As an Israeli, I grew up on hummus.  We are all obsessed with it.  It’s the national food and unbelievably good.   After many years of living in the U.S. and visiting back home I couldn’t understand, why is it not the same?

After I started making hummus myself, I made a point to visit the most famous hummus restaurants in Israel and sample the best.  Checking to see how close I got.  And now I feel like I’ve finally arrived…

You must understand that hummus making is a well guarded secret.  Some people might be angry at me for revealing it!  But as a paint chemist, I’m also intrigued by the alchemy of cooking and so I want to share it with you.

And here it is, I hope you enjoy…

1 – 16 oz. bag of dried chickpeas
1 heaping tablespoon baking soda
1 cup tahini
juice of 3-4 fresh lemons
3-6 garlic cloves
½ tsp. cumin
salt to taste

Place chickpeas and baking soda in a large pot or bowl.  Cover with 4 times the volume of water.  Soak for 2 full days:  at room temperature for 6 hours, and then refrigerated for 42 hours.   The chickpeas will expand greatly.

(Baking soda changes the acidity, makes the chickpeas more alkaline – so later when you add the lemon it creates a perfect balance.  Not too sour but with a wonderful lemon flavor.  The baking soda also helps soften the chickpeas, and makes them cook faster. )

After the soaking is done, rinse chickpeas well.  Put in a pot with fresh water 2 inches above the height of chickpeas.  Bring to a boil.  Watch carefully so it doesn’t over boil.  Then turn down to the lowest heat possible and cover with a lid, cracked about an inch for the steam to escape.

Cook about an hour until chickpeas are very soft.  When you pick them up, they barely hold their shape, and the water becomes a deep yellow brown color.  The water will recede to just below the top of chickpeas.  If they have totally dried out, add just a little more water.

(The amount of water is important, because it contains a lot of the flavor.  You want to have some chickpea cooking water left to add to the hummus during the final blending.  That is another secret to great tasting hummus.  With practice, the goal is to have enough cooking water left to achieve the right soft and creamy consistency, but not too much so any goes to waste. )

Let chickpeas cool.  Strain in a colander, reserving the flavorful cooking water for later use.  It should be about 2 cups of water.

Put 3-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, in frying pan.  Cover with a lid and heat on top of stove over medium heat about 5 minutes.  Careful not to burn.  Then remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes covered until soft.  Peel.   DO NOT put fresh garlic in hummus unless you plan on eating it all right away!  It doesn’t store well.

Add the tahini to a food processor.  The better the tahini, the better the hummus – I find the best in the Armenian section of Watertown, MA.   Add the lemon juice, garlic and cumin.  Salt to taste.  Blend well.  Add some of the reserved chickpea cooking water if necessary until smooth and creamy in texture.

Then add the soft and mushy chickpeas.   If necessary, add some of the reserved chickpea cooking water to loosen the texture.   Blend all together.   The minute you don’t see big particles, that’s enough.  Don’t over blend.

Serve on a plate, making a wall on the edge and a slight indentation in center.  I like to drizzle good olive oil on top.  Eat with pitas, bagels or any good bread.

Can flavor to taste with:  basil, jalapeño (no seeds), or habanero chilies… whatever you like, this recipe will make a good base.   It’s creamy and lovely and absolutely delicious.   One of our favorite dinners is to sauté ground lamb with cinnamon and pine nuts and mound it in the center.

Let me know if you try it!