By Glenn Lozuke, Head Chef, Weaver Street Market Food House
The time—late March of this year. The scene—the conference room in our admin office. Multiple members of Weaver Street Market’s Food House production team and admin staff came together for a hummus tasting. The competition was fierce, as we put our hummus in a blind taste test against well-known local and national brands. The star lineup of hummus included Cedar’s, Whole Foods’, and Trader Joe’s, as well as hummus from good local producers—nearby Med Deli and rising-star Roots out of Asheville, NC.
Sadly, when the results were counted, WSM hummus ranked second to last. And before the lids were back on the hummus containers, my manager turned to me and said with urgency, “We need to fix this.”
Our Goal: Delicious Hummus
You may be thinking, “Hummus is easy to make. Really. We’re talking about simple ingredients like chickpeas, tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice. How hard can it be?” I could say the same about making bread, right?
But like bread, achieving the right texture and flavor requires a deceptive amount of skill and technique. We wanted our hummus texture and flavor to be dead on. We weren’t there yet, but the tasting gave us the desire to get there. Outstanding hummus was the goal, and we were on a mission to create it.
I set a course to research and develop a new recipe. This involved both the ingredients and the process.
WSM averages a whopping 23,000 pounds of hummus a year. That requires 13,000 pounds of canned chickpeas, which results in 2,200 pounds of can metal to be recycled annually. Those statistics meant it was time to take a hard look at the chickpea choices we were making. Canned peas offer a great convenience, but in addition to the recycling burden, we also found them lacking the flavor and doneness we were seeking to render an exceptional hummus.
Organic dried chickpeas were the only logical choice, and we needed to become proficient at cooking our own. I set out to cook multiple rounds of chickpeas from dry form. One week and five cooking rounds later, I achieved the result I wanted. And then, it was time to repeat the process for 250 pounds at one time, and that was not as easy as I thought.
Not only is Ethiopia the birthplace of coffee, but it’s also the place that grows some of the best sesame seeds in the world. Terroir makes a difference, and Ethiopia (specifically the Humera and Gondor regions) is to sesame seeds what the Champagne region of France is to grapes. To create exceptional tahini, seeds are sorted, dehulled using gentle steam, then slowly opened by fire roasting, using the shells of pistachios and other nuts as fuel to add flavor. Next the seeds are stone ground to produce a paste with a superior finish to more modern, higher yield methods. We found a source of quality sesame seeds from Ethiopia.
After developing a solid cooked chickpea recipe and sourcing the most ideal tahini, I now had to find the best processing equipment to make this golden goodness come to life and to our stores. After a long search, we found a Robot Coupe processor that would be more than a perfect fit— “Optimus Prime,” as my manager likes to call it. With three sets of razor sharp blades moving at 1,200 rpm (its slowest speed), this amazing machinery delivered just what we were looking for.
WSM hummus has come a long way from the canned chickpea version it once was. If you haven’t tried the WSM hummus in a while, treat yourself—you won’t be disappointed.
This week’s owner coupon is 40% off all Weaver-made dips and spreads, good August 29 to September 5, 2018. Owners, look for the coupon in our weekly e-news, sent on Wednesday afternoon. If you didn’t get the coupon, you may need to update your email address in our owner database. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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