As the name of my blog suggests, I love to cook as much as I love to run. As with running, my enjoyment in cooking and baking comes in the process and progress, in the gradual steps of improvement.
When I finally mastered my whole wheat sourdough bread, I felt more accomplished than I had when I qualified for Boston. I’m perpetually tweaking Saturday morning pancakes in pursuit of the perfect recipe. I’ve actually cried when apple pie recipes have gone wrong. Hummus has been an endeavor that has occupied me since I received my first food processor 6 years ago.
For years now, I’ve been in pursuit of a recipe for incredibly smooth hummus, like the types you get at a good Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food restaurant. No grainy texture or flavorless dips. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen produces a smooth hummus, but some days I lack the patience to peel each and every chickpea.
Soaking and cooking my own chickpeas instead of using canned improved the texture of my hummus, as did embracing the goodness of using both tahini and olive oil. But by far, the best texture of hummus I’ve made slightly deviates from the traditional formula for hummus – chickpeas, lemon, garlic, tahini, and olive oil.
The word hummus literally translates to chickpeas in Arabic. Hummus as we know it, called hummus bi tahina (hummus with tahini) first appears in Levantine cookbooks from the 13th century. Since then, the creamy chickpea dip has been a popular staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods and gained popularity in the West as well. Part of me is a bit torn in calling a hummus made with anything other than chickpeas hummus. However, red lentils are a similar legume that is popular in Lebanese and Syrian cuisine and they render a very similar dish.
I made this red lentil hummus by happenstance one day. I had overcooked a batch of lentils the day before (that’s what happens when you use the “set a timer and go work in another room” cooking method) and they were just a bit too soft for my taste when I went to reheat them the next day. But, the texture seemed perfect for a hummus.
After all, when you cook chickpeas for a hummus, you want them to be soft. Cooking chickpeas for hummus takes easily an additional 30 minutes of cooking time. So if soft chickpeas are ideal for hummus, I figured that an equally soft similar legume would work.
My assumption was accurate: the soft red lentils render a velvety and creamy hummus. The flavor difference is apparent yet subtle and similar enough to the original: savory, garlicky, and a hint of a delicate earthy flavor. The texture is so smooth and
While you can substitute cashew butter or another neutrally flavored nut butter in lieu of tahini, you won’t get the same authentic Middle Eastern flavor. Tahini is well worth purchasing: it’s less expensive than other seed and nut butters and has a wide array of applications. I mix it with lemon juice and water to use as salad dressing and pasta sauce in addition to hummus.
This red lentil hummus can be enjoyed in a variety of ways: as a dip for veggies and pita bread, sandwich spread, dolloped in baked potato or sweet potato, on toast, with falafel, and so on.
Red Lentil Hummus
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 2 cups chicken broth or water
- 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Juice of 1 small or medium lemon*
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons of water to reach desired consistency**
- To cook the lentils, combine the lentils, a pinch of salt, and broth (or water) in a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are soft - you want them to be softer than you would cook for plain eating. Let cool.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lentils and garlic and pulse a few times until lentils are smooth.Add the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and black pepper to the bowl and puree until smooth and creamy.
- If the texture is a bit thick, add the water ½ tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
**I used 1 tablespoon of water. You may need more water, depending on desired consistency and how soft your lentils are.
What would you dip in hummus?
What is your favorite food to cook right now?