carrots

If you have ever dined Chez Githens, then you know that one appetizer reigns above them all in our kitchen: King Hummus.

Our hummus habit developed in those early post-college years when cooking dinner for friends still felt like playing house. I quickly discovered the problem with hospitality is that it requires another habit—advance planning.

If you’re running an hour (or, gulp, two hours) late with dinner, the least you can do is provide your guests with nibbles to take the edge off. Better yet, if you can whiz the Cuisinart and toss hummus in a bowl with a few crudités on a platter before they walk through the door, it even gives the semblance that you have your act together. Ha.

hummus and veggies

garbanzo beans

The other advantage to whipping up your own hummus is the price. A small tub of store-bought hummus easily goes for $5. Your own? Much less. The priciest item is the jar of tahini, which lasts for many batches. The other items—lemon, canned or dried garbanzo beans, hot sauce, garlic—are quite economical. Homemade hummus can be tweaked to your preferences. Like it chunky? Go easy on the food processor. Silky smooth? Add more liquid and blend away. Spicy? More Tabasco. Enough garlic to ward off the Twilight trilogy? Add a few cloves. You get the idea.

As a work snack, hummus is somewhat more fraught because of the garlic. You might consider decreasing, rather than increasing, the number of cloves if you have a meeting or important interview. But otherwise I can find few faults in this ancient Middle Eastern dip.

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, have been cultivated for some 6,000 years in the Middle East. Which country first invented hummus is apparently quite a point of debate between Lebanon, Israel, and their neighbors. (For more background on hummus, I defer to NPR.)

Our go-to recipe by Ina Garten calls for two cups of canned chickpeas. Typically I empty the can without measuring—but this time I checked and realized that a can is bit shy of two cups. No biggie. If you decide to go with dried chickpeas, you’ll need to plan ahead. They take at least four hours for soaking, better yet overnight, and another three hours for cooking.

Try topping hummus with these variations: smoked paprika | roasted red peppers | toasted pine nuts | parsley

homemade hummus

Hummus

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

4 garlic cloves

2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas

8 dashes hot sauce

Turn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it’s minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.