White bean and roasted garlic hummus

Sometimes reinventing the wheel is fun. But when the wheel is just too good to need reinventing, there’s no need to fuss.

I made white bean hummus this weekend. No innovations, no frills, no extra-special secret ingredients–just beans, tahini, oil, a few seasonings and a finger-sticking boatload of roasted garlic. Especially this time of year, especially in northern California, when the slowly intensifying sun and bottomless blue sky start seducing people outside to eat finger foods and play guitar on the grass, there’s a lot to be said for going back to the tried-and-true.

Roasted garlic elevates just about anything it touches, but it especially loves hummus. The combination of sweetness, creaminess and nuttiness is one of the surest crowd-pleasers I’ve ever encountered. When it’s homemade, it’s even better–the garlic is sticky and caramel-like, the beans are silky and flavorful on their own, and using fresh lemon juice cuts the creaminess with bite.

Chickpeas are traditional, of course, but white beans make for a milder hummus and let the garlic star. I like a simple mix of smoky-fragrant seasonings in my hummus–thyme, cumin, coriander, and a shiver of smoked paprika on top. I can think of no better way to kick-start the sunshine season than with a bowl of this stuff and a plate of dippable crunchy snacks.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Hummus (makes about 2 cups)

2 heads of garlic

Olive oil for drizzling, salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups cooked and drained white beans OR 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)* or almond butter

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander (optional)

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

Paprika for garnish (regular or smoked, as you prefer)

*Available in the kosher foods aisle of the supermarket; sometimes labeled “tehina”

To roast garlic: Preheat oven to 350º F and position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Cut the heads of garlic in half widthwise around the thickest part of the bulb. Lay a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, and place the cut garlic halves in the middle. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic to make a closed bundle, then put the baking sheet in the oven and roast for  about 40 minutes, or until the garlic inside the foil is soft when pressed. Remove the garlic from the foil and let sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

To make hummus: Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and into the bowl of a food processor. Add tahini or almond butter, lemon juice, thyme, cumin, coriander (if using), and cayenne pepper (if using). Turn on the processor and slowly stream in olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy–it may take a little less than 1/4 cup oil, or a little more.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl or platter. Dust with paprika, and serve with your favorite dipping implements–bread, chips or crudites.

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