Homemade Hummus

Certain dishes hold an almost legendary status. Everyone probably has a different one that their grandmother, friend, or family member makes. They’ve shared their recipe with you, and yet, your attempts at recreating the original never quite turn out like they should. For me, this recipe has been hummus.

A few years ago, my dad got hummus down to an art. I’d only had restaurant and store-bought versions until he decided he was going to find out the secret behind great hummus. He found it – garlic, and it didn’t take long for us all to start chopping up carrot sticks and pita bread to enjoy it with. Soon, everyone was asking him to make up a batch for parties, bring some over as an appetizer, etc. He even bought a bulk package of these cute little disposable containers to put the hummus in he was giving so much away. And with it, he included the simple recipe on a yellow post-it note each time.

But it didn’t seem to make any difference. I tried to make it on my own, but it never turned out the same. Instead, I’d go over to visit and wait around until he suggested making some for me to take home.

Usually, this method sufficed, but with my dad on vacation, I couldn’t wait any longer for my hummus. I had to give it one last shot. This time, I followed the recipe like I thought I had before. And to my surprise it came out great!

I realized what had been happening in all those other attempts: I’d balked at the sheer volume of garlic in the recipe, and made my own modifications without really realizing it. This time, I squeezed the cloves of fresh garlic through the garlic press one at a time, and threw them all in. (I was desperate for some good hummus!)

The surprise result? It turned out just like dad’s famous hummus. He always swore that the secret was the garlic, but I think I was holding back, afraid of overdoing it. The garlic is needed to add some bite to the earthy flavor of the garbanzo beans and tahini (a paste of ground sesame seeds, available at Mediterranean food markets). And the addition of the sumac (another Mediterranean spice) gives it a rich, authentic flavor.

I got out some crunchy pita chips to enjoy the result: smiles served up with some serious garlic breath.

Dad’s famous hummus

print recipe

  • 16 oz can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1/4 teaspoon sumac
  1. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans in a colander.
  2. Use a garlic press to crush the garlic cloves.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Reflections From the Plate

It’s been a little over four months since I started writing Our Life in Meals, and it’s begun to take on a life of its own. Initially I thought I would write about the dishes my husband Jan cooked while I sipped wine and took notes. But I wasn’t sitting on the sidelines long before I felt a strong desire to participate. Now I’m doing brazen things like picking and choosing which recipe steps to ignore and demanding more than a two foot wide space of kitchen countertop. Gutsy, I know. Continue reading

All Problems Solved with a Bit of Fried Cheese

Smažený sýr (I attempt to pronounce it like the Czechs as smah-jeh-knee seer) is a dish that Jan and I ate every day that we were in the Czech Republic. This probably doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that it is basically a steak-sized portion of breaded and deep-fried cheese, often served with french fries, braised cabbage, and a tartar-type sauce. I had never experienced this cheesy goodness until visiting the Czech Republic, and it didn’t sound appealing to me when Jan described it to me beforehand. But, it was so amazing, whenever we sat down at a restaurant to eat there, that had to be one of the dishes we ordered.

Upon our return, Jan assured me that we were safe from continuing our overindulgence in smažený sýr at home, since he’d tried multiple times to make it and it never turned out right.

Well, we were safe for a while. Some time later we ate at San Francisco’s Cafe Prague, and Jan got to talking to one of the chefs there. The two began speaking in Czech so rapidly that I couldn’t even pick out the five Czech words I knew (which include the essentials: beer, ice cream, good, bad, and cheese = syr). Later, Jan reported to me the most important part of their conversation: the secret to making smažený sýr, or fried cheese. Continue reading