Humus Wars

Humus, correctly pronounced khoo’ moos, is serious business here in Israel. So much so that it’s even sparked minor wars. The Arabs accuse the Jews of culturally misappropriation of the thick, creamy chickpea paste served at every meal. Men heatedly discuss the absolute best, hands-down humusia (restaurant specializing in only humus pronounced khoo moo see’ yah)) to the point of loud, irrational arguments. I’ve actually seen this numerous times. And in January a local Galilee village incurred mass riots with fireworks and stones being lobbed (one fatality) in a Hatfield-McCoy style fight between rivaling factions. The cause of the dispute that got way out of hand? Which local tribe made the best humus. Go figure. Never say your uncle makes better humus that someone else in an Arab village –

Some say humus originated in the Holy Land in Biblical Times. Others, that it came from Egypt. Arabs claim it is a true “Palestinian food,” while many claim it was brought along with the dried chickpeas from Jewish refugees fleeing the hostile Arab lands in 1948. Either way, it’s one of our beloved national foods.

Depending on your personal preference, humus is made and served many different ways, but always made with the basic ingredients of rehydrated chickpeas, lemon juice, tehine (sesame paste) and water. Some swear by chunky humus – I like mine smooth. Some enjoy it hot – I like mine cold or at room temperature, with a splash of olive oil and a spattering of the spice zata’ar.

Depending upon the humusia, you can order humus with chickpea balls, ful mudammes (favs beans), hard boiled egg, or shakshuka style – hot with eggs cracked on top which gently cook in the paste. It is not uncommon to have your hummus served with chopped picklim (pickles) or served with a raw onion – I love this!!!!

Arab restaurants, not of the Kosher variety, serve chopped lamb and other meats on top. Jewish humusias are typically pareve, neither serving meat nor dairy. There, expect to find falafel (fried chick pea balls) served on the side. It always comes with fluffy pita bread- think biting into a cloud.

Traditionally, humus can be served before the main meal in small dishes as part of a larger mezze platter with a bazillion different salads and a basket of pita. It always shocks first-timers. The endless salads (eggplant a million ways; chopped veggies; pickled everything; tabbouleh; tehine; humus; and more) keep coming until the little dishes fill the entire table. Don’t be fooled! Don’t fill up! You haven’t even ordered your entrees yet!!!! Or humus can be served by itself in a huge bowl, cratered in the center and filled with olive oil and your above-stated accompaniment, sprinkled with zata’ar or fresh chopped parsley, chopped garlic or paprika. With your pita, veg and raw onion to scoop it up, it makes for a protein-packed, very filling, cheap and satisfying meal. Add a glass of tea or limonanna (minted lemonade) and your day is made.

In the summer, my go-to breakfast every morning is a finely chopped cucumber, chopped hard boiled egg and a serving spoon of humus all mixed together. Very rarely do I go through the effort to make my own, as humus is one of the few pre-made foods (some ‘salads, i.e. eggplant and mayo; cabbage and mayo) that can be found in every store… and it’s delicious.

However, there are a couple really good recipes I’ve tried and my own riff on the tradition. So, here goes:

YOTAM OTTOLENGHI BASIC HUMUS (serves 6, pareve)

  • 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup & 2 Tbsp tehine paste
  • 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 1/2 Tbsp ice cold water
  • Salt

Soak dried peas in a large bowl of boiling hot water to cover. Let sit overnight until size doubles.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place medium large pot on high heat with drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a full boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and skins that float to surface. The peas should cook between 20-40 minutes, maybe longer, depending on type. They should be very soft and tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, but not be mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have about 3-4 cups. Place in a food processor or blender until you get a thick paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tehine, lemon juice, garlic & 1 1/2 tsp salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth paste.

Transfer the humus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes before serving.

Tamar’s Quick and Easy Humus (pareve)

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup tehine
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • Salt, pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Drain 1 can and 1/2 can chickpeas. Pour peas and 1/2 can liquid into large bowl. Add lemon juice and blend with immersion blender until smooth. Add tehine and garlic. Blend until creamy. Can add up to 2 Tbsp oil to create a creamier, smoother texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn out into serving bowl and top with extra olive oil and any of the toppings in blogpost above.

TAMAR’S WHITE BEAN HUMUS (pareve)

  • 1 can white/capellini beans
  • Handful (1/3 cup) fresh basil leaves
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
  • Salt & pepper

Drain beans. Blend with remaining ingredients until creamy and smooth. Turn into serving bowl and garnish with roasted sesame seeds or roasted crushed garlic pieces. That simple. Quite easy and delicious with crusty rustic bread. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s