Legume for Improvement


    Hummus is humongous in the United States and demand, like the acres devoted to chickpea plants, is growing quickly.

    How popular has hummus become in the United States? So much so that farmers in the heart of tobacco country are giving up their traditional cash crop to grow … chickpeas.

    According to an article in the April 30, 2013 Wall Street Journal, Sabra Dipping Co., which produces its hummus at a plant in Richmond, Va., has been pushing area farmers to embrace the legume so that the company is less reliant on yields from the Pacific Northwest, where the bulk of the nation's chickpea crop is harvested. The nation's chickpea crop increased by 52 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the paper.

    The rapidly spreading popularity of hummus may be news to some, but Philadelphians have long been gonzo for the garbanzo puree. Some of the best packaged renditions in the country, like Bobbi's and Helen's, is made right here. We even have a restaurant mini-chain named Hummus, for Pea's sake. And, of course, we can lay claim to being the home of the most lauded bowl of tahini-swirled hummus in recent memory — Old City's Zahav.

    If you haven’t yet been to Zahav — get there! The menu description reads “with butter & grilled garlic, served warm.” The oh-so-creamy texture and mild, nutty flavor makes this dish superior to any other hummus in the city. If you don't have the time or money to splurge for a full Zahav experience, you can at least get your hummus fix at local food stores like Green Aisle Grocery at 1618 East Passyunk. A half-pint container costs $4.75.

    Zahav owner and chef Michael Solomonov’s hummus recipe (found below) is also yours to try at home. Just make sure to have plenty of warm pita and friends to share in the bounty!

    Pass the pita,

    The Bubbi Project

    Additional reporting by Greg Salisbury

    Zahav Hummus-Masbacha (courtesy of Chef Michael Solomonov)

    (Serves 6)


    1 lb. dry chickpeas

    1 tbsp. baking soda

    1 whole head of garlic with the skin on, plus one clove with the germ removed

    Approximately 4 oz. of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

    1 lb. unhulled sesame paste

    4 oz. grape seed oil

    6 oz. extra virgin olive oil (preferably from Turkey or Israel)

    1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

    Ground cumin

    Kosher salt

    Preparing the Hummus-Masbacha:

    To make the hummus, cover the chickpeas and baking soda with at least double their volume of water and soak, refrigerated, for 18 hours. Drain the chickpeas and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place the chickpeas in a large pot with the whole head of garlic and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the chickpeas over low heat for approximately three hours, or until very tender. Drain the chickpeas, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid and one cup of whole chickpeas. Discard the garlic bulb. In the bowl of a food processor, add 12 ounces of the sesame paste and the cooked chickpeas. Puree the mixture with the grape seed oil and two ounces of lemon juice, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Season to taste with kosher salt and ground cumin.

    To make the tehina, combine the remaining lemon juice and sesame paste with the garlic clove and ½ cup of warm water in a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth and add 4 ounces of olive oil. If the puree is too tight, adjust the consistency with additional warm water. Season to taste with kosher salt and ground cumin.

    To serve, spoon the hummus into a large shallow bowl. Using the back of a spoon, push the hummus to the edges of the bowl to create a well in the center. In a mixing bowl, toss the reserved chickpeas with the tehina sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon the dressed chickpeas into the well in the center of the hummus. Garnish the hummus with the chopped parsley and remaining olive oil. Serve immediately.