Cilantro Hummus

When Josh and I decided to go to the beach for the day, I knew we’d need a picnic. So I turned to our go-to finger food: hummus. I knew that the picnic would include some of our other favorites: olives, goat cheese, nut thins, and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), but the pièce de résistance would be the hummus.

It always is. I swear we could live off the stuff.

Ah…there are so many reasons to love this creamy Middle Eastern dish. Not only is hummus delicious, but with garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) as its main ingredient, it is also an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron, and manganese. Garbanzo beans have also been proven to lower bad cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels, making them an excellent food for diabetics or anyone dealing with insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.

But, health benefits aside, hummus is above all yummy and fun. You can play around with it as much as you want, twisting it this way and that to turn it into exactly the dish you desire. If you’re in the mood for red, throw in some roasted sweet red peppers. If you’re in the mood for green, throw in some fresh herbs from the garden. Or an avocado…you'll achieve pure creamy bliss. Avocadoes and hummus are a match made in heaven.

So are cilantro and hummus.

Whatever direction you decide to go in, original hummus is a good place to start. The ingredients are very simple: garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon or lime juice, garlic, and salt. I like to add a teaspoon or two of ground cumin to my original hummus – it gives it that Middle Eastern flare I love – but to each his own! Once you have found your “original” recipe, use that as your base for any creative hummus surges you may have. The sky is the limit!

One last thing. If you eat a lot of hummus, I recommend cooking your own garbanzo beans. It’s cheaper, tastier, and much healthier. When you cook the beans yourself, you eliminate the preservatives and lower the sodium. Plus, it’s way more satisfying.

Cooking beans is really easy to do, it just takes a little bit of forward planning. Here is how I cook my garbanzo beans.

1 package dried garbanzo beans
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps salt

Put garbanzo beans in a large bowl and fill bowl with water. Make sure there are at least a couple inches of water over the beans as they will double in size. Let soak overnight.

Pour out water and rinse beans. Put beans in a large pot, cover with a couple inches of water, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, lower to a simmer, add baking soda, and cook 40 to 45 minutes until the beans are cooked. Do NOT add salt. If you add salt at this point it will prevent the beans from cooking. You’ll notice that as the beans cook, white foam will gather on the water. This is normal. Feel free to scoop it off, if you wish. Once the time is up, taste the beans to see if they are cooked. If cooked, remove from heat, add the salt, and let sit 10 minutes. Pour beans into a colander, rinse, and voilà!

This will make a lot of beans. You can either use all of them for hummus, or keep some aside to throw into salads or soups and stews throughout the week. I also love sautéing garbanzo beans with garlic and spinach or kale in a bit of olive oil. Delicious!

Cilantro Hummus

If you take out the cilantro from the recipe, you’ll have my “original” hummus recipe. So if you don’t like cilantro, don’t let it deter you. The hummus is delicious without it. Also, if you would like to replace the cilantro with something else that tickles your fancy a bit more, plunge right ahead. There is no right or wrong with hummus.

The same is true of the quantities I have listed for the ingredients. I’m a big fan of garlic, so I put a fair amount in my hummus. I also love lime. And cumin. So there’s a lot of both. Feel free to start slow and taste as you go, adjusting the quantities to your liking.

4 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 big bunch cilantro, chopped (about ½ cup once chopped), set aside a couple leaves for garnish before chopping
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp cumin
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup water
Juice of two limes
1 tsp salt
1 dash cayenne pepper (go easy on the cayenne at first – it has a kick!)
Sprinkling of sweet paprika for garnish

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thick, add a bit of water. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Pour into bowl, garnish with cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of sweet paprika.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of hummus. Feel free to cut ingredients in half.

Serving suggestions:

Eat straight from bowl with a spoon (or fingers!)
Serve with crackers or raw vegetables
Spread on homemade bread with avocadoes and tomatoes
Add to salads...

...and, most of all, have fun!

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