Hummus Two Ways

Seasoned simply with salt, hummus really is the sort of thing we can all whip up at a moments notice since the pantry staples used are common and relatively inexpensive. Never mind that blending it up is a snap. And because the chickpeas, the primary ingredients of this dip, happen to be packed with fiber and protein and are naturally low in fat, hummus can be enjoyed as an everyday food, fit for foodies and fast-food junkies alike.

Our pantry is stocked with a mix of chickpeas (garbanzos) canned and dried, which we add to soups, pasta dishes, and veggie hashes. Puréed with tahini and garlic (fresh or roasted), chickpeas become thick, creamy hummus, perfect as a dip for toasted pita and raw veggies. The tahini adds richness in the form of sesame oil. The garlic, when raw, adds flavor and heat, depending on how much of it you use. And when the garlic is roasted the unami flavor is at it’s peak! Toasted cumin, while not traditional, lends an earthy depth of flavor to hummus, while the lemon juice brightens it.

You can imagine, given its texture and mild neutral flavor, that puréed chickpea mixes well with other flavors. Here, we’ve gone in a couple of different directions. In one batch, we added puréed butternut squash to the hummus and topped it all with sage-infused olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds. In the second batch, we added roasted eggplant and freshly ground cumin seeds. Any type of roasted or cooked vegetable can be pureed and added to hummus. It’s a great way to sneak in some extra nutrition while adding a unique spin on a traditional middle eastern classic.

We’re already planning our next batch of hummus. Using roasted pureed beets which will add sweetness and dramatic color to the dip as well as an earthy, vegetal taste. It will be the perfect thing to contribute to a Labor day get together.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas in water (canned ok, homemade preferred)
2 cups roasted butternut squash
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
4 tablespoons olive oil
8-10 sage leaves
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
salt & pepper

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the water. Add them to a food processor along with the squash, tahini, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times then process for a minute or two until a smoothish consistency, adding two tablespoons olive oil through the feeding tube during the process. If the hummus is too thick, add a little of the reserved bean water. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the other two tablespoons olive oil in a small sauce pan until hot. Add the sage leaves a few at a time, cooking until the leaves are fried, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute or two, depending on the size of the sage leaves. Drain the leaves on a paper towel and set aside to cool. Allow oil to cool.

Once the leaves are cool, set aside a few of the nicest leaves for garnish and then crumble the rest into the hummus and pulse a few more times. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hummus into a serving bowl and top with the reserved fried sage leaves and sage oil. Sprinkle on toasted pumpkin seeds.

Serve with toasted pita chips.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas in water (canned ok, homemade preferred)
2 cups roasted eggplant
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup tahini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
salt & pepper

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the water. Add them to a food processor along with the roasted eggplant, tahini, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times then process for a minute or two until a smoothish consistency, adding the olive oil through the feeding tube during the process. If the hummus is too thick, add a little of the reserved bean water. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and top with a little more ground cumin, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with toasted pita chips.

More Eggplant, Please

Food or Art?

Almost Too Pretty To Eat!

Almost Too Pretty To Eat!

We didn’t eat eggplant in my childhood home. Such a thing wouldn’t have been grown in neighbors’ gardens and you wouldn’t find eggplant on the menu of our one and only Chinese restaurant, the Cathay Cafe. This old world favorite would never find its way into the kitchen at Betty’s, our favorite diner. Someone in town must have known what they are because the strange, purple skinned lobes eventually found their way into the local Albertson’s. We didn’t know the people who bought them. I was an adult when I first tasted baba ghanush in a Mediterranean cafe in Salt Lake City and I was sold on the first bite.

We make rattatoui with most of the eggplants that cross our threshold. This simple, hearty staple seems so perfect for our cool, foggy summer weather. Eggplant, tomato, onion, pepper and garlic with tons of good extra virgin olive oil and sea salt to season – perfection! Of course, we live in a Mediterranean climate and these beauties grow well in the warm inland valleys around the Bay Area. They’re grown in all their diverse glory by farmers who care about the land and water that nourish them. We find them in every farmer’s market and, of course, in our neighborhood groceries.

The gorgeous Roso & Bianco variety pictured above sat on our counter for a few days “expressing” its beauty and inviting the camera lens. Jason finally pressed, asking me to reveal my intentions and I honestly couldn’t think of a single reason to cut it up. Alas, these things don’t last forever and letting it spoil would be a shame. I sliced in into half inch thick “steaks” and pan roasted the slices slowly in a bit of olive oil. With a little salt and pepper, these slices could be used for any number of dishes. We ultimately decided they were best eaten as the main ingredient to our lunch sandwiches. With a little lemon pesto and toaster oven heat, the sandwiches we created were amazing!

If you haven’t cooked with eggplant, take note of the following:

  • In spite of the diversity of size, shape and color, most eggplant tastes the same and all can be used in your favorite recipes.
  • The big, dark purple globe eggplant may need to be peeled before cooking, but that depends on your taste for the skin and the age of the eggplant. As with so many fruits and vegetables, there are several valuable micro-nutrients in that colorful skin so figure out how to enjoy it.
  • Most eggplant is a little bitter. The larger, darker the seeds, the more bitter the eggplant. Be sure to cut the eggplant up to your recipe’s spec, put it in a colander in your sink and then salt it liberally. Let it stand for a half hour then rinse the salt and liquids off. Dry it and proceed with the recipe.

It’s late summer, eggplant is everywhere and its uses are endless. Get out and try some. If you’re afraid to cook it yourself, try it the next time your in a restaurant that features it on the menu. Experiment!

Cheers – Steve