Cahiers de Hoummous: the sin of pride and the way of the masters

zahavThis is a confession. A confession of the sin of pride.

MidLaw was becoming prideful about hummus. As more “best hummus recipes” came forward, MidLaw began to resist. Why read another one? Surely by now MidLaw knows what’s worth knowing about hummus. MidLaw is an expert.

So, there it is in all its ugliness: PRIDE. The original and most deadly sin. The most insidious.

Pride obstructs new learning and impedes change.

When Zahav’s hummus genius, and the new cookbook (Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking) were urged upon him, MidLaw reacted badly.

Zahav is the celebrated Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia and now also the cookbook, created by Chef Michael Solomonov. Zahav’s hummus recipe both confirms MidLaw’s longtime methods and brings new insights. Zahav deserves the celebration that is raining down on it.

So, as a penance and to purge the contamination of pride, MidLaw has gathered key hummus-craft insights, both from Chef Solomonov and also from others.

Hummus techniques of the masters

  • Soak dried chickpeas in water for 8 to 12 hours with baking soda (say, a teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of chickpeas). Never put salt in there. Salt toughens the skins, and you are trying to soften and ultimately remove the skins, not toughen them.
  • Cook (bring to boil, then simmer) soaked chickpeas in new water with a new baking soda treatment. Cook them for a long time (at least an hour, but even more). Keep them immersed in water. It may not be possible to overcook them. No one knows for sure. What you want to get is really soft chickpeas, falling apart, with the skins separating out.
  • To the extent that you can, remove the skins (remove the skins, that is, if your vision is the creamiest hummus, but bring MidLaw Mind). Maybe the best way to remove the skins is to sift the cooked (then cooled) chickpeas through your fingers.
  • Err on the side of too much tahini.
  • Err on the side of too much olive oil.
  • Err on the side of either too much or too little lemon juice. You must find your own way here.
  • Get enough salt. Add more if you need it.
  • Conventional recipes counsel blending olive oil directly into the chickpeas. But Solomonov, Maureen Abood and many another in Israel and Palestine advocate withholding the olive oil until the end, then drizzling it (very liberally) on top of the processed chickpeas and tahini just before serving. Some do both.
  • When you add water, add cold water (ice-cold water, Solomonov says, with the water to be added into a running food processor a teaspoon at the time; Maureen Abood agrees).
  • Solomonov may be unique for advising that garlic, lemon juice and salt should be combined in a food processor separately. He advises using more garlic than others (4 cloves) but adding the cloves while still unpeeled. Purée coarsely, he says, then allow that mixture to sit for 10 minutes while the garlic “mellows.” Finally, strain the mixture through a sieve into a separate bowl, seeking to remove the solids. Tahini is combined with that in a food processor, and after that, ice water. Finally, the chickpeas are added in.
  • And then, run the processor a long time. 4 minutes? You decide.

Tenets of MidLaw Diet

Even more important though than master techniques, are the core tenets of the MidLaw Diet:

Roll your own.

Never hesitate to use canned chickpeas as the circumstances require. Remember the microwave hack.

Never submit to the dominion of an external standard of taste or texture. Bring MidLaw Mind.


Between pride and submission there is a middle way: the path of radical humility, the way of the masters.

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