Traditional Hummus

DSC03437I wanted to call this recipe “basic hummus,” or “simple hummus,” but decided against either because of the too-often negative connotation the words imply.  I also pulled back from the impulse to decorate the title of this traditional garbanzo-based snack with an adjective, luring the reader in with promises of rich olive oil, creamy and tangy tahini, bright lemon, or zesty garlic.  The fact is that all of those are key ingredients to an authentic hummus recipe, but they fail to define the hummus together as a whole, and we needn’t focus on any one ingredient and how it makes the hummus special.  Hummus just is special.

There are some things, like hummus, where in my book, basic is best. Don’t get me wrong – experimenting with time-honored recipes springs forth incredible new alterations, and keeps food exciting. Aside from a few roasted pine nuts, a sprinkle of parsley, and a dash of paprika on top – this hummus is without want of embellishments. It’s not lacking.  It’s perfect in its simplicity.

This recipe is adapted (okay – stolen completely DSC03346 except for the use of dried garbanzo beans to start and the optional addition of pine nuts), from my dear friend Fatima, who has the excellent excuse of using canned garbanzo beans because she is currently finishing up medical school.  (How are you cooking and blogging at all Fatima?! Seriously.  You’re making the rest of us look bad. Also, I had to increase the salt.  Sorry Dr. Fahs!). You can check out Fatima’s original recipe here, and enjoy her humorous observations of fancy supermarket stores jumping on the hummus bandwagon, with their “roasted red pepper” or “spicy jalapeno” varieties exerting themselves to passing consumers.

DSC03807To get me in the hummus mood, I rocked out to once of my favorite discoveries of 2014,  Tinariwen’s Emmar.  This Grammy award-winning group is comprised of Taureg musicians from Northern Mali, who were actually in exile in Libya when they  formed.   Tinariwen’s music swirls around the listener like Saharan winds, with percussion that is insistent without being aggressive, allowing the electric guitars to lead the way, and flutes and tambourines to find their place in the background.  This album was the first of the band’s to be recorded in the U.S., near Joshua Tree, after a group linked to al-Qaeda (Ansar Dine) chased and tried to arrest  the group for making music for non-religious purposes in Timbuktu, Mali. Ansar Dine managed to capture Tinariwen guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida as he was trying to save his guitars, and though not heard form for awhile, was eventually freed..  You can read more about the incident here.

Many members of Tinariwen temporarily relocated to record Emmar in the United States before touring around the States and Europe, and then returning to Mali.  Emmar shines with politically charged, emotional Taureg music: Music that the musicians risked their lives to play in their home country. Now that’s worth a spin on the ole’ record player.


  • 2 cups of dried garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. lemon juice (2 medium-sized DSC03421 lemons or 3 small ones will easily do the trick)
  • 4 tbsp. tahini
  • 3/4 cup of warm water
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • parsley (optional garnish)
  • pine nuts (optional garnish)
  • paprika (optional garnish)


  • Soak the dried garbanzo beans overnight if you have the foresight, or at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Pour off the soaking water and any floating chickpeas, fill again, and drain once more to thoroughly rinse the garbanzo beans.
  • In a large pot, cover the garbanzo beans with at least 2-3 inches of water. You may also choose to add 1-3 bay leaves and/or a few dashes of salt to additionally flavor the chickpeas as they cook. *make sure to remove bay leaves before blending.
  • Bring the garbanzo beans to a boil, and then reduce to low heat.
  • Simmer the garbanzo beans on low until softened, which will take approximately 1 1/2 hours. To test, pop one in your mouth and chew (blow first to avoid singed taste buds – you’ll need them to enjoy the hummus!) *When fully cooked, garbanzo beans should be without any crunch, though if they are mushy – you’ve overcooked.  For hummus, since you are going to blend, overcooking is preferable to undercooking… though for a salad with chickpeas added for texture, you’ll want to make sure you perfect your cooking time.
  • Drain chickpeas and rinse with cold water to cool, removing the bay leaves if you chose them as an addition.
  • Combine all the ingredients except water (and optional garnishes) in a food processor or blender. DSC03420
  • Pour in warm water a bit at a time, pulsing between additions to thoroughly blend the hummus, while controlling the thickness. Take care to add water only as necessary, until hummus reaches desired consistency. Discard any water that isn’t used.
  • Use a spatula on the inside of blender or food processor make sure hummus is well blended and smooth. DSC03425
  • To serve, place in a bowl with a small depression in the center.  Drizzle olive oil into the depression, then add optional garnishes to your flavor and aesthetic preference.  Serve with warm pita bread or sliced veggies. DSC03442

Such a simple, healthy, and delicious meal, its no wonder hummus has been a staple food in the Middle East for centuries.

It’s unfortunate that tendency we have the need to complicate things unnecessarily.  We do it with relationships, with our complicated plans and expectations. We do it with our health and our our extreme vacillations from super-fad diets to complicated workout schemes.  We do it with our food – thinking that complex somehow equates value. We often (both thumbs pointed straight back at this girl) need to just kick back with our lovely selves, and enjoy the simple life.

And while we do, we can enjoy some classic hummus.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s