The Miracle of Hummus

Over the years I have tasted various styles of Hummus around the world. Enough styles to know that when someone asks “What exactly is Hummus?” the correct answer is “It’s complicated”.

The typical person will tell you Hummus is made out of chickpeas ground into a paste. The more experienced foodies will tell you it also contains sesame paste (“Tahini” in the US and in Arabic speaking countries, “T’hina” in Israel).

Some adventurous souls will even try to make it at home, cooking the chickpeas until soft and then processing them in a food processor. They think the secret is in the lemon, or maybe it’s the garlic… or the cumin?

The truth is that it’s really not as simple as that. Hummus is one of those elusive dishes with hundreds of recipes, most of them zealously kept family or even trade secrets (think the Coca Cola formula). Many will pursue the ultimate Hummus recipe the same way some pursue the ultimate life partner, the ultimate beer, the ultimate high, the ultimate startup that will make them billionaires and change the world, the ultimate adrenaline inducing experience, etc. We are all obsessed with replicating at home that miraculous flavor and texture that we’ve all experienced at various legendary Hummus restaurants around the world. I say legendary because while many middle eastern restaurants sell Hummus, it’s very likely you’ve never really tasted even decent Hummus. This is especially true if you bought Hummus at the store (I have tried it, and it never tastes even remotely good, once you’ve had the real deal).

And as with every adventure to find the holy grail of something, the field is rife with rumors, theories and small pieces of a larger puzzle. A friend who heard from his friend who once used to work with another guy who used to work at one of those legendary Hummus restaurants. Some piece of the puzzle will be revealed, but it will take a grand effort to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. To further complicate the matter, every legendary Hummus restaurant has its own distinct style. Indeed the mature Hummus connoiseur knows not to argue about style, and instead focus on quality. It’s almost like arguing which supermodel looks better – they are all supermodels.

This blog post is place holder for my own humble efforts to demystify the process of preparing the ultimate home made Hummus, and if possible, In the style you prefer.

What I learned, so far

Not all chickpeas are the same

I learned that for years, I’ve used the wrong chickpea. Turns out there’s a specific type of chickpea all the best restaurants use. The pea is smaller, smoother, and its skin thinner.

Although I manage to get those peas at my local persian supermarket, Amazon sells those peas as well:

https://www.amazon.com/Cheese-Store-of-Beverly-Hills/dp/B00CMX51S4/

Soaking technique matters

You need to soak the chickpeas in water with sodium bicarbonate for 24 hours before cooking. This will soften the skin around the peas, and eliminate that “gritty” texture you feel on your tongue when processing non-soaked peas.

The water you use matters. The same principle that applies to rice, certainly applies to legumes; if you use water high in chlorine, your peas will have the aftertaste of chlorine. So if you can, try to use filtered water when soaking your legumes.

The secret of the Onion

Some will peel a medium sized onion and drop it whole into the pot to cook along with the peas. Supposedly the sweetness from the onion infuses into the peas, enhancing their flavor.

The “holy ratio”

Unbeknown to most, the name Hummus is actually misleading because you see, in terms of ratio, Hummus is really mostly Sesame paste with some amount of chickpea paste. For example in my last experiment, I used a ratio of 70% Sesame / 30% Chickpea.

Some of this confusion is due to an unfortunately common misconception about sesame paste. If you mix sesame paste with water, it will dilute and remain a liquid. However if you add the proper amount of lemon and mix vigorously, the oily paste you thought was liquid becomes a solid.

The sesame matters

Since we established a good Hummus is really more Sesame than Peas, the quality of the Sesame paste used is critical, more so than the type of pea. At the very least you need organic sesame paste without any additives & chemicals. It should be minimally processed and non-heated (processed cold).

And as there are many types of peas, there are also many types of sesame seeds and it may take some searching to find the manufacturer that “does it” for you. A good sesame paste will have a very faint aftertaste that reminds you of cooked eggs.

Cooking the peas

It’s much simpler and faster to cook peas when they are properly soaked. You can either cook the peas in a regular pot on a low flame (making sure they are always covered in water), or you can use a pressure cooker.

When using a pressure cooker, you will usually not need to cook the peas for more than 40 minutes from the moment high pressure is achieved. This is because a pressure cooker will typically reach a temperature of 120ºC (depending on your altitude relative to sea level), and because the high cooking pressure forces the hot liquids into the core of the peas, producing a uniform softness across the pea.

When using a regular pot, you may want to check every 10 minutes after the first 45 minutes (every pot and every stove are different). The pea should “melt” under the slightest pressure, but not completely disintegrate when touched or picked up with a spoon.

An alternative to Criticism

I decided to translate for you this blurb I found from an incredible woman who is actually a customer of my hosting services. She’s a counselor for families, couples and so on, and has 30 years of experience in counseling:

Israeli society is characterized by large involvement of people in each other’s lives, as well as being overly critical of each other’s behavior. However, the act of criticizing may sometimes cause great damage, especially where children are involved.

It’s difficult for some to imagine raising children without a good amount of criticisms. They think “How else will the child know what good behavior means, and learn and improve his habits?”.

It may be true that most people use criticism with nothing but the best of intentions in their hearts, out of an attempt to help the person being criticized “improve”. However, try to think: When was the last time you actually learned something from being criticized? felt grateful for someone’s criticism? when did criticism ever convince you to improve your habits? and how often did the exact opposite happen?

Many people grew up in a criticism-heavy environment and it is the only thing they know. They are unaware of other, better tools. It is burned into my mind from my childhood, that teachers only focused on the mistakes the children made, and never gave any praise for the amount of effort the children put into their work, into how well crafted some of the answers were, even if the answer was wrong.

Superiority is a naturally occurring phenomena and is part of competing, achieving, and criticizing. It is difficult for a person to feel they are “not good” or “worthless”, therefor most people have the need to prove their worth, “lest the awful truth be discovered”. And what is the one thing that “proves” ability and worth, without much effort? Criticizing others. By criticizing, the critic believes he demonstrates and accentuates his superiority over the criticized. This makes him feel superior, and his feeling of self worth increases.

Criticism and negative remarks have a negative impact on human beings in general, and even more so on children. Children might start to believe they are lazy, stupid, evil, and so on, and respond with a feeling of failure, despair, and they may give up entirely on making any efforts into proper function.

One of the most important principles of education for children, is the premise that you can achieve far better results and success by accentuating the positive actions and achievements of the child. Children know very well when they made a mistake, and are well able to learn from their mistakes and reach conclusions without all the remarks and negative comments we hurry to make.

Self aware parents are able to look into themselves, become aware of their emotions, and by doing so, change their approach and attitude towards their children, and towards their children’s actions. They are able to refrain from making negative comments or giving criticism, which as mentioned, is not effective nor efficient, and may in fact be detrimental to the parent-child relationship, and instead create a new kind of relationship based on encouragement, acceptance, mutual respect, sharing, and focusing on the positive aspects of the child.

I strongly believe we make the same mistake with the adults in our lives, and need to approach adults with the same care and consideration that we would approach our own children.

 

How a Juicing diet works (+recipes)

My own background story with Juicing

This story begins before I left Israel, around October 2009. I was working comfortably in the hi-tech industry, eating regular meals every day with my colleagues. The sad truth is that I somehow let myself go, and eventually weighed around 105kg (that’s almost 210 pounds for those on the imperial system). For a person who used to being very slim and athletic, it was a horrible shock to look at a photo of myself one day, and realizing what I have done to myself without noticing.

Fast forward to the winter of 2010. I was living in Russia with two flat mates (It was cheaper to rent a room than to rent an apartment, plus I was lonely at the time and I figured I could use the company).

The two women in the apartment used a steamer to cook their foods. I remembered my mom using a steamer, way back in my childhood, but it was only used rarely, for some very specific types of food; definitely not as the main cooking apparatus.

Moscow is notoriously expensive, and since I was trying to save money, buying meat was reserved for special occasions. I basically bought a lot of Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Beet, Corn, and a LOT of Buckwheat (As the Russians call it: “Grétchka”). And so, for a period of 3 months this is mostly what I ate. This, and the occasional whole wheat Subway sandwich with imitation crab meat and tons of vegetables. Needless to say, I did not drink sugary drinks, and instead drank water with lemon juice.

Old dog learns new tricks

About 1.5 years ago, my friend Golan Ben-Oni introduced me to Dr. Fuhrman, the book “Eat To Live” (which has since made it to the New York Times’ best selling book in the “self help” category), to the China Study, and to Dr. Novick, the funny and witty nutritionist with the warm, charming smile and the always-awesome presentations. He also told me about the movie “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross (which has since become a sensation). That movie, along with the rich information provided by the nutritionists I mentioned, has really opened my eyes about nutrition.

In the space of a few months, I realized what I had been doing wrong my entire life, and why when I was eating only vegetables and raw grain back in Russia, I was losing weight fast, and feeling extremely healthy. In fact it almost got scary to see myself losing so much weight so quickly – I lost 20kg in 3 month.

And yet, it’s one thing to know what to do, and to actually do it. Just like many smokers know smoking kills and causes cancer, but never actually quit smoking. But what if they actually got cancer, suffered through treatment, died, and were suddenly given another chance to jump back in time to the moment they started smoking? How many of them would actually decide to never start smoking?

I feel that what happened to me by chance, has inadvertently shown me two things: 1) It is actually possible to go back to your BMI, and in just a few months. 2) The feeling of being healthy and looking great again, is totally worth the effort.

So can an old dog learn new tricks, and change his ways? Well, mostly. I don’t believe in going to the extreme – I think you sometimes need to have your comfort foods, so that you feel you aren’t completely giving up on your old lifestyle. A slice of Pizza every 2 ~ 3 months? That’s totally acceptable to me.

The basic idea behind juicing

The idea here is that our bodies no longer get the nutrition they need, because we eat a relatively very narrow diet. A study of bones found from before and after the agricultural revolution clearly shows that before the agricultural revolution, people were taller, healthier, and better fed, compared to people who lived after the agricultural revolution.

The simple explanation is that before the agricultural revolution, we were “hunters / gatherers” which meant that we relied on a large variety of foods (whatever we could find that day). After the agricultural revolution, we started eating only one or two types of grain, instead of 50. What this essentially means is that we significantly narrowed our spectrum of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Suddenly our bodies were not getting all the minerals and vitamins they were used to getting.

The same problem exists with dietary supplements. Rates of cancer have actually gone up since dietary supplements were introduced. The simple truth is that you can’t replace a tomato, which has hundreds of types of vitamins and minerals, with a pill that contains just vitamins A, B and C. Our nutrition is more than just those 3 vitamins. We actually do need those hundreds of vitamins and minerals that a Fresh tomato has, and no pill can give us those nutrients, no matter how good it is.

So why juice? Why not just eat vegetables and fruits?

You could certainly just eat vegetables and fruits, but when you are trying to recover and heal your body, either from some trauma, chronic disease, malnutrition, diabetes, or major weight gain, and you are out of time (literally), you have to take drastic measures. Once you get to the point where you are healthy again, then you can move to “maintenance mode”, and you can start juicing just once a week, of course while eating a balanced diet consisting of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, berries, etc.

How does juicing work? What’s special about juicing?

In order to heal, your body needs to rebuild its reserves of vitamins and minerals. The problem is that if you tried to obtain the amounts you actually need, you would have to consume 5 whole leafs of kale, 5 stalks of celery, 1 beet, 1 bunch of spinach, 5 large carrots, 2 apples, 2 tomatoes, 1 lemon, and repeat all this 3 times a day.

Thing is, you can’t possibly eat all of that in a day, simply because of the large volume of space this food would require in your stomach. To overcome this limitation, we juice those vegetables and fruits. Luckily, modern juicers separate the juice (containing all the good stuff) from the pulp (which is just empty cellulose). By getting rid of the cellulose, you get a juice that contains all the vitamins and minerals from all those vegetables and fruits that you can drink easily.

Recipes

The “Everything” Juice

  • One bunch of Kale (Around 8 ~ 10 leafs)
  • Two carrots
  • Two small beets or one large beet
  • Two celery stalks
  • One Green Apple
  • One Red Apple
  • Ginger (5 slices)

Just Green

  • One bunch of Kale (Around 8 ~ 10 leafs)
  • One bunch Spinach
  • Two celery stalks
  • Two Green Apples

And here are some external links: