I realized after a few months of searching that the only way I was going to find good hummus was to make it. After all, how hard could it be? It's just ground up chickpeas with a little garlic, tahini, and lemon, right?
Well, having just spent most of an entire weekend locating the key ingredients and making a smallish batch of hummus, I can say: pretty hard. Initially I asked my sister for a recipe for hummus. She asked a Lebanese friend from work for a recipe and got one that called for canned chickpeas, which I was unable to find at the local grocery store. However, once I figured out the German word for chickpeas -- "Kichererbsen" -- I was able to find dried chickpeas at the local grocery store.
I googled "making hummus with dried chickpeas" and found a multitude of fascinating (really) blogs devoted to hummus. I had no idea there were so many devoted hummus fans! Or that the experts prefer hummus made from dried chickpeas to hummus made from canned. I thought my craving for decent hummus was kind of unusual (okay, weird). But now I feel like I have found my people. Interestingly, there's a bit of a debate over whether hummus originated in the Middle Eastern countries or Israel. I have to say that I don't really care; all I know is that it's delicious.
Living in Michigan I know of a lot of restaurants that serve tasty hummus, but my favorite so far is probably the hummus at La Shish* in Auburn Hills. My favorite hummus ever (so far) is the hummus from Andie's Lebanese restaurant on Clark Street in Andersonville on the north side of Chicago. Not only the flavor but the presentation is particularly appealing at Andie's.
My hummus experiment went reasonably well, given that every single recipe called for using a blender or food processor, neither of which I own. I think it may be worth getting one just for making hummus with, however.
Based on my reading online, the consensus seemed to be that the best tahini sauce is Israeli ("Yonah" and "Karawan" were both mentioned frequently), but a Middle-Eastern tahini called "Al-Wadi" came in a close second. (My poll was not even remotely scientific, so I will be the first to admit that it's possible that had more of the hummus blogs I perused been Middle-Eastern the consensus would have been that Lebanese tahini is the best.) Unfortunately, the only tahini paste I could find locally was at a Turkish grocery store in Frankfurt. Not only is Turkish tahini not as white as it should be but more grey (I have to say I am not generally a fan of grey food), but it was described by many hummus bloggers as "not worth mentioning." Ouch.
Nevertheless, my 5-year-old son wiped the bowl clean with the grilled pita bread. He also helped me peel (aka "decorticate") the boiled chickpeas, which we both thought was fun at first but which eventually turned into a chore. If I could only find some decent whole grain pita bread I would be a happy girl. And next time, I'm going to use a blender.
After doing some brief research, here is my favorite blog (so far!) which is devoted entirely to hummus:
If you can read Hebrew, there's a version that's probably even better:
Also interesting was this blog:
which I especially appreciated for its photographs of exotic fruits, like this one:
I also enjoyed inmolaraan's blogroll, for example "Peanut Butter and Purple Onions." Check it out if you love imagining (if not actually trying) strange combinations of food.
*Edited to note that, sadly, La Shish in Auburn Hills is no more. Apparently the owner was a bit of a crook, or at least, that is the impression one leaves when one is being investigated for money laundering and then suddenly leaves the country, leaving one's employees high and dry. We were in the US recently for a visit and my craving for La Shish hummus had to go unrelieved. I did find time to grab a kafta kebab sandwich from the Shish Kebab Express on Telegraph in Southfield though, and oh man, was it good.