Servings 6 cups
Although hummus is traditionally eaten with warm pita bread, the Middle Eastern dip is just as delicious with raw veggies or slathered on sandwiches. Sure, you can buy tubs of hummus at any grocery store, but the fresh flavor of homemade hummus beats any of the store-bought stuff hands-down. It takes just a few minutes to whip up, costs a fraction of the price, and you can make it just how you like it -- chunky or smooth, heavy on the garlic or heavy on the lemon juice. You can also get creative and add other flavors or spices: sun-dried tomatoes, olives, fresh herbs, curry powder, hot sauce, you name it.  Usually hummus is served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika, but when I took over the stoves at Besaw’s Café in Portland, Ore., the hummus was served with a spoonful of sambal oelek chili paste. It adds a touch of spice that keeps things interesting, and I've been serving it that way ever since.
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  • 2 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), (Love Note 1) drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
  • tsp salt
  • 1⅓ cups tahini (sesame paste) stirred well
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (spicy chili paste) optional (Love Note 2)
  • 4 kalamata or other black olives optional
  • Warmed pita bread or pita chips (Love Note 3), or cut raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, zucchini and celery


  • Place the garbanzo beans, water, garlic, lemon juice, salt, tahini and cumin in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender. Process until smooth, at least 3 minutes. You may have to stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Or place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and purée with an immersion blender.
  • Taste and add additional salt or lemon juice if desired.
  • To serve, spoon the hummus onto individual plates or onto a medium-sized dinner plate, spreading it in an even layer to the rim.  Place chili paste in the center of the hummus and top with the olives, if using.  Arrange pita wedges or vegetables around the plate.
  • Hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days.  For best flavor, remove it at least 30 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. 


Love Notes

1. I am definitely the kind of cook who loves to do everything from scratch, but I draw the line at cooking dry garbanzo beans.  You could start with dry garbanzos, soak them overnight and then cook them for three to four hours, but it just doesn’t seem worth it for this dish.  It’s so much easier when you start with the canned beans, and no one (even you) will notice the difference. I do like to rinse the beans, though, to get rid of that “tinny” taste. 
2. There are all sorts of spicy condiments on the market, but my favorite for hummus is the bright red chili sauce called sambal oelek. The chunky condiment comes from Indonesia but it’s used all over Southeast Asia. It gets its spicy-sour taste from ground chilies, vinegar and garlic. Sambal olek has many uses, and once you have it in your kitchen, you’ll find yourself adding it to noodle soups, stir-fries, vegetable dishes … even mayonnaise.
3. Cold pita bread right out of the package just isn't that appetizing, but a quick stint in the oven warms it up, softens the texture and releases its toasty flavors. To do this, preheat the oven to 350°F and wrap the pita bread in foil to keep it from drying out. Place it on the middle rack of the oven for about five minutes or until warmed through.  (If you’re going to keep an eye on the pita, don’t bother to wrap them in foil.  Check after three minutes and if they are almost too hot to handle, they are warm enough.)  Remove from the oven, cut into eight wedges (a pizza cutter works well for this) and arrange them around the hummus on the plate.
We’ve tested all kinds of pita and found that the best one for dips is usually the Greek kind.  Unless you need a pocket to stuff for sandwiches, this fluffy, tasty pita is a perfect accompaniment to hummus and other dips. If you want to turn pita bread into delicate, fresh-baked chips, buy the pocket kind and cut the bread into wedges, splitting the two layers so the chips will be thin.  Toss them on a baking sheet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (or other herbs and spices such as garlic salt, paprika, oregano…whatever you like). Spread the triangles out and bake at 350°F for three to five minutes until golden brown and crisp.
4.  If you like to snack, meze platters are right up your alley. It’s the Greek version of an antipasti platter.  The selection of Greek nibbles typically features hummus, baba ganouj, pita wedges, stuffed grape leaves, some little savory pastries like spanakopita, plus some olives and little chunks of feta cheese. It's a great appetizer, but if you beef up the portions and add a Greek salad you have a refreshingly informal dinner.