Hummus fans rejoice: Introducing an amazing, easy cheater version

I lied: I told you this post would be more about gribiche. But we need to interrupt our gribiche coverage to bring you breaking news on the hummus front: Cooks Without Borders has figured out how to make pretty amazing hummus from canned chick peas. 

No joke! 

If you're among those who caught hummus fever as chef Michael Solomonov's recipe for Israeli hummus tore up the internets last fall, or fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's recipe in their brilliant cookbook Jerusalem (the excellent cooking blog Food 52 featured it a few years ago), you know how earth-shattering this is.

For those who are just catching up with it, here is the hummus situation in a garbanzo shell: Since time immemorial, creating hummus as smooth and fluffy as what you get in a great Lebanese, Israeli or other middle-Eastern restaurant involved soaking chick peas (aka garbanzo beans) overnight, simmering them for an hour and a half or two hours and removing their skins (can you imagine?!) before puréeing them. Sheesh! The brilliance of Ottolenghi's technique (which he apparently didn't invent, and which Solomonov also uses) is that it uses baking soda during the cooking process to soften the chick peas' skins so they don't need to be removed. 

Home cooks, meanwhile, who want to make a quick, easy hummus that's always at least as good as what you buy in a plastic tub at the supermarket, could simply purée chick peas in the food processor or blender with some garlic, lemon juice, tahini and salt, maybe a little olive oil. A hummus like that is fine, but never killer. It never has that amazing texture and deep flavor that a great one has.

I've been playing for the last few weeks with hummus made the Ottolenghi/Solomonov way, and I'll post about it when I'm ready to draw some conclusions. (There's more hummus to be made and tasted first!) But as I play, I can't help but wonder: Can we use this baking soda trick to radically improve the super-quick and easy version from canned garbanzos?

Yes, we can!

All you do is rinse the canned beans, simmer them for just five minutes in water and a little baking soda, and toss 'em in the food processor with some tahini sauce you've made while the garbanzos simmered. I found it pretty incredible that the skins could be softened enough to make a difference in just five minutes, but there you go. 

Was our cheater version as smooth as hummus made using dried-and-soaked garbanzos you simmer for an hour with baking soda? Well, if not, it was certainly close. It had been a week since I made a more involved one, but Thierry couldn't tell the difference: The cheater hummus was light, fluffy and soft, maybe more velvety than satiny. The flavor was very good, if not as extraordinary as the more involved way. It was terrific enough so that I'll certainly do it again if I'm pressed for time and want hummus. 

Want to try?

OK, toss whole garlic cloves (you can leave their skins on) in the food processor with salt and lemon juice. Purée briefly to chop the garlic, and let the mixture steep 10 minutes while you boil the garbanzos. Strain the solids from the lemon-garlic-salt juice, then put the juice back in the processor. Add tahini, pulse, then slowly pour in ice water through the tube as the motor runs. 

That gives you very light, lovely tahini sauce. Now add the garbanzos plus a little cumin (if you like that flavor), purée a couple minutes till very smooth, plate and garnish with olive oil and paprika – and more, if you like. I usually keep it simple, but you can get creative with parsley, whole garbanzo beans and such. 

Yippeee! Who says cheaters never prosper?

I think I can improve it still further flavor-wise (I'm going to play with adding more tahini, for instance). Once I have the very best version possible of the cheater hummus and the more involved hummus, we'll do a side-by-side taste-test. 

Meanwhile, I wanted to give you this recipe right away as it is very acceptable – way better than the stuff you'd buy in a tub.

Very good indeed with pita toasted or heated in the oven, and crudités. Who says cheaters never prosper?