Making Hummus with Chef Peter at Aurelia

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Of course Aurelia is far more famous for its many pasta dishes, salads, panini and various main dishes, but I have trouble resisting Chef Peter’s hummus. I used to serve hummus (the kind you buy) on crackers with drinks—until I discovered Chef Peter’s hummus on toasted pita bread. I asked him to show me how he makes it so I could share it with all of you. Of course he makes it in gigantic proportions, so I have brought them down to what I would make if I were entertaining six to eight friends. It is important to note that, as with many great cooks, Chef Peter’s measurements are not exact. He adds spices, seasonings, water and other ingredients, tasting as he cooks until he gets the desired consistency and balance of flavors.    He starts with the following ingredients already pre-measured and laid out on his work-station counter:   2 cans (16-ounce size) chickpeas or garbanzo beans Juice of one lemon 2–3 tablespoons tahini 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1/2 cup olive oil (first cold press) 1 cup water 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1½ teaspoons smoked or Hungarian paprika 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper Preparation: Drain chickpeas or garbanzo beans. Combine half of the olive oil, the lemon zest, the garlic, and ½ cup of water in a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes and add the chickpeas or garbanzo beans, half of the tahini and another ½ cup of water. Blend three to five minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Strain through a sieve (so that any chickpea or garbanzo bean skins are either broken up or left behind).   Place in a mixing bowl and, with a rubber spatula, add the rest of the tahini, the rest of the olive oil and small amounts of the seasonings. Mix, adding small amounts of water until the texture is smooth and light (without getting watery). Taste and adjust seasonings. At this point you should still taste some of the individual flavors. The mixture needs to sit (covered) for an hour at room temperature so the flavors will intermingle. Serve on triangles of toasted pita bread.     At Aurelia the hummus is made fresh every day, but in your home kitchen, it can be refrigerated for up to three days and can be kept in the freezer for up to one month. Add a little olive oil if it appears to be too dry.   Hummus is a staple on Aurelia’s summer menu. You can enjoy it at any lunch or dinner, on the terrace or indoors, at 3299 Franklin Avenue (Wednesdays–Sundays).