When I drew up a list of Pros and Cons way back when we were trying to decide to leave the city for the suburbs, the entry on the Con side, after “commute” but before “leave alllll my friends” was, naturally, hummus. As you likely know by now, we were moving from Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood bordered on the southern side by Atlantic Avenue, now built up a bit with Barneys and Trader Joe’s, but then, chiefly the home to dozens of magical Middle Eastern markets. We were so spoiled by those markets, digging huge metal scoopers into canvas sacks of cheap-as-dirt turmeric, paprika, and cumin at the Lebanese place; loading up on spiced lamb pies and pistachio halvah at Damascus Bakery; and walking into virtually any of the mom-and-pop shops to buy still-warm pita with a sixteen-ounce container of the most ethereal hummus imaginable. The stuff was as much a staple in our fridge as milk was in those days — we’d bust it out for a dinner or cocktail party starter, but mostly we just liked to stand in front of the refrigerator scooping it right from the container with vegetables or pita. Light, creamy, lemony but not too lemony, Atlantic Avenue hummus was a totally different thing than supermarket hummus, which, to me, often tasted like it could double as spackle in the bathroom, all thick and pasty and what my twelve-year-old might call “aftertaste-y.”
So yeah, the hummus issue — as in “Where would I find hummus in the suburbs?” — was very very real. Especially when it dominoed into similar disconcerting questions about pad thai, bagels, sushi, and…uh, soul mates. (This pros-and-cons business was a slippery slope, especially when crafted in a bout of insomnia in the middle of the night.)
If only I had known about Heidi’s Hummus Hack! I would’ve gotten a lot more sleep.
Heidi and her husband Will, moved from (you guessed it) Brooklyn only a few months ago, and had us over this past weekend for a Super Bowl party. They moved to our neighborhood with seemingly none of the anxiety that accompanied me so many years ago and certainly didn’t have any hummus baggage to contend with, as I noted almost as soon as I walked into their kitchen. In the center of a beautiful starter spread — think Manchego, soppressata, hunk of Parm, homemade ranch dip with fresh vegetables — there was a large inviting ceramic bowl of paprika-and-olive-oil spiked hummus. Phoebe, no dummy, went right for it whispering to me, “Mom, I think this is homemade hummus…you gotta try it.”
I did and I agreed with her, though part of me thought that maybe Heidi brought it from Brooklyn. It was that good.
“Heidi,” I asked. “Did you make this hummus? It’s amazing.”
Not really, she said. But she did fold a few big scoops of full-fat plain Greek yogurt into a store-bought version from Whole Foods. Did that count?
Ummm, yeah it counted. I had never heard of this trick, had you? (Though it did give me a flashback to the days I edited the “Fake It Don’t Make It” column in Real Simple.) Heidi told me she thinks she originally got the idea from Ottolenghi or Nigella, but has been hacking her hummus for quite a while now, usually starting with Whole Foods’ store brand plain hummus (none of those weird flavored numbers) because it had the right amount of lemon. The addition of yogurt gave it a subtle tang, but mostly it was about the texture. It’s crazy how much more appealing it looked than your average plastic-sealed supermarket variety.
Inspired, the next morning I picked up a container of Trader Joe’s “Smooth and Creamy Classic Hummus” along with a seven-ounce 2% Fage plain Greek yogurt. (My TJs didn’t have full fat version.) I scraped the hummus into a mixing bowl, then folded in a large tablespoon of yogurt at a time — sorta like folding in egg whites into a batter — until it reached the same luscious consistency of Heidi’s. (In total I used about three heaping tablespoons.) I decanted the whole thing into a little serving bowl, topped with olive oil, tiny bit of sea salt, some paprika, then watched as both kids attacked the stuff with pita chips. Definitely a keeper.