Hummus is in many ways the perfect party food, especially for entertaining in summer or the extended summery heat of fall on the Grand Strand.
This thick, nutty-flavored bean spread combines well with its designated scooper (usually pita bread or chips) to provide a satisfying mouthful that is not too filling.
Hummus (pronounced hum-us) is an Arabic word meaning chickpea or garbanzo bean, the primary ingredient of this savory treat.
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Many claim to be the originator. While some ascribe that culinary honor to the 12th-century emperor Saladin, there is no real certainty about this food’s origin.
What is certain is that today, most of the world’s hummus is made and consumed in the Middle East, including Israel. A significant reason for the popularity of hummus in Israel is that it is made from ingredients that, according to Jewish dietary laws, can be combined with both meat and dairy meals.
The popularity of this cream-colored bean dip in the United States is growing and with that growth, the U.S. appetite for innovation has lead to the popularity of some unique and decidedly non-traditional forms and flavors of hummus.
$530 million how much the hummus industry at U.S. food retailers was in 2012
Two of the major players in the packaged hummus market are Sabra and Tribal. Newcomers like Hummusphere have been attracted to the market due to the growing popularity of hummus as an American snack food.
Hummus is usually made with chickpeas and tahini, a simple esame paste with olive oil and garlic. Added flavors, like hot pepper, fresh sweet red pepper and others, make it more attractive to the non-traditional market, especially in the U.S.
In fact, some people, including me, make “hummus” without tahini and use different types of beans — white cannellini, black beans, lima beans and more. You could argue that without tahini these are simple bean pastes, but call it what you will — all of these combos are equally delicious.
David Kesmodel and Owen Fletcher, in an April 30, 2013, Wall Street Journal article about chickpeas replacing tobacco in the fields of southern America, noted that this tasty spread was a $530 million industry at U.S. food retailers in 2012, up 11 percent from 2011 and a 25 percent jump over 2010 (according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc.)
The two WSJ writers quote Adam Carr, chief executive of Tribe Mediterranean Foods Inc., a Sabra rival, as saying “Most of the consumers out there still don’t know what hummus is.” He adds, “We think that there are going to be lots of new users coming to the category.”
Both Tribal and Sabra hummus are widely available in grocery stores along the Strand.
One of the new players in hummus is Hummusphere, developed in 2011, a company which makes a natural, “smoked” hummus. How they smoke chickpeas is their secret but they were happy to speak with me about their hummus.
Chief Executive Officer Zach Gultz, the “hummus innovator” of Hummusphere, says that the company makes traditional hummus and black bean variety, both “smoked,” as well as other flavors.
“Our smokey flavor is derived from applewood,” Gultz said.
Though the process is secret, I can say that there is no liquid smoke in the product. It is all natural with no added msg. It is non-GMO and gluten-free as well.
One of the more innovative flavors offered is the Thai Coconut Curry that contains coconut milk as well as chickpeas. Hummusphere sells its product in Fresh Market stores, but at the time of this writing, that grocery chain informed The Sun News that the product is not yet available in the Myrtle Beach Fresh Market.
My tasters found Hummusphere’s smoked flavor most interesting, but only one of them was a major fan of the smoked flavor in either the traditional and black bean spreads. Of the black bean with jalapeno, a taster said, “Very good, Delayed heat.”
I liked the flavor of the traditional and red pepper hummus and my husband enjoyed the black bean plain but not the jalapeno.
“Not sure the heat is a plus,” he commented.
A fourth taster found the classic traditional best of all the Hummusphere flavors she tried but thought it “lacked enough fat.” I also found the traditional a bit “thin” for my taste. I prefer more oil and a thicker product.
My husband found the traditional hummus the best of the varieties we tried and called it “well-rounded and with just enough lemon.”
Only one of the four tasters liked the Thai curry flavor. Most of us found the heat and aftertaste of the coconut not to our liking.
Keep your eyes open for the brand to come to Myrtle Beach so you can try these smokey innovations for yourself.
But whether you want to try something unique or just enjoy a traditional packaged variety, here are some recipes for you to use. Hummus is easy to make and when doing it yourself you can make it as thin or creamy as you wish.
Lima Bean Hummus
From “Southern Made Fresh” by Tasia Malakasis, Oxmoor House 2015. Note from Malakasis: “It may seem unexpected to use lima beans in hummus, but most any kind of bean can take the place of the traditional garbanzo. This recipe is the result of my “playing” in the kitchen, as I like to call it, and has since become one of my favorites.”
Makes 3 cups.
- 1 (16-oz.) package frozen Fordhook lima beans
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- Pita bread rounds, cut into wedges
Cook lima beans in boiling water to cover 12 minutes or until very tender; drain.
With processor running, drop garlic through food chute; process until minced. Add lima beans, salt, and next 2 ingredients; process until smooth. With processor running, slowly add oil and lemon juice through food chute; process until blended. Serve with pita wedges.
▪ Note: A cup of olive oil may sound like a lot, but just add it slowly with the food processor running, and it blends perfectly.
Joan’s White Hummus (no tahini)
- 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans (or chick peas), drained
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- Dash of salt
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, (add 2 tbsp. and then the last if needed)
- Paprika and lemon to put on top if needed when serving
Put the beans, garlic, cumin, salt and olive oil in a food processor.
Blend, serve, topping with paprika and lemon slices
It’s easy to flavor with red pepper, (sweet or hot) black pepper or other flavors.
Traditional Hummus with Tahini
Adapted from www.inspiredtaste.net.
- 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 3-4 tbsp. Tahini (found in most grocery stores)
- Half of a large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (more for serving)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- Dash of paprika and slices of lemon plus olive oil for top for serving
Put all of the ingredients except the water and paprika in the food processor. Blend. If the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water, blend again and test again.
Add paprika after transferring to a blow to serve. Decorate with lemon slices if you like.
Joe Leotta’s Hummus Pizza
Adapted from Cuisine at Home.
- 1 package frozen pizza dough, defrosted and readied according to directions on package
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 bag (9 ounces) fresh spinach, sautéed
- 1/2 roasted red bell pepper sliced
- 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
- 1 small container red pepper hummus (we like Sabra)
Preheat oven to 475 F.
Put pizza on stone in oven and cook for five minutes (use wooden paddle to move pizza onto stone).
When it comes out, spread humus over the dough.
Add other ingredients.
Move pizza back onto stone and finish cooking (about 10-12 minutes), until the pizza crust browns. Remove cooked pizza and serve.