Hot And Spicy Hummus

Creamy chickpeas with a kick. 

Jewish Week Online Columnist
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Apparently, today has been declared Hummus Day, though I have no idea why. Judging by the sheer number of packaged hummus varieties available, it seems as if this chickpea dip is as everyday as fare like like breakfast cereal and potato chips.

But Hummus Day it is, and that gives us a chance to reflect on what this spread actually is and what kind we like. By definition, hummus means “chickpeas.” We mash them and include all sorts of other ingredients: tahini, cumin, lemon and za’atar. For a long time, the traditional add-ins were in keeping with hummus’s Middle Eastern origins, but today it is so popular that manufacturers have come up with a multitude of concoctions to please every palate: basil-pesto, spinach and artichoke, sun-dried tomato and even “everything” hummus, like bagels, with poppy and sesame seeds.

Of course, because many of us are obsessed with chili peppers and hot sauce, there are several types of spicy hummus, too. I like hot hummus and often make it at home. But this week I purchased some store-bought hummus, just to get a sense of the quality of what’s out there. Each version was tasty and would do in a pinch, though I found myself adding an ingredient here and there.

Sabra Chipotle was vaguely smoky and mild, without much heat; I mixed in some cayenne pepper. Tribe Cracked Chili Peppers had more heat than hummus flavor; I added some lemon juice and za’tar. Cedar’s Classic Original was smooth and bland; it needed seasoning, so I included za’tar, harissa and a squirt or two of lemon juice.

Even though decent hummus is there for the taking, I prefer homemade, for the same reason I prefer homemade soup and cookies: it tastes fresher and I can make it exactly the way I like it. Besides, if you blitz canned chickpeas in your food processor, the recipe takes less than 15 minutes.

One of my beefs with store-bought hummus is that it’s too smooth and pasty; hummus is more satisfying with a bit of texture, so I don’t process the chick peas to a fare-thee-well. Another problem is that commercial hummus is made with vegetable oil: I prefer olive oil, which has a rounder, richer flavor. As for seasonings, I can make it as hot and spicy or as mild as I like. No need to “doctor” some corporate vision of how hummus should taste.

Here’s my recipe for hot-and-spicy hummus. It’s very forgiving, so I’ve listed a variety of different ingredients you can use to tailor it to your family’s preferences. Hummus tends to be beige and boring, so I usually include some green or sprinkle the top with za’tar, but if you prefer, drizzle olive oil or chili oil on top or mound some chili peppers, or condiments such as harissa, on top.

Ingredients: 
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained, liquid reserved
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup tahini
Chili (see options below)
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Pita bread, for serving
Recipe Steps: 
Add chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, chili of choice, olive oil, garlic, salt, cumin and parsley to bowl of food processor. Add 4-8 tablespoons reserved liquid, depending on desired texture. Process until blended, keeping it somewhat lumpy or making it smooth, as you wish. Place the hummus in a serving dish and serve with pita wedges. Makes 1 ½ cups.
Chili choices: 1 whole chipotle in adobo, seeds removed, chopped, plus 1/2 teaspoon paprika; 2 – 3 teaspoons harissa paste; 1 – 3 teaspoons red schug; 1 – 2 tablespoons sriracha; ¼ – ½ teaspoon Tabasco or similar hot sauce; ¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper; 1 small, seeded and chopped serrano, jalapeno or habanero pepper