I have been making hummus for years and have concluded that despite the temptation to use canned chickpeas, the flavor is much better when it is made with dried chickpeas found at Middle Eastern or Indian food stores. First I soak a large quantity overnight, cook some, and then drain and freeze the rest in two-cup batches in plastic bags.

Whenever I need them for hummus, falafel, or for the many chickpea soups and stews, I just take them out of the freezer. When substituting canned beans, figure that one cup of raw chickpeas equals two cups of cooked or canned. Some old-time cooks in the Middle East either peel cooked chickpeas or pass them through a food mill before using them. I find there is no need for this laborious extra step. I add to my hummus a little bit of cumin, which blends beautifully with the garlic and lemony flavor.

A Hummus Recipe

Yield: About four cups, or six-to-eight servings

1 cup dried chickpeas

1 cup tahina

1/2 cup lemon juice, or to taste

 2 cloves garlic, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Dash of paprika or sumac

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1. Put the raw chickpeas in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak overnight.

2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a heavy pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the chickpeas are soft and the skin begins to separate. Add more water as needed.

3. Drain the chickpeas, reserving about 1-1/2cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside 1/4cup of the cooked chickpeas for garnish. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the remaining chickpeas with the tahina, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and at least 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. If the hummus is too thick, add more reserved cooking liquid or water until you have a paste-like consistency.

4. Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread the pine nuts in the pan and stir-fry, browning on all sides.

5. To serve, transfer the hummus to a large, flat plate, and with the back of a spoon make a slight depression in the center. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top and sprinkle the reserved chickpeas, pine nuts, paprika or sumac, and parsley or cilantro over the surface.

6. Serve with cut-up raw vegetables and warm pita cut into wedges

Note: You can also add cayenne pepper to the hummus. Sometimes leftover hummus tends to thicken just add some water to make it the right consistency.

Reprinted with permission from The Foods of Israel Today (Knopf).

Joan Nathan

Joan Nathan lived in Israel for three years where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. She is the author of several cookbooks, contributes articles on international ethnic food and special holiday features to The New York Times, Food Arts, Gourmet, and the B'nai B'rith International Jewish Monthly.