Put everything except the optional garnishes in a food processor and begin to process. If needed, add some of the chick pea liquid or water to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree or to thin it to the desired consistency. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Taste and adjust the ingredients as desired, especially the lemon juice, cumin, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove to a container and store, covered, in the refrigerator, or place in a shallow bowl, drizzle with olive oil if desired, garnish (optional), and serve with warm pita bread.
This recipe yields slightly more than 2 cups of hummus.
Roasted Garlic Hummus:
Take a medium-sized head of garlic (12-16 cloves) and cut off 1/4-1/2 inch from the top to expose the inner cloves. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center indicates the cloves are very soft. Remove from the oven, undo the foil, and let cool for a few minutes until you can remove all the skins. Add the cloves to the processor with all the basic ingredients. Process until smooth. Roasted garlic will impart a mellow, almost sweet, garlic flavor to the hummus. It will not be overpowering at all, despite the seemingly large amount of garlic added. If you want a sharper garlic flavor, just add more fresh garlic to the basic ingredients.
Add 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of prepared white horseradish to the processor with the basic ingredients. If you are not sure how much you will like, start with a small amount, process, taste, and add more as desired.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:
Add 8 ounces of drained and dried jarred roasted red peppers to the processor with the basic ingredients. Keep in mind that there will still be enough water content in the peppers to lighten the hummus somewhat. You can roast (and peel) your own peppers if you wish.
For a fancy presentation:
Spread the hummus in a shallow bowl, drizzle with olive oil that has been pulsed in a food processor with fresh flat-leaf parsley, and garnish with either pine nuts or whole canned chick peas.
Jamie Stolper is the Food Editor of ShalomBoston.com and ate a lot of hummus during her recent trip to Israel in April 2007..