RECIPE

I thought I didn't like hummus until I tried this lighter-than-air version

A stalwart dip gets a fluffy upgrade, thanks to chef Jeanie Roland's secret trick

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published June 19, 2022 5:30PM (EDT)

Hummus (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Hummus (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

You don’t need an expensive new piece of equipment, or an obscure ingredient you have to hunt for. You just need a fresh way of preparing an old favorite. In "One Way," we’ll revisit classic ingredients and dishes, giving them a new twist with an easy technique you haven’t tried before.

For the longest time, I didn't get the point of hummus. I confess I went years of my life knowing it only in the context of half-hearted party food, served alongside shriveled baby carrots and stringy celery sticks. I thought hummus came in a small plastic tub, and that it was as thick as paste and half as flavorful.

Obviously, I was dead wrong.

My life changed when I moved near a phenomenal Brooklyn restaurant called Zaytoons, and I discovered what hummus was supposed to be — creamy, nutty and light. By the time I started making it at home for my family, I had turned into a real fanatic of the stuff. That's why I was so excited by Jeanie Roland's delicate, cloud-like version from her new cookbook, "The Perfect Caper Home Cooking."

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With the same relaxed elegance she brings to her restaurants, The Perfect Caper and Ella's Food & Drink, Roland imbues her writing with approachable warmth, inviting you to make irresistible dishes like warm brie pastry with rosemary and peppered pears or her Momma's spaghetti and meatballs.

"Cooking should be comfortable and natural, an expression of your state of mind," she writes, "not something to be dreaded and feared." When done right, few things are more comforting or easier to make than good hummus. Roland's is exceptional — and it's so much lighter and fluffier than your typical supermarket wallpaper paste.

"You have to overcook the beans," Roland revealed to Salon Food during a recent Zoom chat. "For this, I was using fresh beans, but you don't have to. You can get canned beans, but they're a little bit al dente. If you purée that, you have to add a lot of everything else, so you're really getting a heavier tasting hummus."

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Instead, "when you take the beans, even if you use canned, put them back into the pot," she said. "Cook them more until they're overcooked. Now, they've absorbed some of that water, and they're lighter and more airy. I feel that is the secret. With the minimalistic seasoning, you're letting the beans shine, whatever you're having it with. The water really is a magic trick on its own, because it adds that lightness and allows you to whip stuff in without being too heavy."

I've reduced some of the quantities from Roland's original recipe below to suit using canned instead of home-cooked beans. As much as I hate adding an extra step to anything, I would not skip cooking the beans down a little more before you purée them. It makes the final product the texture of whipped cream, except it's better than whipped cream because it's hummus.

Don't even think of putting stuff this anywhere near an unhappy bowl of baby carrots.

***

Recipe: Fluffy Hummus
Inspired by Jeanie Roland's "The Perfect Caper Home Cooking"

Yields
8 servings
Prep Time
 10 minutes
Cook Time
 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans 
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1⁄3 cup tahini
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted if you have the energy
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground sumac

Directions

  1. In a medium pan, simmer the beans for 10 minutes or so, until they're very soft. (You don't want a firm bean here.) Remove from the heat and drain, reserving the aquafaba.

  2. In a blender or food processor, purée the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, water and olive oil. A few tablespoons at a time, add the reserved aquafaba until the hummus looks exceptionally light.

  3. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate to let the flavors blend.

  4. When you're ready to serve the hummus, unwrap the bowl and sprinkle with the nuts and sumac. 

  5. Serve with baked pita chips or your dippers of choice.


Cook's Notes

Soom tahini will change your life.

Serving with baked pita chips? Here's the Quick & Dirty way to make them.

You can play with this recipe in all kinds of ways. The easiest way to make this into Roland's pea hummus is to swap out half of the garbanzo beans with thawed frozen peas. Blend with a few springs of fresh mint and top with sliced almonds, if you like. 


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Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Dips Food Hummus Jeanie Roland Mediterranean One Way Recipe Spreads