By now, you will not be surprised to learn that the secret to great Israeli-style hummus is an obscene amount of techina (tahini), as much as half of the recipe by weight, so it’s especially important to use the best quality you can find. Unlike Greek-style hummus, which is heavy on garlic and lemon, Israeli hummus is about the marriage of chickpeas and techina. In fact, with the exception of a dash of cumin, there are no other ingredients.
The only lemon and garlic involved have been used in my basic techina sauce (see below).
There are countless variations of hummus, but I’m not talking about black bean, white bean, or edamame hummus. Those might be perfectly nice dips, but since hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, that’s what we use. The variations are condiments spooned into the center of a bowl of pure hummus. My favorite, and by far the most popular, is a plate of techina-rich hummus garnished with — you guessed it — more techina. Remember to leave time for dried chickpeas peas to soak overnight.
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of the baking soda and cover with plenty of water. (The chickpeas will double in volume, so use more water than you think you need.) Soak the chickpeas overnight at room temperature. The next day, drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
- Place the chickpeas in a large pot with the remaining 1 teaspoon baking soda and add enough cold water to cover by at least 4 inches. Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid, and continue to simmer for about an hour, until the chickpeas are fully cooked and completely tender. Then simmer them a little more. (The secret to creamy hummus is overcooked chickpeas; don’t worry if they are mushy and falling apart a little.) Drain.
- Combine the chickpeas, techina sauce, salt, and cumin in a food processor. Puree the hummus for several minutes until it is smooth and uber-creamy. Then puree it some more! To serve, spread the hummus in a shallow bowl, dust with paprika, top with parsley, more tehina sauce if you like, and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Basic Techina Sauce
This simple sauce is one of my basic building blocks and is so versatile that once you master it, there are a million things you can do with it. The important step here is to allow the garlic and lemon juice to hang out for ten minutes after blending but before adding the jarred techina. This step helps stabilize the garlic and prevents it from fermenting and turning sour and aggressive, which is the problem with a lot of techina sauces (and therefore the hummus made from them).
Because you’re making an emulsion (oil-based techina incorporated into water and lemon juice), the techina sauce can sometimes separate or seize up. Don’t panic! Keep a glass of ice water nearby and add a few tablespoons at a time to the lemon juice–techina mixture while you’re whisking, until your creamy emulsion returns.
- Break up the head of garlic with your hands, letting the unpeeled cloves fall into a blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Blend on high for a few seconds until you have a coarse puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large mixing bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the techina to the strained lemon juice in the bowl, along with the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
- Whisk the mixture together until smooth (or use a food processor), adding ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it out. The sauce will lighten in color as you whisk. When the tehina seizes up or tightens, keep adding ice water, bit by bit (about 1½ cups in total), whisking energetically until you have a perfectly smooth, creamy, thick sauce.
- Taste and add up to 1½ teaspoons more salt and cumin if you like. If you’re not using the sauce immediately, whisk in a few extra tablespoons of ice water to loosen it before refrigerating. The tehina sauce will keep a week refrigerated, or it can be frozen for up to a month.
Yield: 4 cups
Excerpted with permission from ZAHAV by Michael Solomonov. Copyright © 2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2015 by Mike Persico. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Chef Michael Solomonov was born in Israel and grew up in Pittsburgh. He and Steven Cook are the co-owners of CookNSolo Restaurants, home to some of Philadelphia's most distinctive culinary concepts, including Zahav, Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Rooster Soup Co., and Goldie. They are a combined four-time James Beard Award Winners, including the 2016 "Best International Cookbook" and "Book of the Year" awards for their first cookbook, Zahav, and a 2011 "Best Chef Mid-Atlantic" win for Solomonov and who in May, was named the 2017 JBF's "Outstanding Chef".