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Hummus has always been a staple in Middle Eastern and North African cultures, but it has started to enjoy growing popularity in the west as well. Hummus is a simple spread or paste made of mashed chickpeas plus a few other healthy ingredients which can be spread on vegetables, crackers, bread, pita, tortillas, or a wide variety of other foods. Its ingredients--including beans, garlic, and olive oil--are key elements in the healthy Mediterranean diet, which is known to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and defend against cancer.

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1. The Basic Hummus Recipe

A basic hummus recipe usually has six ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt, and tahini. Hummus can easily be made in a blender or food processor. The tahini and lemon juice should be blended first, for at least a minute. Next, add the chickpeas and garlic. Blend each addition thoroughly! Finally, add the olive oil, and for extra creaminess, add some cold water.

The measurements for these ingredients aren't always exact, and you can modify them to taste. But a good starting point is two cans of chickpeas, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini, two tablespoons of olive oil, and a small clove of garlic. Salt can be added to taste, as can cumin, paprika, or other spices. This basic recipe can be used as the foundation for many exciting hummus varieties.

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