Cook the Book: This Hummus Recipe from Zahav Might Just Be the Creamiest We’ve Ever HadApril 28, 2017
With Israeli food on the rise, we turn to a cookbook that gives cooks and food lovers around the world a glimpse of Israel’s wide-ranging, multifaceted cuisine. Philadelphia is home to Zahav, the sprawling dining space where Israeli cooking, through modern lens, comes to life through the hands of chef Michael Solomonov. Along with business partner Steve Cook, he shares Zahav’s story and recipes through the pages of the Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Much like the restaurant, the Zahav cookbook presents a selection of recipes that cover dishes both traditional (couscous, halva, shakshouka—the works) and reworked (think White Chocolate Cake with Rubharb, Labneh, and Sorbet), written in a way that is thoroughly informative and yet full of anecdotes, making it, ultimately, personal.
Solomonov dedicates an entire chapter to tehina, the sesame paste known as tahini elsewhere in the world. “Israelis love tehina like Americans love Doritos and wrestling—unconditionally and a little bit irrationally,” he writes. “Part of our household identity was the jar of tehina that was always on our kitchen table.” Tehina makes its way everywhere in Israeli cuisine, from dips to sandwiches to sweets. And of course, to hummus.
Aside from pre-packaged hummus being readily available in many a supermarket chiller, hummus recipes are a dime a dozen these days—you may not think there’s much to improve on the generally easy-to-make, blitz-everything-in-the-food-processor type recipes found elsewhere. But for the most part they produce hummus on the chunky, starchy end of the spectrum—which is fine (if not delightfully rustic) for most purposes. Or, you’ll find other recipes that promise smoother results—but require peeling individual chickpeas to get rid of their grit-producing skins. But if you want the earthy, nutty flavors of hummus with the ultra-smooth texture of mousse, sans any sort of peeling, this is the hummus you should be making.
Solomonov’s secrets to ultra-creamy hummus are simple: 1) a huge amount of tahini (much more than the average hummus recipe—we’re talking almost a 1:1 ratio of tahini to chickpea), and 2) actually overcooking the dried chickpeas until they break down and get mushy, which is done in a fraction of the time thanks to the addition of pH-raising baking soda. And if you don’t have the time or the resources to find dried chickpeas—we got ours at Hummus Elijah, but they are surprisingly hard to find—Solomonov does not shy away from recommending the pre-cooked canned stuff in its place. (“Some people will try to tell you canned chickpeas are useless; unfriend them immediately,” Solomonov quips—and we agree.) What’s important, he says, is that the hummus itself is freshly made.
The resulting hummus, aside from being the smoothest we’ve had (and trust us, we’ve had a lot) had a mellow garlicky flavor to give the tahini’s nuttiness an edge, and we loved it. If anything, we thought it could use more lemon juice (the over-addition of which Solomonov himself eschews, keeping in mind that this is usually how manufacturers extend the shelf life of store-bought hummus)—but you are of course free to squeeze in as much as you please. Don’t be surprised to find yourself going through the entire batch in one sitting (FYI, this spoils quite fast); it is just that good. Heat up a few pitas and swipe away.
Adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Yield: 3½ cups
Time: 9 hours 15 min (overnight soaking / 1 hour cooking / 10 min prep / 5 min blending)
Ingredients: Basic Tehina Sauce
- 1 head garlic
- ¾ cup lemon juice, fresh (from 3 lemons)
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2 cups tahini
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1½ cups basic tehina sauce (above), plus a bit more for garnish
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- paprika, for garnish
- parsley, chopped, for garnish
- olive oil, for garnish
Procedure: Basic Tehina Sauce
- Peel the cloves of garlic and add to a blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Blend on high for a few seconds until you have a coarse puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the tahini to the strained lemon juice in the bowl, along with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the cumin.
- Whisk the mixture together until smooth, adding ice water a few tablespoons at a time to thin it out. The sauce will lighten in color as you whisk. When the tehina seizes up or tightehns, keep adding ice water, bit by bit (about 1½ cups in total), until you have a perfectly smooth, creamy, thick sauce.
- Taste and add more salt and cumin if you like.
- Measure out 1½ cups of the tehina sauce for use in the hummus recipe below.
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl with one teaspoon of the baking soda and cover with plenty of water (more than you think you will need as the chickpeas will double in volume). Soak overnight at room temperature. The next day, drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
- Place the chickpeas in a large pot with the remaining teaspoon of baking soda and add enough cold water to cover by at least four inches. Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Lower heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid, and continue to simmer for about an hour, until the chickpeas are fully cooked and completely tender; don’t worry if your chickpeas are mushy and falling apart a little. Drain.
- Combine the chickpeas, reserved tehina sauce, salt, and cumin in a food processor. Puree the hummus for several minutes until it is smooth and uber-creamy.
- To serve, spread hummus in a shallow bowl, dust with paprika, top with parsley, more tehina sauce, and drizzle generously with olive oil.