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Hummus, Elevated

By Andrew Janjigian Published

The ultrasmooth, tahini-forward version of this spread is fundamental throughout the Middle East—and will forever change the way you think about hummus.

In one of the last reviews he penned before his untimely death in 2018, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold wrote lyrically about the hummus at the city’s beloved Middle Eastern restaurant, Bavel:

"The seriousness of a Middle Eastern restaurant rests in its hummus. Grainy, vaguely sour hummus is OK to send off in your children’s brown-bag lunches, and the mayonnaise-y over-garlicked stuff may be exactly what you want to see alongside a takeout roast chicken . . . But the great kitchens, the ones that inspire hour-long drives and dinnertime haiku, tend to labor over their fragrant goo as assiduously as a French baker might over her baguettes."

The hummus Gold spoke of is fundamental throughout the Middle East, where it’s often the focal point of a meal and entire careers are dedicated to its craft. A great version is so silky that it can be poured off a spoon and exhibits vivid yet balanced tahini flavor, garlic presence that’s prominent but never “garlicky,” and a lemony backbone that’s tart without being sour.

Senior Editor Andrew Janjigian sets out samples of hummus to which he's added varying amounts of olive oil to get the team's feedback. All the samples were gently warmed in the microwave, which makes the hummus even smoother and more flavorful.

And here’s the best part: Superlative hummus requires only a little more time and effort to make than that lunch box stuff. Here’s my component-by-component approach.

Chickpeas

How you treat the chickpeas impacts the consistency of hummus more than any other factor, because they are firm (even when cooked) and covered in tough skins.

My most effective tricks were overcooking them and removing their skins. It takes hours to soak and simmer dried chickpeas, but simmering canned beans took about 20 minutes. (There’s no shame here: Dried and canned beans are equally good in this recipe.) I also added baking soda to the saucepan, which raised the water’s pH and helped the skins break down and slip off. By the end of cooking, there was a “raft” of skins floating on the surface that was easy to remove by draining and rinsing the beans a few times.

Tahini

Tahini is hummus’s major source of richness and flavor and significantly affects its consistency. Brand and color matter here, since the tahini’s shade indicates how much the sesame seeds have been roasted. Lighter tahini, made with lightly roasted sesame seeds, tastes distinct but mild, whereas darker tahini, made with heavily roasted sesame seeds, is unpleasantly bitter.

One thing I discovered: It’s important to process the other hummus ingredients before adding the tahini. That’s because its proteins readily absorb water and clump, resulting in overly thick hummus. Processing the other ingredients without the tahini allows the water to disperse throughout the mixture; then, when the tahini is eventually added, its proteins can’t immediately absorb the water and clump, and the hummus doesn’t become stiff.

Water

Water is often added to enhance the spread’s creaminess. I started with 1/4 cup and, depending on the consistency of the tahini and the hummus itself (it thickens as it sits), added more water by the teaspoon.

Olive Oil

Typically, all the fat in hummus comes from tahini, but 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil made my version especially silky. To avoid overprocessing the oil, which can release bitter-tasting compounds, I added it with the tahini.

Lemon Juice + Garlic

Instead of incorporating garlic directly into the hummus as most recipes do, I briefly steeped a few minced cloves in lemon juice, strained and discarded them, and added only the infused juice to the dip—a technique from chef Michael Solomonov’s popular hummus recipe and one that we’ve used in the past for Caesar dressing. The juice’s acid neutralizes alliinase, the enzyme that creates garlic’s harsh flavor. That way, we capture some—but not too much—of the garlic’s sharp, raw bite and strain out the pulpy bits.

 

 

Next-Level Toppings

Hummus toppings can be as simple as fresh herbs, whole chickpeas, a little cumin, and a whorl of olive oil. But in the Middle East, hummus also functions as a blank slate that’s topped with everything from sliced hard‑cooked eggs to roasted vegetables to spiced meats (such as our Baharat-Spiced Beef Topping for Hummus, left) and other spreads (such as our Spiced Walnut Topping for Hummus, right).

 

Recipe Ultracreamy Hummus

The ultrasmooth, tahini-forward version of this spread is fundamental throughout the Middle East—and will forever change the way you think about hummus.

Recipe Ultracreamy Hummus with Spiced Walnut Topping

The ultrasmooth, tahini-forward version of this spread is fundamental throughout the Middle East—and will forever change the way you think about hummus.

Recipe Ultracreamy Hummus with Baharat-Spiced Beef Topping

The ultrasmooth, tahini-forward version of this spread is fundamental throughout the Middle East—and will forever change the way you think about hummus.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.