Turkish-Style Hummus with Feta Cheese Toasted Pine Nuts and Marinated Olives
In the Middle East, hummus has many regional variations. In Israel, where hummus is the national dish and eaten daily, their chickpea puree is served cold, with a light “lemony” flavor and hefty amounts of sesame seed paste, about ½ cup of tahini per 1 cup of hummus! Served in specialty bars called Hummusiyah’s, Hummus Tahini is by far the most requested dish, showcasing a thick, paste-like texture and rich, nutty, and slightly sweet sesame taste as its key flavor. Since tahini is a main ingredient in this dish, Israeli chefs require the best product sourced from Ethiopia. It lacks the off-putting, “bitter” taste from other locals. In the coastal town of Jaffa, the hummus lightens up—it has a whipped, light texture and slightly nutty flavor. In Palestine and Jordan, hummus is served warm or room temperature and garnished with chopped mint, parsley, and paprika, while Iraqi chefs top hummus with fried eggplant or chopped, hardboiled eggs.
In Turkey, hummus is served warm or room temperature and incorporates far less tahini (if any at all!). Labneh, lemon and garlic are the keynote flavors, which are subtlety supported with earthy cumin and rounded out with rich, melted, unsalted butter instead of olive oil. The texture is similar to a creamy, slightly chunky paste.
The culinary tricks to this simple dish are two-fold: add ice cubes during the process and marinate the raw garlic in fresh lemon juice, which tempers its raw “bite”. The ice is crucial—it lightens the hummus from a dull, yellowish color to a lovely pale wheat color, transforming its texture from “grainy” to a creamy paste. Do not skip tempering the garlic—marinating this aggressive aromatic in lemon juice before adding it to the chickpea paste makes this an elegant addition easy on the tongue. Paired with a variety of garnishes—toasted pine nuts, fruity, hot Aleppo chili pepper flakes, salty Feta cheese, marinated olives, chopped fresh cilantro or spicy cilantro Zoug sauce, this humble meal morphs into a healthy, budget-friendly meal made for sharing!
Turkish-Style Hummus with Chopped Cilantro, Toasted Pine Nuts, Crumbled Feta Cheese and Marinated Olives
1 package of Melissa’s Steamed & Peeled Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons organic tahini (I recommend Soom brand or Trader Joe’s organic tahini)
¼ cup labneh
½ teaspoon ground roasted cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large clove garlic, peeled and green sprout removed
1 medium lemon, about 3 tablespoons
3 ice cubes
1 bunch organic cilantro, leaves and tender stems only, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon Aleppo chili pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika (optional)
2 pita bread, cut into quarters and lightly toasted
Zoug sauce (optional)
Into the bowl of a food processor, place chickpeas, tahini, labneh and cumin and pulse 15 times till chunky puree is achieved. Open lid, scrape down sides, and pulse again at least 15 times.
Into a small dish, grate fresh garlic clove with a micro-plane. Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice to garlic and allow to sit for 5 minutes to mellow its harsh “bite” and sharp flavor.
Add lemon garlic mixture to chickpea puree and pulse several times to combine. Add 1 ice cube while machine is running till combined into chickpea puree. Repeat process with remaining 2 ice cubes. You should see a creamier texture and lighter color in the hummus after this step.
Remove hummus to a serving dish and set aside. Put garnishes: chopped cilantro, toasted pine nuts, crumbled Feta cheese, marinated olives, toasted pita wedges and Zoug sauce into serving bowls. Dust hummus with Aleppo chili, chopped cilantro and toasted pine nuts. Place butter in a small dish and heat in microwave for about 8 seconds, or until melted. Pour warm melted butter over hummus and serve immediately.