The best thing to do with store-bought hummus: Bake it

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for most store-bought hummus. Compared to even mediocre homemade versions, the supermarket stuff is usually too pasty and thick, and preservatives sometimes contribute sharp, off flavors.

There are exceptions, of course: The hummus that D.C.-based chain Little Sesame started selling at Whole Foods Markets is stellar. (Full disclosure: The company’s chefs contributed a recipe for it to my most recent cookbook.) But for the most part, nothing compares to the hummus you can make so quickly at home, even with canned chickpeas.

Another problem with store-bought hummus is the temperature: As chef Michael Solomonov writes in his cookbook “Zahav,” referring to the hummusiyas in Israel, “Great hummus is never refrigerated. The best places make a big batch each morning and close the doors when it runs out, usually by midafternoon.”

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Refrigeration mutes the balanced flavors of perfect hummus and, perhaps worse, turns it stiff. But the commercial stuff requires refrigeration (as do leftovers of your homemade version). So the simplest way to improve any cold hummus is by taking the chill off: microwave it and/or whisk in little hot water (or aquafaba if you’ve got it) to loosen it up and return some of that silkiness to its texture.

Even better, you can bake it, as in this recipe from the U.K.-based Leon chain of fast-food restaurants. As novel as the idea might seem, it’s not new; chef Anna Sortun of Oleana and other restaurants outside Boston has been serving incredible warm buttered hummus – her take on the traditional Turkish approach – for many years. She serves it with a cured meat called basturma, but this version cooks it under a blanket of harissa-coated cherry tomatoes and whole chickpeas, with pine nuts sprinkled on top for even more texture.

If you’ve never had warm hummus, this is a revelation. The tomatoes burst and add their juices to the mix, while the hummus puffs up and gets a little crispy around the edges. It’s absolutely stellar if you’re using great homemade hummus, and it’s pretty darn good with the store-bought stuff, too. It’s the best recipe I can think of if you’re interested in dip for dinner, and it also makes great leftovers – if you warm them up first.

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Baked Hummus. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle

Baked Hummus

Active time: 10 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes

4 servings as a main, with pita or any other flatbread, or 8 as an appetizer dip

This might be a revelation, if you’ve never had warm hummus. The beauty is that it helps elevate even less-than-stellar store-bought hummus, but it is glorious with homemade.

Make Ahead: Homemade hummus can be prepared and refrigerated for up to 1 week before you add the other ingredients and bake it.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 1 week. Rewarm before serving.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups store-bought or homemade hummus

1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade harissa

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons (1 ounce) pine nuts, toasted (may substitute slivered almonds)

Flatbreads, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Spoon the hummus into a 2-quart baking dish. Mix in half the chickpeas and smooth out the top.

In a bowl, toss the remaining chickpeas with the cherry tomatoes, harissa, oil, salt and pepper until everything is evenly coated. Pour the mixture on top of the hummus.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have burst and become soft and slightly burnished on top. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and serve warm with flatbreads.

Adapted from “Leon Happy One-Pot Vegetarian” by Rebecca Seal and Chantal Symons (Conran, 2022).

Nutrition Information: Per serving (1/2 cup hummus plus toppings), based on 8

Calories: 210; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 324 mg; Carbohydrates: 10 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 8 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


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