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On Your Plate: Delicious, Healthful Hummus Three Ways

Chickpea or garbanzo bean: Are they the same thing or different? This is a question I’ve often pondered. In my digging, I’ve discovered that the answer is actually both. Garbanzo beans are a cultivated variety of chickpea grown mainly around the Mediterranean, North Africa and South America. They’re a bit larger and have smoother skin than other varieties of chickpeas. 

Cultivated chickpeas have been traced back more than 7,500 years in the Middle East. The origin of chickpeas — to the best of our knowledge — is southeast Turkey, but there’s evidence that they existed in ancient cultures all around the world. 

Being high in protein, fiber and carbohydrates, they’ve become a main ingredient in many vegetarian dishes. The texture of this legume is dense and almost meat-like. Chickpeas are delicious when sprinkled on salads, added to soup or roasted, salted and eaten as a healthful snack. However, they’re best known as the star ingredient in hummus.

Hummus — as a spread, dip or appetizer — originated in Ethiopia. Simple, yet complex, it has stood the test of time, and you can find versions of hummus in most cultures worldwide. There are three main ingredients: chickpeas, tahini and water. Over the millenia, garlic, lemon, olive oil and spices such as cumin and coriander have been added to round out the traditional flavors. 

But this tried-and-true version of the snack is just the beginning. Hummus is adaptable: it’s a “shape-shifter” in the culinary world because it can be blended with so many flavors to create so many variations. 

I’ve been making hummus for years, and my experience has produced mixed results. Sometimes the flavor is spot-on, but the texture is too thick. Sometimes the garlic is too sharp. (I have a tendency to go big on garlic in everything, which is great until I’m still tasting it the next day.) So, as I geared up for Hummus 101, I researched tips and tricks to make it all blend beautifully.

Hummus 101

First, if you choose to go to the trouble of soaking and cooking dried chickpeas, you’ll need to soak them overnight. Plan for that time. After the overnight soak, they’ll need to boil for a half hour to an hour or until tender; then proceed with the recipe of choice.

The other option is to use canned beans. Make sure you rinse them before you use them. You can cook the canned beans for about 20 minutes over medium-high heat with a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda on them to soften the beans and crack open the skins, which will provide a smoother final consistency. Rinse off the baking soda before you proceed with your recipe. 

Regardless of which route you choose, use the beans while they’re still warm because they’ll soften and blend more easily in the food processor.

As you gather the ingredients for your recipe of choice, plan to add them in a specific order. This will help to create just the right flavor mix. Add lemon juice, tahini and olive oil to the food processor first; then purée for a minimum of one minute before adding the garlic, olive oil, garbanzo beans and the rest of the ingredients. The action of the food processor allows the ingredients to mix and the flavors to pop.

Last — after all the ingredients have been blended — add cold water, one teaspoon at a time, to reach your desired consistency. And remember that salt equals magic! When you find the sweet spot with the salt, all the flavors will come together perfectly. 

I’ve found that by tweaking my hummus process with these tips, the finished product turns out to be delicious and smooth. Enjoy your hummus time, both in the making and the snacking! 

Traditional Hummus

Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed

1 clove raw garlic or 3–4 cloves roasted garlic, skins removed (See instructions below)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 15.5-oz can garbanzo beans or 1½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (See note in Hummus 101)

1/3 cup tahini

¼ tsp each whole cumin seed and whole coriander seed, ground in mortar and pestle

Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, stems removed

½ tsp salt (or more to taste)

Cold water, 1 tsp at a time

Follow Hummus 101 instructions.

Garlic: Raw Versus Roasted

Raw garlic has a very strong, sometimes bitter flavor, and depending on your flavor goals, this can be perfect. Roasted garlic melts in your mouth and tastes milder and more sweet — almost caramel-like. Roasted garlic adds a softer flavor to your hummus but also still adds the dimension of garlic. When using roasted garlic in place of raw garlic, you can use more.

How to Roast Garlic

Preheat oven to 400° F.

2-3 heads of garlic

Olive oil to drizzle

Cut off the tops of the garlic heads, exposing the individual cloves, but keep the bulbs and heads intact. Place them in a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up. Bake in the oven for up to 40 minutes. (This is a great thing to do when you have the oven on for other purposes.) 

Roasted garlic is fun to have available to spread on toast or incorporate in mashed potatoes or any other recipes you think up. So delicious!

Beet Hummus

Juice of 1 small orange, freshly squeezed

1 clove raw garlic, skin removed

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 15.5-oz can garbanzo beans or 1½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (See note in Hummus 101)

2 medium roasted red beets (See instructions below)

1/3 cup tahini

½ tsp whole fennel seed, ground in mortar and pestle

½ tsp salt

Cold water, 1 tsp at a time

Follow Hummus 101 instructions.

Roasted Beets

2 whole beets, greens trimmed*

Olive oil to drizzle

Salt

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place beets in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for up to one hour or until fork tender. Set aside, and allow them to cool. Peel off the skin off before incorporating them into the beet hummus (above).

* I typically roast extra beets to incorporate them into salads and other dishes, so I suggest roasting four or five instead of just the two needed for the hummus. It’s always nice to have them readily available — such a treat!

Serve either of the above varieties with freshly cut vegetables such as carrots, green beans, asparagus, celery and cucumber; plus pretzels, pita toasts or crostini. Also spread either version on a veggie sandwich. They also make light, refreshing appetizers while you wait — patiently or impatiently! — for the garden to come into season.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Dessert Hummus

1 15.5-oz can garbanzo beans or 1½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (See note in Hummus 101)

½ cup creamy peanut butter

(I prefer organic varieties with no added sugar)

2 Tbsp unrefined honey

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder 

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Salt to taste

Cold water, 1 tsp at a time

¼ cup toasted Virginia peanuts, chopped (See instructions below)

Add all ingredients to the food processor at the same time, and purée until blended. Add cold water until desired consistency is reached. Salt to taste. Garnish with the toasted peanuts.

Serve with fresh strawberries, bananas (fresh or dried), sliced apples or graham crackers. This can be a semisweet dessert or a super-healthful snack for your favorite littles. 

Toasted Virginia Peanuts

Heat a dry, cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add the peanuts to the skillet, and turn often. Because of the high oil content in these peanuts, they tend to toast very quickly. (Don’t walk away, or they’ll burn!) Remove from the heat once they’re browned. Chop the nuts.