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Hummus and Toasted Pita Chips

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I am not the sort of person who  brings  dip whenever I go to a party or potluck.  To me bringing a dip is like  announcing to all  that you  really didn’t  have the time to cook ( or you forgot to cook something)  so here, here is this dip thrown in a bowl and some chips or pre-cut veggies to go with it.   That way you show that at least you brought something and now you can enjoy the fruits of everyone elses labor.  No, I am the one  that cooks for hours, making sure the dish is perfect in every way-taste and presentation.  But that’s just  me and that was how I felt before I tried hummus.  The first time I tried hummus I was smitten, it  was like no other dip I’d ever had. I didn’t even know what it was made of or if it should even be called a dip,  I just knew I had to have  more. Once I found out hummus is made from chickpeas my interest in it was further peaked.  Who knew the buff-colored,  irregularly shaped chickpea could transform itself into something as smooth and creamy as hummus?  Before hummus I’d only known chickpeas to show up,  along with other bulky  fillers,  at a salad buffet.

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Like most foods that I become overly infatuated with I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be making  hummus at home.   The  perfect opportunity came when a friend of mine was hosting a get together and asked everyone to bring a dish.  I decided I’d make hummus (this was ok because this was  no ordinary dip and I’m sure no one had ever had it before).  So although it was easy it was different.   Well it was also disastrous and literally could not even have  been called hummus.  I can’t blame the recipe because in this instance the cook was entirely at fault.  You see I-the cook-disobeyed one of my cooking commandments; Thou shalt not alter any recipe until thou hast made the original version first.  Most times I dutifully obey this commandment.  The first time I use a recipe I want  to know what the writer of the recipes vision was.  I want to know what it is they are aiming for.  I’d prefer to make changes after I’ve made the original version first and then I can start adding, removing and substituting.   Never beforehand.   Do I ever stray from this belief?  Rarely  and only when I know the substitution will not make a major change in the end product or when it’s a very simple recipe.   In  this case I let my starry-eyed infatuation lead me astray.

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Mistake number one.  The recipe I used mentioned the dip could  be made with white beans.  I took this as a substitution suggestion and chose the more familiar and  easily accessible  white bean.  Mistakenly assuming there would be no huge difference in taste because a bean is bean is a bean.  And see,  this is when my hummus started to become not  hummus because Hummus literally means chickpea.   As I didn’t know this at the time I proceeded on with the recipe.  The next major mistake I made was to double up on the garlic called for in the recipe because I didn’t know where I’d be able to find tahini, which is sort of like peanut butter except made with sesame seeds.   Now  I know tahini  is what keeps hummus from being just a bean dip, at the time I figured doubling up on the (raw) garlic would be a good thing in place of the sesame paste.    The mistakes continued; too much lemon juice,  too chunky.  I could go on but the memory makes me wince to recall that I actually served this to others and was more than a little disappointed when at the end of the night the full bowl of dip was left (save for a little scoop missing that some one must have taken and then cautiously warned  others that the dip was not good  that or  the potent  smell of the garlic scared others off) and I’d have to take the unwanted dip home.

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Don’t feel too bad for me though.  If nothing else I am a person who learns from their mistakes.  And because I like hummus so much I continued to make it.  Usually I use canned chickpeas which you can find all over the place now.  This recipe is my first venture making it with dried chick peas.  I like it fine but will use canned beans in a pinch.   You do have to go to the trouble of soaking the dried beans but its an extra step that only requires you to pour dried beans and water in a bowl then leave over night, so don’t be too overwhelmed.  I haven’t brought hummus to another event since that time but mostly it’s  for selfish reasons-when I make it I want it all for myself.  When you make this recipe you will see why.  Your experience making hummus will not be as disastrous as mine was I’ve made sure of that.  This is an easy recipe to follow and I’ve suggested-no I insist- you use canned chickpeas if you don’t want to bother with soaking beans and would rather have your hummus sooner than later.  If you use canned chickpeas you will find this so easy you will never purchase store-bought hummus ever again.  Try your hand at the homemade pita toasts too, they taste so much better when you make them yourself.

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Hummus and Toasted Pita Chips
Hummus (adapted from Jerusalem A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
NOTE: this recipe will yield approximately 3 2/3 cups cooked chickpeas.  If you wish to use canned, cooked chickpeas use the same amount and proceed as directed with recipe.
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 1/2 cups water
1 cup light tahini paste
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 1/2 tablespoons ice-cold water
kosher salt
Directions:
The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume.  Leave to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the chickpeas.  Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cook, skimming off any foam and any  skins that float to the surface.  The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.  Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
Drain the chickpeas.  You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups of cooked chickpeas.  Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste.  Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using right away refrigerate until needed.  Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
Toasted Pita Chips:
1 package pita bread
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut each pita into quarters and each quarter in half to make 8 triangles.  Place in a single layer on a half sheet pan and brush each one lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle over salt and pepper.  Bake about 10-15 minutes until crisp, turning once.  Serve with Hummus.
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