Confession time: I do not like beans. I feel that, as someone who loves food, nutrition, and frugality, this is one of the worst, most shocking things I could possibly say, but it’s true. I have never cared for beans (except for beans that are green, and beans that turn into coffee). This has closed off to me a world of foods that other people seem to find delicious: chili, bean dip, certain burritos, countless soups. Being a food person who doesn’t like beans is like being a Christian who doesn’t like contemporary Christian music: you’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but some people will give you weird looks because of it.
Incidentally, I am also a Christian who does not like contemporary Christian music. In high school, my two closest church friends (who are still two of my best friends today) tried valiantly to fix this for me; they gave me CD after CD of every possible style of worship music, but I never made it past track two before going, “Well, that’s enough of that.” (The only album I was ever able to listen to in its entirety, I found out later, loosely mimicked the structure of Anglican liturgy, which was a fun little bit of real-life foreshadowing). I worried about this for a while– what did it say about me if I bought into the message of the music in general, but just couldn’t stomach the stuff? Eventually, I came to the conclusion that preferences are preferences– we’re all free to like and dislike whatever music we choose– and the same goes for food.
But it’s harder for me to stop challenging my aversion to beans. Nutritionally speaking, you’d be hard pressed to get more bang for your buck with any other pantry staple. Aesthetically, there are some really attractive beans out there which look good enough to eat. And furthermore, the idea of a batch of beautiful, heirloom beans simmering away in a pot on the stove just sounds so comforting and quaint that I feel like I’m missing out on one of life’s great pleasures, just because I’m pretty sure that those beautiful, heirloom beans, once cooked, would taste just like every other bean: i.e., like dirt.
So, given this lifelong aversion to beans, you might think it strange that I’m devoting an entire post to hummus, a dip that is made almost entirely of beans (call ’em chickpeas if you like, but they’re still beans to me). Well, friend, that is entirely due to the power of good food writing. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, bloggers everywhere were posting their best game-day food recipes, and this recipe popped up on Foodspin– the food-centric offshoot of the sports blog Deadspin. I’ve never mentioned Foodspin on this blog, because– well, I like to keep things pretty straight-laced around here, and straight-laced Foodspin is not. But the guy who writes most of the content, one Albert Burneko, has wit and intelligence to spare, and amid all the colorful language and playful name-calling, there’s always something that makes me laugh so hard I nearly spit out my coffee. An example:
“On the other hand, if you are worried about additives and preservatives and the like, maybe lighten up a little bit, there, but also, you can use dried chickpeas, ya big fraidycat. Dump, oh, a pound of dried chickpeas into a big bowl, cover them with water so they’re a couple of inches below the surface (so they’ve got room to expand as they soak), then leave ’em overnight. In the morning, or whenever you feel like you’re about two hours away from being ready for some hummus, move the chickpeas to a big pot, cover them with fresh water (again so they’re well submerged), and simmer them for 90 minutes. There. Now they are ready to be made into hummus, which everybody else had yesterday because they used canned chickpeas, but at least now you can be sure that when you eventually grow an arm out of the back of your neck, it won’t be because of canned-chickpea preservatives.”
So, if you feel so inclined, check the link at the bottom of the post, and if you’d rather stick with my family-friendly content, well, that’s why I’m here.
But, as I was saying, the way this blog described the homemade hummus, with whole cloves of garlic and roasted pine nuts and sprinklings of aromatic spices, made my ears perk up. I’ve eaten a good bit of store-bought hummus and found it tolerable, so I thought that if I made my own, it might be the ticket to finally enjoying beans. So I gave it a go.
The first thing I learned was that my mini food chopper is just too mini to handle an entire can of chickpeas, so I had to work in batches.
And I also forgot to reserve some of the liquid from the can, which was supposed to go in later to loosen up the hummus, so I used olive oil instead. (So much for a low-fat snack, I suppose.)
I also bought a jar of tahini specifically for this purpose, and I think it’s the best thing I got out of this whole experience. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it in other kitchen projects. (I also have a giant bag of za’atar that I bought when I only needed a teensy bit, so I think things are about to take a Middle Eastern turn around here.)
It turns out that making hummus is a breeze. The only thing you need to cook is the pine nuts: just a handful in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. If you’re like me, though, you should probably devote your full attention to that task; every time I leave toasting pine nuts unattended, I burn them. It’s worth the five minutes to get it right the first time.
Once your hummus is perfectly smooth and creamy, pour those lovely pine nuts in the middle, and cover the whole thing with a light dusting of cumin and paprika (smoked paprika is particularly nice here, if you have it). And then all you have to do is put out some pita, naan, or– if you want to go low-brow like me– plain Sun Chips, and dig in. An easy, filling, and healthy snack, which will probably last you for several days, took you only about five minutes to prepare.
Of course, I have to tell you that I still thought this hummus tasted like beans, so I can’t exactly say that I loved it. But, the garlic flavor was especially pronounced, fresh lemon juice added a pleasant zing, and the spices on top were a lovely touch, so overall, I’d say it was the best hummus I’ve had. And if you’re a person who likes beans, then I think you will love it. So there you have it.
Garlic and Pine Nut Hummus
adapted from Foodspin
1 can chickpeas, drained
juice from 1 lemon
2 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup pine nuts
paprika (preferably smoked, but regular is fine)
In a food processor or chopper, combine drained chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic cloves, and tahini. (You may need to work in batches if your chopper is small.) Blend until solids are broken down and mixture is mostly smooth.
Add olive oil, a drizzle at a time, and blend until the hummus reaches your desired consistency, tasting often to check and adjust flavors, if necessary. Add salt to taste, and scoop hummus into a bowl. Using a spoon, make a small well in the center of the hummus.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan often, until they are fragrant and golden brown. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the pine nuts, and pour them into the well in the hummus. Sprinkle the hummus with pinches of cumin and paprika.