Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zahav's Hummus Tehina...

From Words to Wok is an online community of cookbook and food memoir enthusiasts founded by my friend Prachi Grover in Dubai. Members are people who have a huge collection of cookbooks and don’t know how to stop adding more to our book shelves. Since we don’t have any intentions of controlling this habit we decided to do the next best thing: become a part of this group where we can legitimize this kind of behaviour. For December, the cookbook of choice is Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov.

Upon flipping through the part culinary memoir and part cookbook, Israeli-born Chef Solomonov's mouthwatering photo spread of hummus recipes tease the senses and seem to leap out of the pages. As Solomonov says about his Philadelphia restaurant Zahav, "more than anything, it's this dish that brings people to the restaurant in the first place." His hummus has been touted as ingenius. Bon Appétit named it their 2015 dish of the year. In Phyllis Grant's recent Piglet judgement, she wrote that the first chapter alone, with its seven types of hummus, should win a James Beard Award, which I totally agree. The genius of Solomonov's hummus is due to a series of steps in the preparations: soaking the chickpeas in baking soda to raise the pH and soften their skins, overcooking the chickpeas until they're mushy and falling apart a little, then whipping longer than you should until the hummus is silky smooth and creamy. But the biggest secret in all of this is using the finest tehina (tahini), and lots of it! In the book, there is his recipe for basic tehina made with sesame paste, garlic, lemon juice and cumin. I used a store-bought brand instead that has a thick texture, thus had to adjust his hummus recipe to get to smooth pureed consistency. The results were magnificent-- warm, smooth and luxurious, nothing like the cold, stiff tub of the store-bought refrigerated kind. A healthy homemade dip that pleased my family and one I will make again and again!

Scratch hummus and homemade pita chips

Rehydrating dried chickpeas.

Photo Credit: Michael Solomonov's varied hummus recipes in Zahav.

Zahav's Hummus Tehina (adapted from Michael Solomonov's Zahav)
Makes 3 cups

1 cup dried chickpeas
2 tsp. baking soda, divided
1-1/4 cups tehina (store-bought tehina can have its oil and paste separate-- stir very well to blend-- I used Alkanatar brand)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (to taste)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (to taste)
water to aid in blending
EVOO, chopped parsley and paprika for serving (optional)

TIP: Serve leftover hummus a little warm or in room temperature for best taste.

In a bowl, cover chickpeas by at least two inches of cold water. Add one tsp. baking soda and let soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse.

In a medium pot, cover soaked chickpeas by at least four inches of water. Add the remaining one tsp. baking soda and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium high and let cook at a vigorous simmer until chickpeas are quite soft, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. (Overcooked chickpeas are the secret to creamy hummus, so don’t worry if they start to break down a little.) Drain.

Dried chickpeas double in volume soaked in water overnight.

I didn't have parsley for garnish so I used on-hand sliced green onions.

Overcook the chickpeas until they're just shy of mush.

Add the warm, drained chickpeas to blender with tehina; blend for a minute then add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin. Blend until perfectly smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl occasionally about two minutes; keep pureeing until the mixture is creamy and even fluffy, adding a little water if you need it to make the contents of the blender move. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, lemon juice and/or cumin as needed.

Stir store-bought tehina very well to blend oil and sesame paste that separated.

Warm, smooth and ultra-creamy!

To serve, spread the hummus in a shallow bowl, dust with paprika, top with parsley (or green onions in my case) and drizzle generously with EVOO.

To make your own toasted pita chips: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut each pita bread in quarters and each quarter in half to make 8 triangles. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once. Optional: sprinkle with paprika.

As Chef Solomonov describes his Hummus Tehina-- the texture is smooth and creamy, and the flavours are nutty, rich and satisfying in a completely wholesome way. Exactly!

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