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Pretty Good Hummus: It's been over a week since one promise fed into another. I promised Alyson I'd try to figure out how to make smooth, creamy hummus like they serve in Middle Eastern restaurants. She and I are tired of the grainy stuff you get in a tub from the store. So join me in the Test Kitchen You Can Bruise, as I uncover the secrets of great hummus.

I looked at eight different hummus recipes on the web and tried to factor out the commonalities and tally the differences. I came up with the following generic set of ingredients:

Generic Hummus

Process all ingredients except for olive oil in food processor or blender. Use water or reserved garbanzo liquid to lubricate the hummus if the blade won't catch. Slowly drizzle olive oil (as though making pesto) into the vortex until hummus reaches desired consistency.

Simple enough. Then there were the secret ingredients: cumin, soy sauce (?! But it was in two of the eight recipes!), ground sesame, oregano, paprika, chopped parsley, chopped chilis, coriander, plain yogurt, cayenne, turmeric, and cilantro.

I decided to use yogurt instead of water or reserved liquid, because it would both lubricate the hummus and add the tangy flavor you get at a restaurant. I bought cumin and coriander to put in the hummus, but I am a spice spaz and I couldn't find the coriander. I used marjoram instead, because it smelled nice.

What I got was pretty good. It's smooth (a little too smooth, actually; I used too much yogurt) and tasty. Since I got it pretty close, I think my one experiment entitles me to take a guess at the two secrets to smooth hummus:

  1. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt to the generic recipe.
  2. Use the blender, not the food processor.

I started the hummus in the food procesor (a teeny 2 cup model that makes me work in stages; wedding gift overflow from an anonymous source), but I wasn't happy with the consistency so I moved it to the blender to finish it. I'm almost certain you could get the exact same result by just dumping everything in the blender.

All the herbs and spices affect the way it tastes, not the consistency. I do not claim to have made the tastiest hummus in the world; just one that has a good creamy consistency. As for flavor, I have not tried this, but adding a tablespoon or two of peanut butter might be good.

You might balk at buying plain yogurt just so you can use a little bit of it in hummus. The solution is to buy a lot of plain yogurt and make tzatziki with the rest; then you've got the complete Pita Fun Pak.

Incidentally, after smelling my post-hummus breath Sumana wants me to make it clear that a little garlic goes a long way in this recipe.

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