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Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods: Make Hummus Like a Pro

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As a snowstorm comes barreling down on the Northeast, many New Yorkers will be spending some quality time indoors this weekend. For those with a can or bag of chickpeas languishing in the pantry, here’s a good task to while away some time: Peel those chickpeas and make hummus.

That’s what New York Times writer Melissa Clark and The Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman recommend for making the creamiest hummus.

“My quibble with most of the homemade hummus I was making was the texture — it just was not creamy and fluffy enough,” said Perelman, author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. “For me, the transformation didn’t come until I started peeling my chickpeas.”

Perelman noted that it took her a mere 9 minutes to peel one 15-ounce can of chickpeas. Melissa Clark took issue with the last part of that statement and insists that using dried and home-soaked chickpeas is the way to go for the best hummus.

“I mean, the canned ones are fine and I’ll use them when I add a ton of garlic, and a ton of lemon, and a ton of tahini, so the chickpeas are kind of just pulling everything together,” said Clark, author of Cook This Now. “For me, if I really want to taste the chickpeas, I stand by the homemade ones.”

While both agreed that peeling the beans made a noticeable difference, they diverged whether on whether soaking or the shucking made the most difference. “I’d rather not peel [them] and use dried chickpeas that I cook myself than peel the canned,” asserted Clark.

Perelman, on the other hand, said that she doesn’t mind using canned beans as long as she can find good ones. 

(Photo: Melissa Clark's Small-Batch Hummus/Melissa Clark)

“So I love soaking my own beans, I think that there is a flavor improvement,” she said. “However I also feel that if you’ve got a source of canned beans that are really great... So many times I buy what I think is going to be a good brand and it’s mealy and falling apart and really gross. I have found actually one of the least expensive brands, Goya, to have one of the most reliable beans. And so it’s really about what you’re buying. And I find them to be quite close to home-soaked.”

Both agree that the actual task of peeling the chickpeas is not particularly arduous, and can even be a little meditative. “It feels good. It’s like a little sauna bath for your hands,” said Clark, who says the process is easier if the beans are warm.

Perelman also noted that it was worthwhile to her to spend the time peeling. “I find it therapeutic, too,” she said. “I mean, I spend 9 minutes on Facebook probably more than once a day, so the idea of spending 9 minutes, like, popping [isn’t so bad].”

Ultimately, though, peeling one pound of dried chickpeas that have been soaked will take a significantly longer time. Clark said the process took her and a friend about 30 minutes.

Having companionship is key to making the task less tedious. “Traditional societies have been peeling chickpeas for millennia,” she said. “I mean, this is a traditional method of preparation because it’s done in a group.”

And in the realm of tedious kitchen tasks, peeling chickpeas is comparatively manageable.

“I knew a chef who only served peeled peas,” Clark said. “He would peel each green pea, and he even said to me once, ‘People are not nice people if they don’t peel peas.’ And I’m thinking I’m never peeling a green pea.”

What’s the most tedious culinary prep work you’ve undertaken? What will you never do again? Tell us in the comments below. Also, try Melissa Clark and Deb Perelman’s recipes for hummus, both of which are below.

Small-Batch Hummus
by Melissa Clark 

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, more as needed
  • Coarse sea salt, as needed
  • Cayenne, optional
  • Radishes, fennel, cucumbers, crisp pita bread, for dipping 

1. Drain the chickpeas. Combine chickpeas, 6 cups water, bay leaf, and a very large pinch of salt. Simmer chickpeas, skimming off any foam from the surface, until they are very tender, about 1 hour.  Drain, reserving cooking liquid. If you feel like peeling the chickpeas while they are still warm and feel good pressed in between your fingers, go ahead. Or skip it and don't bother. It's great either way.

2. In a food processor, combine chickpeas (try to do this while they are still warm, they will be grind into a smoother hummus if you do, or reheat before pureeing), 1/2 cup cooking liquid (also warm is good here), 1/3 cup oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and cumin until smooth. Add more cooking liquid if you like a thinner hummus.

3. Spread hummus on a plate. Drizzle liberally with oil and season with coarse salt, cumin, and cayenne, if desired.  Serve with veggies or pita bread.


Ethereally Smooth Hummus
by Deb Perelman 

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi’s stunning new dream of a book; technique is my own madness

This is probably where you expect me to give you a soapbox speech about why it is so important that you soak your own chickpeas. And you know, think they taste wonderful, especially if you treat yourself to some of the best. But, I also make it with canned chickpeas quite often (Goya is my favorite, for perfectly cooked, intact canned beans, each time) and it’s perfectly excellent. Below, I’ve included instructions for both.

Makes 1 3/4 cups hummus

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (from a 15-ounce can) or a little shy of 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (for same yield)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (for dried chickpeas only)
  • 1/2 cup tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
  • Approximately 1/4 cup water or reserved chickpea cooking water
  • Olive oil, paprika or sumac, pita wedges (brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar, or a combination of sesame seeds and sea salt), and/or carrot sticks [optional] to serve 

If using dried chickpeas: There are multiple methods to cooking them, and you can use whichever is your favorite, or Ottolenghi’s, or mine. Ottolenghi’s is to put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with at least twice their volume of cold water, leaving them to soak overnight. The next day, drain them, and saute them in a medium saucepan with the baking soda (which many find reduces the gassy effects of fresh beans) for about three minutes. Add 3 1/4 cups water and bring it to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface. They’ll need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, sometimes even longer, depending on freshness, to become tender. When tender, one will break up easily between your thumb and forefinger. My method is similar, but I often put mine in a slow-cooker on high with the baking soda for approximately three hours, so I don’t have to monitor them as much.

Drain the chickpeas (saving the chickpea broth for soups or to thin the hummus, if desired) and cool enough that you can pick one up without burning your fingers.

Whether fresh or canned chickpeas: Peel your chickpeas. I find this is easiest when you take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin. I get into a rhythm and rather enjoy this, but it’s also already established that I’m a weirdo.

In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water or reserved chickpea cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture. I find I need about 4 tablespoons for this volume, but you may need slightly more or less.

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed. I do recommend that you hold off on adding more garlic just yet, however. I find that it “blooms” as it settles in the fridge overnight, becoming much more garlicky after a rest, so that even if it doesn’t seem like enough at first, it likely will be in the long run.

Transfer the hummus to a bowl and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. To serve, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with pita wedges or carrot sticks.