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Hummus: A Healthy How-to

By John DiGilio in Food on Jan 4, 2011 5:20PM

2011_1_DiGilio Hummus.jpgHummus, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisines, has not always been so wildly popular in America. It was not all that long ago when someone looking for a tasty blend of chickpeas and tahini could only turn to the city's ethnic delis and cafes. As eaters have become more health conscious and adventurous, hummus has become common in grocery stores everywhere. There are many different flavors, colors, and textures from which to choose. While many of the store-bought brands are good, the secret to getting really great hummus is simple - make it yourself.

Making your own hummus is quite easy and relatively inexpensive. The ingredients are few. Buying them in bulk can provide months of hummus enjoyment. The taste possibilities are endless. With a little creativity, you can experiment with different flavors and textures right in your kitchen. Most importantly, making your own hummus allows you to control some of the most important benefits: its freshness and nutritional value. If you want to eliminate chemicals and preservatives, while maintaining vitamins and minerals, it pays to make it yourself.

The secrets to making great hummus at home are few and finite:

  • Use the freshest ingredients you can find. - Dried herbs are great in a pinch or for a quick kick of flavor. But if you want the flavor with the nutrition, fresh herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, and chives are where it's at. Chop them by hand or in an herb grinder. The taste will be bolder and your vitamins and minerals stay intact.
  • Dried beans beat canned. - If you want the most bang for your tastebuds as well as your dollar, dried chick peas are the way to go. One bag of dried chick peas will make several batches of hummus. Yes, they require a little more work and have a few more calories. But they also pack more fiber and a ton less sodium. Make enough hummus and you will also see just how much better they taste.
  • Be creative and flavorful. - Simple hummus is good. However, there is only so much of the basic mix of tahini, chickpeas, oil, and lemon that one can take. A good basic hummus is like a blank canvas waiting for you to paint it with flavor. In addition to the herbs listed above, try adding things like olives, garlic, pine nuts, roasted red peppers, and even sun-dried tomatoes to your palette. Give your hummus some kick with red pepper flakes, pepper-infused olive oil, jalapenos, and even curry powders.

The final secret to good hummus is really no secret at all. The most important part of the whole hummus-making process is starting with a great basic recipe. Some of our recommendations include offerings from Simple Spoonful and The Global Gourmet, as well as this excellent comparison and recipe from The Paupered Chef. If you have a great recipe or a favorite place to get hummus here in the city, let us know in the comments below. Happy hummus making (and eating)!

Photo by The Paupered Chef