Cahiers de Hoummous: Garnish your hummus with a sprig of holly

holly-days-market-kfeanl-clipartMore than any other, the question MidLaw gets is “What is your recipe for hummus?”

It’s not, “Based on your experience and success, what is your advice about the management of midsize law firms?”  It’s never, “As a prominent and distinguished North Carolina lawyer, what are your views on the state of things?” (As needed, we can supply other questions that MidLaw consistently does not receive.) No.

Always, it is  “What is your recipe for making hummus?”

And MidLaw has always sought to show that great hummus is a path, not a destination — and the path best traveled is the MidLaw Way.

But this is Christmas. So, MidLaw brings (below) these simple gifts from the path (i) origins of the MidLaw Way and a recipe, (ii) the conundrum: dried vs. canned, (iii) techniques of the masters, and (iv) MidLaw Mind.

Origins of the MidLaw Way and a recipe

MidLaw’s entry upon hummus questing had its beginnings in a simple discovery. Canned chickpeas are perfectly fine for making your own hummus, but microwave them for 5 or 6 minutes before you process them. Posting this insight caught the attention of the local newspaper, which published a recipe for MidLaw’s “Straight Ahead Hummus.” Start with that.

The canned vs. dried conundrum

From those early days, the journey proceeded.

Almost immediately, the conundrum arose: canned chickpeas will do, but what of the dried ones? MidLaw leaped to the challenge. It took up the nuances of preparing dried chickpeas and forthrightly concluded:

Here’s where I am. You start with your dried product. You soak overnight with baking soda. You boil your beans for an hour [or two]. … And, you know what? The hummus from the dried beans is better than canned. It ought to be.

Or – you can start with canned chickpeas that you microwave – and you’ve got hummus in 15 minutes. And that is perfectly good hummus, too.

Techniques of the masters

The journey has continued. Bit by bit, the wisdom of masters has been sought. Their techniques have been gathered and compiled. MidLaw’s observations are proffered with them:

  • 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 SolomonovMaureen 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.

MidLaw Way

But always, the path has been The MidLaw Way and the guide has been MidLaw Mind.

  • Stop. Breathe
  • Roll your own. Let it breathe.
  • Consume radically — with no preconceptions. Submit to no external standard of taste, flavor or texture. Give no way to any dip from any container off any shelf.
  • It’s got to be yours.

Yuletide hummus

In the spirit of the season, garnish your hummus with a sprig of holly. The dark green leaf, the bright red berry: they rest so well on a rich bed of beige.

But do not eat that holly. Remember: holly is toxic and can cause death to small animals and little children.

Merry Christmas to all!

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