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April, 2012

Turkish-Style Hummus with Chopped Salad of Cucumber, Tomato and Mint

By Heidi Allison

Believed to have originated in 13th century Egypt, this humble peasant fare was initially served as a cold purée of chickpeas, vinegar, pickled lemon, herbs, spices, nuts and oil— sans garlic and tahini.

Garbanzo Beans

Hummus , as we know it, is an Arabic vegetarian dip consisting of cooked, mashed garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), blended with tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. Served as an entrée, appetizer or a side, this Middle Eastern icon is paired with flatbreads, grilled chicken and fish, falafel or eggplant, and garnished with diced tomatoes and cucumbers, chopped eggs, sumac, pickles, paprika, olive oil ,cilantro, cumin, pine nuts, sautéed mushrooms and ful (fava bean paste). Texture is a matter of debate—while some take the rustic approach and serve their hummus with a chunky consistency, others insist it must be rich, creamy and smooth as butter.

Believed to have originated in 13th century Egypt, this humble peasant fare was initially served as a cold purée of chickpeas, vinegar, pickled lemon, herbs, spices, nuts and oil—sans garlic and tahini. As surrounding regions adopted this versatile spread as their own, a variety of different textures, serving temperatures and flavor profiles emerged. By the 18th century, a facsimile of the hummus we know today, Hummus bi tahini, made with garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt, was a staple in Syria.

Today, hummus is eaten throughout the Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Greece, with each culture adding its own spin. In Palestine, hummus makes an appearance at breakfast, lunch and dinner—it’s risen to the status of a national, culinary staple--rather than just a simple side! Served warm, and with flatbread, this signature dish is topped with mint, paprika, cumin or parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Laban ma hummus is a regional specialty that uses yogurt in place of tahini, and the olive oil is switched out for butter, creating a spread that’s rich, creamy and smooth—without a hint of bitterness. (Unhulled sesame seeds, and hulled sesame seeds to a lesser extent, can leave a bitter taste in the mouth.) A more heart-friendly version, Hummus masabacha, incorporates a heady, lemon-spiked tahini and a sprinkling of paprika to the mix. Lebanese hummus, garnished with pickled vegetables and turnips, is served with a side of hot green peppers; while Humus awarma ,is topped with minced meat, onions and pine nuts. Turkish hummus blends yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into puréed chickpeas (no tahini here), and, it’s drizzled with sauce of hot, red pepper and melted butter. A healthier version incorporates a hefty dose of roasted garlic (5 cloves per cup of beans) and a dash of cumin. Israelis add their own flavor twist—a sprinkling of caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms or cooked, mashed fava beans are ladled over the top. But of all the recipes I tested, Turkish Hummus was my favorite—hands down.

This relatively unknown rendition has mild, sweet flavor and a lovely, lemony taste— both creamy and light all at the same time. Moreover, since tahini is verboten (it’s an alien ingredient except in eastern Turkey), not a hint of bitterness lingers. (I know yogurt sounds strange, but mixed with garlic, preserved lemon peel and olive oil, it’s virtually undetectable in the finished product. It works!) A nice change for kids or anyone who does not like tahini. You’ll also notice this hummus has a lighter, creamier and more refined color, which is achieved by its secret ingredients –a small amount of yogurt and soaked cashews. Testing this recipe, I found adding soaked cashews not only added a velvety richness (without bitterness) the traditional version lacked, but also smoothed out its slightly grainy texture to a rich, creamy paste, which works better for the American palate. Served with warm flatbread and a chopped cucumber, tomato and mint salad, this homage makes a substantial meal! To lower the calorie count, or make it more authentic, just omit the cashews and up the olive oil to 4 tablespoons.

Turkish-Style Hummus with Chopped Salad of Cucumber, Tomato and Mint
Serves: 4 as an appetizer: 2 as an entrée
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Turkish-Style Hummus with Chopped Salad of Cucumber, Tomato and Mint

Ingredients:
¾ cup Raw Cashews, soaked in water for 5 hours; then rinsed and drained
I can (15.5 ounces) Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Greek style 2% yogurt
½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ Preserved Lemon, peel only, chopped (can substitute lemon zest)
3 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
Dash of paprika or ground Aleppo pepper

Preparation:
Place raw cashews in a glass container and cover with 5 cups of water for 3-5 hours. Drain and rinse cashews with water, then set aside. Place garbanzo beans, lemon juice, preserved lemon peel, garlic, cashews and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth, Remove to a bowl and fold in the yogurt until incorporated. Add water or chickpea juice if consistency is too thick. Season with additional salt if needed. Place hummus into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to “marry”. Place hummus in a flat bowl and swirl a circle with the back side of a large serving spoon over the top. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper sauce or paprika, then serve.

Aleppo Pepper Sauce
Makes: 1 Tablespoon

Ingredients
:
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
½ teaspoon Sweet Paprika
½ teaspoon Aleppo Pepper Flakes Dash of kosher sea salt

Preparation
:
Place butter, Aleppo pepper flakes, salt and paprika in a ceramic ramekin and microwave for 30 seconds , or until butter is melted. Swirl to color butter and set aside.

Cucumber, Tomato and Mint Salad
Makes: 1 cup

1 Hot House Cucumber, ¼ inch dice
2 Roma Tomatoes, ¼ inch dice
Juice of 1 Lemon
5 fresh Mint Fresh Leaves, chopped into a chiffonade
½ teaspoon, Dried Mint.

Preparation:
In a large bowl, add chopped cucumber, tomatoes, lemon juice, mint, salt and olive oil, Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to” marry”.

Notes from the Author:
Makes a great grab-and–go lunch when paired with whole wheat pita bread. Salad is best when be eaten the day it’s made.