Years ago my wife and I moved from our relatively miserable neighborhood (actually downright dangerous) to our first “nice” house. Granted we were in Michigan, not Texas, so the standards of “nice” were clearly different, As we all know, Texas is the supreme state and is difficult to be rated against. Specifically Allen, Texas (where the dew falls first from Heaven). I digress….
So we end up in Dearborn, Michigan, a wonderful city. I was working at the Ritz – Carlton Hotel, all was good. We loved Dearborn, because it was close to work and . . . . the food! We ate hummus, baba ganoush, shawarma, and falafel almost daily. To us it was as normal as pasta or burritos, and was so flavorful and multidimensional, we ate it often! We had no idea how special this little area of the world was! Since Dearborn we have lived in Miami, New York City, Allen TX, Las Vegas, Houston, and back to Allen TX. I had never even come close to having Middle Eastern food as good as in the “Dearborn Days.” Not even close! There was a particular restaurant called “La Shish” that was a real stand out. Their hummus was legendary, the best I have ever had. Creamy and rich with a depth of flavor that I could never achieve in a hummus. It was addictive. One of the great culinary achievements!
For years I tried to get close to that hummus, searching hummus recipes high and low. I looked in professional cooking books, home style cooking books, text books from culinary schools, the internet . . . you name it. Never found it. I made hummus hundreds of times, and it was always good, unless you compare it to “La Shish”. About two years ago I hired a younger cook named Rashid. He is a Lebanese guy with some good experience. Of course on my mind right away, hummus. For 15 years I had been chasing the “hummus” ghost. I asked him if he knew how to make a great hummus. Rashid says “I ran the best Lebanese restaurant in DC. I make the good hummus.” I was intrigued. When he said he needed three days . . . I was really intrigued.
Rashid “made the good hummus.” I could close my eyes and think I was back in Dearborn. The “hummus ghost” . . . I had it in my sights.
In Rashid’s hummus the devil is in the details. The chickpeas are soaked in water and baking soda overnight. Then they are cooked at a slow gentle simmer, for 6 or 7 hours, in the same water they soaked in. The cooking should be stopped when the water is at the level of the chickpeas, and the chickpeas are very tender. The chickpeas are cooled in that liquid, which will gel like a classic, well-made stock (Rashid chilled his overnight). The liquid and the chickpeas are pureed together with tahini, garlic and lemon. The puree must be very smooth!
Makes 1.5 quarts
½ quart dried chickpeas
¾ tablespoon baking soda
3 quarts water
3 ounces tahini (Lebanese if you can find it)
½ ounce garlic
¾ ounce lemon juice
¼ ounce kosher salt
- In container large enough to hold the 1st three ingredients, combine the dried chickpeas, baking soda and water. Cover and allow to soak overnight.
- The next day, in a thick bottomed pot dump the chickpeas and water in to simmer, do not drain, simmer in the same water it soaked in. Bring to a light boil then turn down to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for 6 or 7 hours. The simmering time will vary greatly depending on the size of you pot, specifically the width because of increased evaporation. I have had great luck simmering between 5 to 7 hours.
- The cooking should be stopped when the liquid is level with the chickpeas. Do not drain! Cool in the liquid.
- When very cool the liquid will gel like a well-made stock. You will be pureeing chickpeas and this liquid in the final step of the recipe.
- In a food processor (you may need to do in a few batches. It’s ok, just stir all of the batches together well at the end) puree the chickpeas (and the gelled liquid) with the remaining ingredients. Here is the final detail . . . it must be velvety smooth. You may have to puree in your food processor for 5 or 10 minutes, scraping the sides every so often.
- Adjust seasoning a bit if necessary, although you should not need to.
- Cool down and store in your refrigerator. It will last for 5 days but you won’t need to worry about that, it will be gone well before the expiration date.