Like a suspenseful but repetitive TV show, I tend to go all in on hummus every few years, then drop it before I even find out how the season ends. It is such a simple and delicious dish and provides an excuse to eat a number of other tasty, if not healthy, foods as well. And when I was hungry recently but didn’t know what for, hummus crept back into my life.

These days, people will mush up any vegetable — lentil, black bean, carrot, beet — and call it hummus. We should just be civilized and acknowledge that those variations are better termed “baby food.” Real, traditional hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Period. Even within the confines of this recipe, you can create a wide range of hummuses. 

During one of my early hummus crazes, I also was into making my own. Quality of ingredients are key, as are taste preferences. I like a good, hearty olive oil, one that only gets used for dipping bread or other final-touch instances. Some people find the direct olive oil taste too strong and prefer a lighter oil, perhaps one used for cooking.

The chickpea (or garbanzo bean) also fluctuates enough to influence even a basic humus. You can find them canned, of course, with salt or no salt and organic or not. Using dried chickpeas require more work, but carry the benefit of a fuller flavor (or at least a lack of metallic mushiness). For best results, soak a pot of chickpeas in water overnight, turn on the stove and cook for an hour.

As I experimented with the quality of ingredients, I also tested the best gadgets to make hummus to my particular liking. While I am a crunchy-not-creamy peanut butter loyalist, I prefer my hummus chunk-less. This is actually quite challenging to achieve if you want the chickpeas and tahini to take center stage, which I do. Some time-rich psychopaths recommend deskining each individual bean in order to create the smoothest hummus. This doesn’t seem remotely realistic to me. However, one big factor I have found is the type of food processor. 

If the speed options on your particular model include “on” and “off,” you will never accomplish your preferred hummus consistency. It will be a constant battle between “pour in a little more water” and “add a little more tahini,” and in the end you’ll get more of a mulligatawny soup than a dip, watery and chunky in a worst of all worlds scenario. Being able to pulse the mixture as you slowly add oil is key, and mixing quickly after adding the lemon juice keeps the dip from becoming too watery.

While I refuse to call non-garbanzo bean-based blended dips “hummus,” I do encourage creativity in the hummus varietals that you can make in your own kitchen. I am a fan of adding roasted red peppers. The addition of paprika, cayenne and pine nuts can pull the flavor profile another way. Adding olives is a treat and you can’t go wrong with extra garlic. 

For the most part, I like to use other vegetables as dippers, but not as internal ingredients. Sliced cucumbers, broccoli and carrots are all ideal and healthy hummus vessels. 

Not to mention, garbanzo beans are touted as one of the healthiest foods on earth, with proteins, vitamins and minerals in each tiny punch — meaning if you must consume your homemade hummus with crackers or chips while binge watching a new show, that’s allowed, too.

Alycin Bektesh is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at Alycin@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @alycinwonder.