From Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com:
Hummus, the puree of chickpeas, tahini and garlic, is one of my favorite bagged lunches: Toss in some carrot sticks and a few triangles of pita, and I’ve got a vegetarian lunch that’s pretty high in protein, not too high in fat and definitely cheap.
Thanks to good Mideastern restaurants, I’ve gotten hooked on better hummus, though. The creamy, smooth kind that many restaurants produce is better than the cheaper prepared versions of hummus in most supermarkets. It’s also labor-intensive: The trick to really smooth hummus involves the fussy steps of soaking, cooking and then peeling chickpeas. On a weeknight? No way.
Cleaning out some recipe clippings recently, I stumbled on a trick from America’s Test Kitchen, the publishers of Cook’s Illustrated and Cooks Country magazines. They figured out a way to use the alkaline in baking soda as a shortcut to get the skins off canned chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). It makes much creamier hummus with less work – and a canned-beans price.
DRAIN and reserve the canning liquid from the chickpeas, then empty the chickpeas into a sieve, rinse well and shake to remove excess water. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and add the baking soda. Toss to mix well. Microwave 2 to 3 minutes, until hot.
POUR into a large mixing bowl and wash with 3 to 4 changes of cold water, swishing the chickpeas vigorously each time and skimming off the skins that float to the top. After the final rinse, pick through to look for any chickpeas that haven’t peeled – they’ll look a little paler than the peeled ones. Squeeze them to remove the skin. Set the peeled beans aside.
DROP the garlic into a food processor with the motor running to mince quickly. Stop the motor and add the peeled chickpeas, salt, tahini, lemon juice and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth. Add a little olive oil and continue to puree until creamy.
REFRIGERATE up to 5 days. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of cayenne or chili powder, along with carrot sticks and pita triangles for dipping.
NOTE: Tahini is a canned sesame paste available in the international aisle of most supermarkets. It keeps in the refrigerator indefinitely. The oil separates, though, so you’ll need to stir it together before using. YIELD: About 2 cups.