A Harte Appetite: Hummus

Jul 19, 2021

As famed Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi tells it, Abu Shukri has always been considered one of the best hummus restaurants in Israel.  One day another place, run by the son-in-law of the original owner, opened across the street sporting a sign that read, “We moved here.  This is the real Abu Shukri.”

The next day, the old restaurant hung out a sign which read, “We didn’t move anywhere.  This is the real Abu Shukri.  Shortly thereafter the upstart eatery erected a large banner reading, “The real, one and only, original Abu Shukri.”  The rivalry continued for years.

The incident underscores the fact that tension in the Middle East is not limited to political matters.  Indeed, the so-called Hummus Wars may very well be the most intractable disputes in the region.    As filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld observes, “Hummus is a Middle Eastern food claimed by all and owned by none.”

The origin of hummus is something of a mystery.  Some antique cookbooks suggest it was invented in the 12h century for the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria. The name itself derives from the Arabic word for chickpeas, the major ingredient of hummus and one of the earliest of cultivated legumes, grown, according to some accounts, in the Gardens of Babylon.

Though its origins are ancient, it’s only in the last twenty years or so that hummus has become popular in this country.  Heretofore, if you didn’t go through a “hippie” phase or have a parent who did, you probably never heard of it.  Today, however, twenty-five percent of American homes routinely keep the spread in the refrigerator.

Truly, the planet would be a whole lot better off if everybody followed documentarian Trevor Graham’s injunction to make hummus, not war. 

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Hummus and Variations

Try this homemade version of hummus or its variations, adapted from budgetbytes.com, and you’ll never go back to store bought.

15 ounce can chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup tahini
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin

Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid, and place in food processor along with remaining ingredients.  Pulse until mixture is relatively smooth.  If too dry, add up to 4 tablespoons chickpea liquid. 

Carrot Hummus:  drizzle two pounds baby carrots with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with two teaspoons cumin and 1 teaspoon salt and roast at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until soft but not dark.  Add to basic hummus and process adding additional olive oil as necessary until smooth.  Chill before serving.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:  add two well drained jarred roasted red peppers and a dash of smoked paprika to basic hummus and process adding additional olive oil as necessary until smooth.

Jalapeno Cilantro Hummus:  stem a jalapeno pepper, slice lengthwise, and scrape out seeds.  Add to basic hummus and process adding additional olive oil as necessary until smooth.

Pumpkin Hummus:  prepare basic hummus substituting cinnamon for cumin.  Add one cup pumpkin puree and process adding additional olive oil as necessary until smooth.

Bacon Hummus:  cook four slices bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving one tablespoon drippings.  Crumble bacon and add to basic hummus along with drippings and two tablespoons green onions.  Process adding additional olive oil as necessary until smooth.