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If you regularly get your hummus in the deli section of your supermarket, I implore you to stop right now. I have a hummus recipe that will knock your socks off. Why should you bother making your own hummus? Because the stuff in the grocery store or your local deli is an inferior product, full of preservatives and bad fats–as is the case with most store-bought dips and spreads. It’s easy to make, and requires just a few ingredients, which you may already have on hand. The only step that takes any time at all is the soaking of the chickpeas, but you simply put them in a pot of water overnight and they’ll be ready for you the next day.

Now I must warn you. An authentic hummus is never presented as pictured here, in a towering mound or plopped in a bowl slapdash and any-old-way. This is a matter of my taking artistic license, so please forgive me. Hummus should actually be spread on a plate and smoothed down from the middle outward, creating a well in the center. Then you sprinkle it with a bit of ground cumin and drizzle it with olive oil and lemon. You can also infuse some olive oil with paprika, strain it, then drizzle it over the hummus, finishing with a thin line around the plate. Authentic and delicious, and pretty impressive for a plate of beans. You’ll be surprised with this hummus; it is substantial, yet light and fluffy at the same time from all that blending. I love to eat it with chunks of really good pita, warmed in the oven, or serve it with a plate of cut-up vegetables and multigrain crackers. A few choice olives wouldn’t hurt, either.

This recipe comes from Paula Wolfert’s amazing book The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, which I intend to review here soon. For now I will just say that if you haven’t cooked from Paula’s fabulous recipes, then I urge you to do so as soon as possible. Paula is often hailed as the preeminent authority on Mediterranean cuisine. Her  books contain recipes from France to Syria and all points in between. She has traveled all over the globe in search of these recipes, which are marvels of authenticity and accessibility. By picking up this one book, I know more about Mediterranean cuisine than I ever thought I would. I highly recommend it.

Paula Wolfert’s Hummus

Makes 2 1/2 cups



1 cup dried chickpeas (250 ml)

1 small onion, peeled

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) (60 ml)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) coarse salt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or more, to taste (50 ml)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (15 ml – 30 ml)

ground cumin, paprika, or pomegranate seeds for garnish


1) Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover with water. Soak overnight.

2) Drain; rinse and cook with the onion in water to cover until the chickpeas are very soft. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid for the dip. Set aside 1/4 cup of chickpeas for the garnish. Discard the onion.

3) Stir the tahini in its jar until the oil is well blended. Place tahini in the blender or bowl of the food processor. Blend the tahini, garlic, and lemon juice until the mixture “whitens”.

4) With the machine running, add the reserved cooking liquid. Add 1 3/4 cup chickpeas and process until well blended. Correct the seasonings with salt and lemon juice.

5) Allow the dip to mellow at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. If you would like a smoother dip, push it through the fine blade of a food mill and discard the skins of the chickpeas.

6) To serve, spread dip on a shallow serving dish. Use the back of a spoon to make a well in the center. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with ground cumin, paprika, or pomegranate seeds.

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"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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