Chow Town

A greener take on hummus

When the winter months drag on, much of the color of our food can tend to take on drab hues, mimicking the weather outside. It is in these times that a hint of green or orange can perk up a dish, giving a hint of those days of spring still in the distance.

Hummus is a dish that has become almost ubiquitous on modern menus, showing up everywhere from traditional Middle Eastern shops to even the most American of soulless chain restaurants.

Generally a simple dish made with chickpeas and a mix of spices, hummus’ omnipresence has come with a sad dose of mediocrity as most plates you find have all the color and texture of drab beige stucco lining the homes of sprawling suburbs. Luckily, this is an easy problem to solve — make your own.

While most traditional versions of hummus do center around chickpeas as the legume of choice, many modern versions are being made with other pulses like black beans or lentils and coming with all manner of flavors from sun dried tomato to roasted pepper and so on. The best versions maintain the soul of the dish, balancing the earthy tones of bean with brighter flavors of garlic and spice or acidic notes from lemon or other citrus.

One ingredient that is irreplaceable in the canon of hummus is tahini, an oil rich paste made from ground sesame seeds that possesses a unique, nutty flavor and texture.

Think of tahini as the drummer in hummus’ band, bringing with it the backbone that makes all of the other ingredients sing. Without it, the bean is basically just a guy with an acoustic guitar singing bad Bob Dylan rip-offs in a coffee shop. And nobody wants that, so consider tahini a must. It can be found in most grocery stores or certainly at any reputable Middle Eastern or Mediterranean market.

The main component of hummus is always the bean, most often the chickpea, but this is where you can start to play with the makeup of your hummus. In these dour times when winter hasn’t released us from its clutches, adding a bit of color and brightness of flavor can turn a simple dip into a transformative bite.

You don’t have to reach any further than

your well-stocked pantry

to achieve this victory. There on the shelf is the humble, cheap-as-can-be green split pea, the forgotten legume in soup recipes of olden days. Split peas have a wonderful starch and vegetal base flavor to them that make this simple little bean blend perfectly with other ingredients in crafting a hummus that is at once familiar, yet refreshingly different than any you’ve tasted.

With split peas and tahini in tow, garlic, parsley and lemon do the rest of the work in waking hummus up from its boring doldrums, a dish that is as light on your checkbook as it is on your taste buds. Once you’ve crafted a batch of this ridiculously easy vegan green hummus, you’ll have a versatile dish to serve at parties or just liven up a simple everyday snack time.

Split Pea Hummus

This vegan hummus recipe is a slightly new take on traditional hummus with split peas substituting for chickpeas. The dish is very versatile as it makes a perfect dip with bread or vegetables while also working equally well as a spread for sandwiches and wraps.

Makes 3 cups 3 cups cooked split peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon zaatar 1 lemon, zested and juiced 1/4 cup tahini 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon cumin, toasted and ground 1 teaspoon sea salt 1/2 cup water (optional) Optional for serving: extra virgin olive oil or chili oil, zaatar, pomegranate molasses, Sriracha, toasted cumin seeds

In the bowl of a food processor, add split peas, crushed garlic, parsley and zaatar. Pulse repeatedly to blend ingredients. Add lemon zest and juice, tahini, olive oil, cumin and salt, then blend for 30 seconds. If hummus seems on the dry side, add 1/4 cup or so of water and blend another 20 seconds.

Tyler Fox, personal chef/event caterer who emphasizes ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking philosophy as well as vegan and local/farm to table foods.