Picky Eater: A trio of hummus possibilities
December 23, 2009
Hummus may not be a staple in your fridge, but it is in mine. What I love about the stuff is that it delivers on all fronts, from flavor to nutrition — it has only 50 calories or so for 2 tablespoons. And it gets me off the hook when it comes to fiber. For this reason, I've become a serious connoisseur of hummus. When I have time, I make it myself. But let's be serious. Sometimes it pays to take the sane road and just buy it. Honestly, the store-bought stuff is just as good as homemade.
Here's what you need to know about hummus, and what your options are, should you opt not to make it yourself. First off, know that all good, authentic hummus has a small dose of fat, because of the crucial addition of tahini, a sesame-seed paste. The other primary ingredients are, of course, garbanzo beans, garlic and lemon — all good, and all good for you.
Here's a roundup of possibilities and taste-notes on three widely available brands.
TRIBE: This earthy brand of hummus has a compelling lineup of flavors, including new lemon and chipotle varieties, both of which have surprising kick. I love that the flavor gurus at Tribe will try anything — horseradish, scallion, Kalamata olive, even pizza. In the case of hummus, fusion works. Tribe hummus isn't as smooth as the hummus made by some of its competitors, but I don't mind. It looks grainy, but doesn't feel grainy on the tongue, and that slight graininess
SABRA: This is the hummus of choice for many shoppers, mainly because you can find it at Costco. Sabra hummus is certainly seductive. It's super creamy and almost white in color. It looks like a vat of tan-colored whipped cream. I like the flavor lineup that Sabra offers, especially the pine nuts with sun-dried tomatoes and the roasted red peppers. The one thing I don't like about Sabra is the added oil. Sabra has about 30 calories more per serving than Tribe and Trader Joe's because of the oil it adds in order to make the hummus creamier. As I make hummus at home, I know that you can achieve the same velvety texture by adding water. My only other beef with Sabra is that the quantity of flavorings in the middle add more decorative than savory value. If you're selling me roasted pepper flavor, bring it. Sabra is about $5.50 for 25 ounces; $2.50 for 7 ounces.
TRADER JOE'S: This company is so tight-lipped that getting product information is like asking Santa for a Ferrari. But I can tell you that the Trader Joe's brand of hummus is really good, really tasty and really familiar. In fact, it tastes so much like Tribe, I wonder if Tribe's gurus are actually involved. Trader Joe's 40-Spice Hummus is the best — so good, in fact, that I have tried to duplicate the recipe. I've concluded that there may be Chinese Five Spice among the 40 advertised, so I've started adding the complex mixture to my homemade recipe. Other must-try flavors include the cilantro-jalapeño and the eggplant. $4 for 16 ounces.
TO KNOW: Hummus isn't just a dip. The ultra-healthy spread is a utility player in the kitchen. It's a great substitute for mayo on a sandwich, a perfect pizza-topper and delicious as a topping for microwaved potatoes. Add a dollop to a bowl of soup, or stir it in to add body and nutritional substance. And for those looking for a quick, light appetizer for a holiday party, serve hummus with crackers, vegetables, prawns or even sliced fruit. It's fast food for healthy eaters.