummus you make at home can vary drastically from batch to batch, especially if you're experimenting. And we're always experimenting.

I find that the most simple recipes can suffer the most from small errors. When there are few elements at play, more hinges on each one. Hummus is a great example of this. Beans, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt. The formula is simple enough, but we've had enough grainy, oily, hyper-salty, and sour hummus to know better.

Which is why I jumped at the chance to try a new technique I read about recently: adding ice water. We used to make hummus with an abundance of olive oil. We figured, if it's not smooth enough, it must need more oil. Well, this does help somewhat with the texture, but you have to wonder how healthy something is when you've dumped in enough olive oil to float the Queen Elizabeth. I exaggerate, but you see my point.

What's more, hummus is traditionally served with olive oil drizzled on top. After adding all that oil, you start to lose the taste of the other ingredients, in which case you may be tempted to add more garlic, which will overwhelm the beans and taste skunky in a day or so. Before you know it, your hummus is kind of a disaster. I hate that.

But we are optimistic beings, and felt it worth the potential loss of a can of chickpeas just to try this technique. The results were pretty incredible. The hummus was silky smooth and well-balanced without the heaviness that olive oil can impart. We also felt perfectly entitled to a glug of really nice olive oil over the top of the hummus, and we sprinkled on some sumac and dukkah for flavor and crunch.

We feel pretty confident that some variation on this hummus recipe will make it into JOY's next edition. Not that the current recipe is subpar, but it's little tweaks like this that keep the book relevant and improve our recipes from edition to edition.

Other articles you might enjoy: Pasta e Fagioli, Spiced Chickpea Cakes, Salt-Preserved Lemons

Makes about 2 cups

Drain and rinse well:
            One 16-ounce can chickpeas
Combine the chickpeas in a food processor with:
            2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
            2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or to taste (about 1 lemon)
            3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
            Salt to taste
Purée until finely ground and somewhat smooth, scraping down the bowl occasionally. With the motor running, add through the feed tube in a thin stream:
            1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water
The hummus should be very smooth and creamy. Remove to a plate and garnish with:
            Extra virgin olive oil

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This is a mere guideline. If you're not sure about this, but want to try it anyway, roast a small cantaloupe. If you're feeling a little more devil-may-care, roast a big one.