Really delicious hummus is hard to come by. Mediocre hummus seems to be everywhere, taking up grocery store refrigerators and lounging in vegetable platters at barbecues and potlucks. The problem with most hummus dips is that they tend to be too thick and taste a bit tinny. One solution to this "tinny" problem is to cook your own chickpeas rather than rely on the canned version. If you have the time to cook your own chickpeas from the dried bean, it makes a world of difference. Every few weeks, I cook a large potful of chickpeas. I drain them, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and then pour them into a freezer bag for easy scooping into recipes. To thaw, I just pour hot water over them and let them sit for a few minutes. This method is even easier than using the canned version once you get used to it.
The canned chickpea problem solved, the other problem is often the texture of the hummus is way too dense. I like a smooth, pillowy hummus, almost fluffy. I find that a generous amount of tahini whipped into hummus can help achieve this fluffiness while adding a rich flavor. Yotam Ottolenghi's homemade hummus, one of my favorites, for example, has just under 1/4 cup of tahini per 1 cup of chickpeas. My favorite hummus here in Philadelphia is Michael Solomnov's hummus. He even has a whole restaurant devoted to hummus, called Dizengoff. I have a feeling that the ratio of tahini to chickpeas in his version is fairly high as well since it taste prominently of sesame.
This magical version has a surprise ingredient that gives this hummus a luscious texture that does not sacrifice on flavor. It takes a few notes from a hummus that appears on the amazing Food52 website in their Genius Recipes column. It was inspired by a recipe from Tara Duggan who wrote Root to Stalk Cooking and draws from other recipes like babaganoush and roasted red pepper spread that use softened vegetables as their base.
The original recipe calls for no chickpeas- just Swiss chard stems, garlic, olive oil, tahini, salt, and lemon juice, but I think that chickpeas are a must if you are going to call it hummus. I also like the extra bulk and protein they provide. And again, if you manage to cook your own chickpeas, even better. I also add lemon zest and an extra garlic clove because I like the zing they both give. I love that I have a new use for my chard stems- not just in pickled form!
1 pound Swiss chard stalks, washed and chopped (I used rainbow chard)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
2 small garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the chopped chard stems, and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat or until chard stems are very tender. Remove from heat and drain.
In a food processor, combine chard stems and remaining ingredients. Process until smooth consistency is reached. Add more salt as necessary. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil before serving. Enjoy! Makes a little over 1 cup.