Here at Food52, we love recipes — but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: All you need to turn a can of chickpeas into the most versatile dip around is a food processor and a little creativity (and some good olive oil won't hurt, either).
Oh, hummus. It should be the perfect food. It’s economical, it's safe for even your crazy vegan friend with an endless list of food allergies, and it's good for sharing. But it can go very, very wrong.
Take a look at the hummus wall at most supermarkets and you’ll see that there are more varieties than there are gum flavors. But — just like that strawberry cheesecake gum — the crazy flavors of hummus often taste even worse than they sound. Pumpkin pie hummus? I know hummus and pumpkin pie filling have a similar consistency, but that doesn’t mean they should be mixed together.
The real problem is that hummus has become the generic term for some sort of bean dip which, at its worst, is a vehicle for beans, oil, and stale spices. But use good beans, quality olive oil, and some fresh spices, and you can redeem hummus from its sad supermarket state. You can still have fun with flavors, adding in roasted carrots or smoked paprika, but the results will be much better. Since hummus is loaded with healthy beans and olive oil, you'll still have room for that slice of pie afterwards — just don’t eat it on the same plate.
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Here's how to make it:
1. Choose your flavor. I like to evaluate my fridge and pantry to see what needs to be used up. I might find a half-used jar of pesto or a spice blend and decide to mix it in. If you're not a huge fan of chickpeas — or you're tired of classic hummus — you can replace up to half the quantity with roasted vegetables. I’ve found that starchier veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, or carrots (pictured here), work best. Chop carrots or sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a hot oven, between 375 degrees and 425 degrees F, until soft and caramelized. For the beets, wrap them in aluminum foil and roast until tender, 35 to 50 minutes. Peel the beets once they're cool, then give them a rough chop.
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2. Bust out your food processor. To make good hummus, you’ll need to purée the mixture until it is super smooth. Chickpea mash can be tasty, but that’s not what we’re going for here.
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3. Combine everything. Dump around 2 cups of chickpeas (or, if you’re going the vegetable route, 1 cup chickpeas and 1 cup roasted vegetables), around 1/4 cup of olive oil, a few dollops of tahini, the juice of a lemon, a chopped garlic clove, and a large pinch of salt into the bowl. Add spices, like smoked paprika (shown here), za'atar, or cumin.
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4. Blend it. The mixture will come together fairly quickly, but let the machine keep running. Depending on your food processor, this can take between 1 and 4 minutes. Once the hummus is silky smooth with no visible chunks, taste it. Bland? Add more seasoning and salt. Flat? Add some more lemon juice and olive oil.
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5. Make it last. Hummus is the queen of versatility. Spread it on sandwiches, eat it with pita chips as a snack, or dollop it on your salad. You can’t really go wrong — just keep it away from your dessert.
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What ingredients do you use to make your hummus into something special?
Photos by Mark Weinberg