Chosen Bites: Humous, pure and simple

While there are a number of different ways to make Israel's favorite dip, sometimes the simplest is the best.

Plate of humous (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Plate of humous
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
As a professional chef I like to play around with recipes, tweaking and fussing, reshaping and designing all in an effort to modernize and recreate a classic.
I rarely view recipes as a basic suggestion or just “words on paper,” begging to be re-imagined. I have been working in and running kitchens for a long time and feel as though it's my right to fiddle. Nothing is sacred, and it's a big free for all except when it comes to humous.
I love humous and make, from scratch, upwards of 100 pounds a week. I have soaked and slogged my way through thousands of pounds of chick peas and tons of tubs of tahini. I've toasted more than my share of cumin seeds and freshly juiced a gazillion lemons all in an effort to make the best “butter of the Middle East." 
I probably produce more “chip and dip” platters than any woman in the tri-state region, or maybe east of the Mississippi.
I make my dip with pride and never skimp. I don't go the canned chick pea route and would never cheat the flavor with anything less than tasty extra virgin olive oil.
I have taught non-Jewish catering sales people to properly say the word and never to say "Hum-iss." New cooks in my kitchen are quickly indoctrinated into the kitchen culture with several tasks including the sacred task of making the humous under my watchful eye and overly sensitive palate.
At home, I make much smaller batches of humous and take the same care and pride in preparation. Recently, I stopped to look at the small open cooler at the end of an aisle, at the upscale grocery store near my home. Usually I just breeze by the cooler, but for some reason the case jam packed full of the flavored dip caught my eye. I was mystified by the concocted varieties of humous. I practically laughed out loud at some of the flavors.
A million questions came to mind, the major one being, Who buys their humous with basil in it? Or with horseradish? Really?
I think people feel  they can mess around with humous because it's simple and they regard it as a blank slate, just waiting for embellishment.
Sometimes remakes are a good thing. Like movies and songs redone with a new vibe and beat. That's fun and cool.  But I am staunchly conservative when it comes to my humous. I like it the way it was intended.
A fellow chef recently called me to ask for some tips on making Fava Bean Humous. I was completely caught off guard. Humous made without chick peas? Is that even possible? Would that not just be a Puree, I suggested to my colleague? Well, yes, but humous just sounds better on the menu, he confessed, and especially with lamb. I gulped back my sarcastic response and gave my best “words on paper” advice and then hung up.
Best Humous with Spicy Lamb Tidbits and Fresh Fava Beans, on the side
I never garnish my humous with paprika. Instead, I prefer to add a lemony tang with the attractive addition of Sumac. Ground Sumac is made from the fruit of the Sumac tree, where it is dried and ground into a lemony-fragrant powder.
1/2 pound dried chickpeas 7 large garlic cloves, unpeeled 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 teaspoon toasted ground cumin, 1/2 cup tahini, at room temperature 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Kosher Salt
Suggested garnishes: Extra virgin olive oil, za’atar, sumac and fresh chopped parsley
1. In a medium bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and refrigerate overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.
2. In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the chickpeas are very tender, about 50 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the hot cooking water. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water.
3. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with the reserved cooking water, olive oil and garlic cloves. Add the cumin, tahini and lemon juice and process until creamy. Season the humous with salt and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar, sumac and fresh chopped parsley and Spicy Lamb tidbits and fresh Fava Beans (see recipes below)
Spicy Lamb Tidbits
1 pound ground lamb3 tablespoons grated onion4 garlic cloves, freshly grated on a microplane1 tablespoon or more favorite hot sauce¼ cup chopped fresh mint¼ cup chopped fresh parsleyKosher saltFreshly cracked pepperExtra virgin olive oil
1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Lightly grease a medium sauté pan and heat it over medium heat. Add the lamb into pan and cook, occasionally breaking up the clumps, until the lamb is cooked through (about 5 minutes).
3. Serve the lamb with humous, as a side!
Fresh Fava Beans with Mint
One of the first signs of spring, Fava beans are a delicious side and addition to my best humous, as a side!
3 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled¼ cup chopped fresh mintExtra virgin olive oilKosher salt Freshly cracked pepper
1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Plunge the cooked fava beans into ice water to stop the cooking process.
3. Dry the beans and toss with olive oil, mint and salt and pepper to taste.