Hummus & Homemade Pita

Hummus & Homemade Pita

 

Hummus with Pita, as popular as pizza, is savored by devotees around the world, and for good reason. The zesty lemony puree of chickpeas and tahini is as irresistibly delicious as it is addictive.

I am sure you are wondering why I am even writing about this seemingly overdone spread that is available in delis, supermarkets, whole foods shops, and restaurants around the world. Well, because making your own at home can be infinity fresher and better. An all time favorite of mine, bar none!

Like all ethnic foods, hummus has its own story. In Arabic, hummus bi tahini translates, obviously enough, as chickpea tahini puree. Hummus puree eaten cold, as opposed to earlier cooked chickpea preparations, appeared around 500 CE in the western Mediterranean; Anatolia to the north, the Arabian desert to the south, and Mesopotamia to the east. Every region claims its hummus as their own, of course, and that alone attests to the passion surrounding this delectable regional puree’s indelible mystique.

Rich in iron, vitamins B6 and C, and amino acids also makes a case for whipping up fresh hummus on a regular basis at home. Wonderful eaten with pita as a meze, served with grilled meats and fish, or swirled into vegetarian dishes makes this a deliciously healthy choice with benefits.

The hummus recipe that follows is my own adaptation, but follows the essential ingredients considered indigenous to the regions of origin.

I have also included a homemade pita recipe adapted from a recipe by David Tanis for the NY Times, which works beautifully. It’s not often that you can say baking is actually exciting, but when the pita promptly puffs up in the oven before your very eyes it is truly…kitchen magic. You will never buy store bought pita again, I promise you.

 

Hummus    makes about 1 ½ cups

  • 5 tablespoons tahini
    3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
    1/2  teaspoon flaked sea salt (Maldon or kosher) + more to taste
    zest of one lemon
    4 to 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and for garnish
    ½ cup liquid from chickpeas, reserved (home cooked or canned) or cold water
    9 0z/225 g drained chickpeas (home cooked or canned) reserving several tablespoons whole chickpeas for garnish
    1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground
    ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
    extra virgin olive oil
    fresh lemon juice
    paprika; sweet, hot, or smoked

Place the tahini, garlic, sea salt, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is emulsified, a little fluffy, and lightened in color a bit.

Add the chickpeas (minus those reserved for garnish) and process until the mixture is smooth. Begin adding the reserved chickpea liquid or cold water until the puree thins to a desired consistency. Ideally, the hummus should be either thick and spreadable or thinner and silky smooth to use as a sauce.

Add the ground cumin seeds and ground black pepper and pulse until just incorporated. Taste and add additional salt and lemon juice to taste and pulse to incorporate.

Transfer the hummus to a bowl and stir in a tablespoon lemon zest (or more to taste) by hand. At this point you can cover the hummus with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready to serve, or for up to 4 days for later use.

Serving:
Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl and make a shallow well in the center. Place the reserved whole chickpeas in the well and generously drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice. Dust the perimeter of the hummus with paprika and serve with warm pita.

 

Homemade Pita    makes 8 six inch pitas

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
    ½ teaspoon sugar
    ¼ cup/35 g whole-wheat flour
    2 ½ cups/310 g unbleached all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon flaked sea salt (Maldon or kosher)
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To make the sponge: Place 1 cup of lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the whole wheat flour and ¼ cup all-purpose flour and whisk together. Put the bowl in a warm place, uncovered, until the mixture is a little frothy and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the salt, olive oil, and most of the remaining all-purpose flour, reserving about ½ cup for dusting the dough and work surface. Using chopsticks, stir the mixture until the dough just comes together in a shaggy mass. Dust with a little flour and begin to knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so until the bits of dough and the extra flour is incorporated.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes until soft and pliable. Cover with a kitchen towel for 10 minutes, and then knead again for a couple of minutes using as little dusting flour as possible so the dough remains soft and moist.

At this point the dough can be placed in a ziploc bag and refrigerated for later use, being sure to bring the dough back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Place the dough in a clean bowl. Tightly seal the bowl with clingfilm, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven to as hot as you can get it for 30 minutes with a ceramic pizza stone, cast iron skillet, or heavy baking tray placed on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Punch the dough down on a lightly dusted work surface and divide into 8 pieces of equal size. Gently form each piece into a ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel for 10 minutes.

Working with one ball at a time, with the remaining balls still covered, gently flatten the ball with the palm of your hand on a lightly dusted work surface, or a pizza peel is ideal if you have one. Gently flatten the disk using a rolling pin into a 6 inch circle, and then to an 8 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. A dough scraper is handy to release any sticking points before transferring the dough circle onto the hot baking stone, skillet, or tray.

Pita making

Pita making

This is where the fun begins!

Bake for 2 minutes until the pita puffs up and then flip the pita using tongs and bake about another minute. The pita should be just slightly colored. Transfer promptly to a napkin lined basket and cover to keep warm while you continue to bake the remaining pita.

This all happens very quickly, but you will find you have just enough time to roll out the next pita while the previous pita is baking.

Voila! Homemade pita. Amazing.

If you have leftover pita, once cool, place them in a ziploc bag and refrigerate. To reheat, wrap in a kitchen towel and place in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes.

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