Sunday, July 5, 2009


We went to our little July 4 shindig this weekend, and among a few other things my wife and I brought was a big bowl of hommous. Everyone in attendance enjoyed it, and I'm glad they did. What kind of dismayed me is that there's a mystery to hommous at all. There really shouldn't be.

Hommous is just a blend of chicpeas and a liquid, with things added for salt, savory, acidity, etc to your liking. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want it to be, but the generic stuff is really simple. Making a batch to serve four hungry mouths is as easy as:

  • 1 14 ounce can of cooked chicpeas (with liquid*)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste, available in most grocery stores now)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 juiced lemon or lime
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for topping)
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika (for topping)
That's about it for generic hommous. You combine everything except the oil and paprika in a food processor, pulverize the hell out of it for about five minutes, pour into a bowl (and get to lick the food processor bowl!) and top with oil and paprika. Refrigeration is optional before serving, but I like mine cold.

That's it. Takes less than ten minutes, so it's one of the laziest food items you can crank out. It's perfect for when you're having company on short notice.

Now, I do take a few liberties with mine that you may or may not include. I add an extra garlic clove to satisfy my rapacious half-Sicilian counterpart, as well as a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper because I have a dependence on at least a little spiciness. Instead of generic kosher salt, I'll use smoked salts like a hickory salt, and instead of the lemon or lime juice, I'll use a half teaspoon of citric acid granules. Don't worry about either if you can't find them because they're not essential at all. Smoked salts do just what you'd imagine, they impart a little smoky flavor into your food. Citric acid is essentially the "sour salt" on some candies you find. It's the crystalized acidic stuff from citrus fruits. Great for when you want to pucker your food up, but don't want it to taste like a lemon or a lime, and don't want to add more liquid.

Some people have a huge problem using the "bean water" in a can of chicpeas or whatever. The old aspersion is that the stuff makes you fart. I've conducted rigorous scientific experiments involving wind tunnels and coal mine canaries and this is inconclusive. In my gastronomic opinion its not true, and using the bean water improves the flavor, but if you're fearful of becoming a fanny flute and don't have any beano handy, just rinse the chicpeas, return them to the can, and top the can off with water and use that.

Some people also like to cut their hommous with olive oil when in the food processor. I think it's completely unnecessary but if you want to enrich yours beyond the pale then try it a little at a time.

The paprika and olive oil on top are likewise just tradition. You can cut the oil out entirely and you'll still have a tasty dish, and the paprika can be substituted with all manner of things. Some of my favorite toppings are pine nuts, olives, roasted red peppers, dill, roasted pecans, pickles, pepperoncini, etc. The topping is a good opportunity to tie the hommous into whatever flavors you have going for the rest of your meal, so go wild with that.

I used to buy hommous from restaurants and grocery stores. I mean, the Sabra brand stuff that's ever-present these days IS really tasty hommous, but look at what you pay for the stuff. Now, turn around and look how cheap it is to make your own. A can of chicpeas is about 75 cents. You use scant garlic, oil, salt, etc. A lemon is a few cents. If you go the route of using citric acid, you can buy a jar for five dollars that will be more than enough to make hommous for the rest of your life. With tahini, you make a seven dollar investment for a jar that will make a dozen batches, if not many more.

So let's err on the high side and say your hommous costs $2.00 per batch. That feeds four people. A dish of Sabra costs about twice that, and feeds half the number of people. You're out a total of two bucks and ten minutes of your time.

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