I love potlucks. For as long as I have lived in New York City, my social life has revolved around potlucks with friends and strangers. I’ve always looked forward to these events to meet new people, try new food, and share recipes. This summer our CSA hosted its first community potluck, and I was happy to contribute a hummus. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this recipe since I found the basic model for it on Inspired Taste, but I think I’ve gone a step beyond and made it mine.
Preparing a good hummus breaks down into a few steps. A base, a flavor, and then chick peas. The first and last steps are consistent, and in the second step you get to experiment with flavors to your taste.
1) The base:
- ½ cup tahini
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 small onion
- a lot of garlic (5-6 cloves, or more)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ras el hanout (you can get this at a spice shop or Middle Eastern grocery, or substitute more cumin if you can’t find it)
- 1.5 ounces olive oil
You’ll start out by blending these all together. Before you add any special flavors, put all of these in a blender and mix it until it is very smooth.
2) The flavor:
Here, you are going to choose your special flavor. Some that I’ve tried
- 2 jalapeños
- 1 oven-roasted red pepper
- 3 leaves of kale and a few roasted carrots
- 1 handful of pitted kalamata olives
My classic is jalapeño. Two peppers are usually good for a spicy kick that won’t overwhelm people.
Blend your flavor into the base and taste it. This is how your hummus is going to taste, so if it needs anything like more salt, add it now. If it’s too thick, add a little more lemon juice, or olive oil, or a chunk of onion.
3) Chick Peas
Wash and drain the chick peas. Set up a bowl, and shell all of the chick pea–this is the difference between a good and a great result! Stir them in and blend until it is super smooth. If it doesn’t flow when it blends, add some lemon juice and olive oil to thin it.
A good hummus has an evolving flavor. It develops and builds over a few seconds, shifting and emphasizing the ingredients. When you taste test after Step 2, you’ll get hit with all the flavor at once. Flavors come in a certain order, rising and falling. When you add the chick peas, it puts the taste in slow motion.
A great hummus will make you want to eat more. Ending with a spicy heat makes you go back for another bite, and you fall into this loop of enjoying the flavors. And that’s what is at the heart of a potluck: a community table that keeps people gathered around, trying and sharing each other’s contributions, staying and talking a little bit longer.