Hoummous au basilic

Basil hummus

This zesty variation on traditional hummus is easy to make and can be quick if you use canned chickpeas. You will need a couple of bunches of fresh basil to achieve maximum flavor, as well as garlic, tahini, cumin, lemon and, of course, olive oil.

If you decide to start from scratch with dry chickpeas, you will need to begin a day ahead of time, soaking them overnight before boiling them for an hour or two the next day. I’ve used both dry and canned chickpeas for this recipe, and as there is no discernable difference in the result I prefer using the canned variety. It saves a lot of time.

Another question is whether or not to slip the skins off the cooked chickpeas. It makes for a smoother and possibly more digestible dip. The friend who gave me the recipe does it, and I tried it — well, it takes a long time and frankly I’d recommend skipping this step.

A key point about this recipe is that the proportions are variable — if you love tahini, add a bit more. Ditto garlic. If you’d like a bit of bite, add a crushed cayenne pepper.

Serve the hummus as a starter with pita triangles or veggie sticks, or as a sauce over grilled vegetables. You can also include it in a mezze spread alongside, for example, spicy Moroccan carrots, anchovy-garlic dip, eggplant caviar, tangy fava spread, herbal tomato salad, tapenade, or use your imagination. The quantities below will serve 4.

1-3/4 cup canned chickpeas (small can) or 7 ounces (200 g) dry chickpeas
2 tbsp. tahini
4 tbsp. olive oil

1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 dried cayenne pepper, crushed (optional)
2 bunches fresh basil

If beginning with dry chickpeas, soak them overnight in a large amount of water. The next day bring them to a boil and cook until tender, 1-2 hours depending on the freshness of the chickpeas. Drain. Do not add salt at this stage.

If beginning with canned chickpeas, drain them through a colander and rinse well.

Measure out about 1-3/4 cup of chickpeas, retaining any extra for another use.

If you’d like to slip the skins off the chickpeas, do that now.

Transfer the chickpeas to your blender or, if using a hand-held blender, to a bowl.

Next, prepare the tahini — it should be the consistency of heavy cream. If starting with tahini paste, add warm water to thin it out. If starting with prepared tahini, skip this step.

Add 2 tbsp. tahini to the chickpeas. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, the juice of half the lemon, the garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. If using cayenne, add it now. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Rinse the basil and strip the leaves from the stems. Pile the leaves into your blender. Add 3 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. water. Purée until smooth.

Stir the basil purée into the chickpea mixture. Taste and adjust as necessary, adding more lemon juice, tahini or salt as you prefer. If the hummus is too thick, add a little water.

Serve in a small bowl or on a plate, sprinkled with a little olive oil and decorated with basil leaves. Serves 4.

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