Light years away from the stuff that comes in store-bought tubs where you dip baby carrots, hummus in Israel is a butter-cream-like staple on the table. According to chef Michael Solomonov, celebrated Israeli restaurateur known for his bustling Dizengoff  hummusiya and landmark restaurant, Zahav, in Philadelphia,  “There’s something transcendent about the perfect bowl of hummus that tells our guests that they’re in the right place. . .  the texture is smooth and creamy and the flavors are nutty, rich and satisfying in a completely wholesome way.”

“Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” by chef Michael Solomonov and his partner, Steven Cook, named 2016 James Beard Cookbook of the Year.

The secret sauce

Long before there was Israel and an Israeli cuisine, hummus was a ubiquitous dish in the Middle East. As to the country of its origin, no one can say for certain, though Israelis have adopted it as their own. According to Solomonov, “the secret to great Israeli-style hummus is an obscene amount of tahini.” Unlike Greek-style hummus which is heavy on garlic and lemon, Israeli hummus is all about the marriage of chickpeas and tahini. Garlic and lemon are blended into a fine puree, then strained before added to the tahini to create the Basic Sauce. The result is a subtler infusion of flavors. Heaven on a pita.

The second trick to chickpea-and-tahini perfection is hiding in plain sight in our pantry: baking soda. Solomonov’s recipe calls for soaking and/or boiling the chickpeas with baking soda, which raises the pH of the water and helps break down the mixture to a soft, pulpy blend. Great hummus, he concludes, could not be easier to make at home with a food processor, cooked (or canned) chickpeas and his basic Secret Tahini Sauce. What’s more,  it’s 100 times better than anything you can buy in a grocery store.

Hummus with Spanish Paprika as served at Dizengoff
Hummus with Spanish Paprika as served at Dizengoff

Michael Solomonov’s scrumptious recipe for Hummus Tahini  starts here and can be found in full in the Cooking/The New York Times.

  • cup dried chickpeas
  • teaspoons baking soda
  • Juice of 1½ large lemons (about 1/3 cup), more to taste
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 ¾teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • cup sesame tahini
  • ½teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste
  • Paprika, for serving
  • Olive oil, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

A Yom Ha’Atzmaut Menu

Start with some fresh pita and hummus, that’s mandatory.

Next a Festive Israeli Salad – diced tomato, cucumber and veggies of your choosing. (Or try a variation from chef Solomonov: diced mango, cucumber, onion with minced mint leaves.)

Matboucha, a traditional Moroccan dish of spicy tomatoes and jalapenos

Lamb Shishlik with Pistashio Tehina 

Watermelon (just coming into season in Israel)

Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach – Happy Independence Day, Israel-style!