Happy 2016!

Thought I’d start out the new year with something really simple — hummus.  Who doesn’t like hummus?  As is the case with most mass-produced food products, there’s a whole lot of hummus out there, but I think the best hummus is the one you make yourself.  And, hummus is really easy to make.

There’s nothing particularly revelatory about this hummus.  It’s a traditional rendition featuring the usual suspects — chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt.  You could get creative from there, adding different ingredients (roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, harissa, etc.), but I tend to like hummus in its most basic form (kind of how I like my pizza, always find that a classic Margherita pizza has the perfect balance of flavors).  Sometimes less is more.

I topped off the hummus with a drizzle of peppery extra-virgin olive oil and some leftover chickpeas that I sauteed with a little Lebanese seven-spice (a mixture of black pepper, paprika, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and red pepper).  Lastly, sprinkled with a dash of sumac (although, completely optional) and fresh parsley leaves.

But….hummus on it’s own seemed a wee bit lonesome.  So, invited some other friends to my Middle Eastern-inspired vegetarian meze party —  za’atar flatbread, zhoug (a green chile condiment), pickled beets and turnips, and roasted cauliflower with turmeric and smoked paprika (more on these invitees in a bit).

Was going for a smooth, creamy, fluffy hummus and was quite pleased with the results.  The keys to getting the hummus nice and smooth are a good amount of tahini and letting the food processor run for several minutes.  Hummus tastes best when fresh, so dig in.

I like to cut the za’atar flatbread into wedges, then add a dollop of hummus, a spoonful of zhoug, and pickled vegetables on top…all the flavors in one bite, yum!

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This batch I added a sprinkling of urfa biber; a dried Turkish chile pepper that has a really interesting smoky, raisin-y flavor, with just a little bit of heat. Instead of urfa biber, you can sprinkle with hot smoked paprika, for a different, but equally delicious twist.

This green condiment is zhoug…a hot chile condiment comprised of cilantro, parsley, serrano or jalapeno chiles, garlic, olive oil, and spices.

I’m generally not happy unless there’s something spicy on the table, whether it’s a spicy chile oil, spread, or condiment.  If you want less heat, seed the chiles; if you want more of a kick, then add the whole chile, seeds and all.

Pickled Japanese turnips, naturally colored with red beets, make for a nice pop of color.  Can’t go wrong with pickled vegetables.

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme and/or oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt.

For the dough, I used part whole wheat flour and part all-purpose flour, and topped with a generous amount of za’atar.  Flatbread is at its best when straight out of the oven.

You could always make the dough in advance.  Just let it come up to room temperature for a few hours before you’re ready to bake.

A pizza stone is perfect for making the za’atar flatbread (just make sure to heat the stone for a good 45 minutes to an hour so the stone gets nice and hot).

For the cauliflower, I roasted wedges that had been coated in olive oil and seasoned with smoked paprika, turmeric, and sea salt.  Intended to finish the cauliflower with a tahini sauce once it came out of the oven, but forgot.



3 cups cooked chickpeas from ~ 1 1/4 cups dried
2 teaspoons baking soda, divided
3/4 cup tahini such as this brand
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
~1 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lemon (~1/4 cup), more or less to taste
extra virgin olive oil for topping
sumac (optional)
chopped parsley for garnish

Place the dried chickpeas and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl or pot, cover with cold water by two inches.  Soak for 8-12 hours.  Drain.  Place the soaked chickpeas in a large pot with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Simmer for 45-50 minutes until very tender. Drain.

Add the cooked chickpeas, tahini, cumin, garlic, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  With the motor running, slowly add 1/4 cup ice-cold water.  Continue to process for 4-5 minutes, adding more ice water as needed, a tablespoon at a time (about 2 to 3 tablespoons), until a nice smooth consistency  Taste, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed.

Spoon the humus into a bowl.  Make a well in the middle and drizzle extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with sumac.  Garnish with parsley leaves.

Note: Topped the humus with a few chickpeas sauteed in olive oil and Lebanese seven-spice (purchased from here).

Za’atar Flatbread

makes 4 nine-inch flatbreads
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon *yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl

Za’tar Topping:
1/2 cup za’atar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor with a metal blade, add the flours, yeast, salt, and olive oil.  With the motor running, add the water slowly until the dough comes together and forms a ball.  Continue to process for 1 minute.

Coat a large bowl lightly with olive oil.  Add the dough and coat lightly with the oil.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit at room temperature, until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven with a pizza stone to 425F.  Let the stone heat for at least 45 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work space.  Divided the dough into four equal balls.  Coat lightly with flour (and plastic wrap and clean tea towel for 20 minutes.

Mix the za’atar and olive oil until well combined.

Take one ball of dough and roll to approximately nine inches in diameter.  Place on a lightly floured pizza peel.  Spread a layer of the za’atar and olive oil mixture all over the top of the dough.  Transfer the dough to the hot pizza stone and cook 8-10 minutes until nicely browned around the edges.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Pickled Beets and Turnips

3 cups water
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup distilled or white wine vinegar
1 pound turnips (used Japanese turnips), cut into batons
1 small beet, peeled, cut into batons
2 cloves of garlic, crushed with side of knife
1 bay leaf
a couple dried hot chiles (optional)

Bring the water, salt, and vinegar to a boil, stir until the salt is dissolved.

Place the turnips, beet, garlic, bay leaf, and dried chiles (if using) in a glass jar.  Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables.  Cover and refrigerate at least a week before serving.


1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed parsley, chopped

2-3 chiles (such as jalapeno and/or serrano), roughly chopped (seeded if you prefer less heat) 
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
sea salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until mixed but still chunky.  Transfer to a glass container. 

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I absolutely love the combination of these dishes! Za'atar on flatbread is great and your homemade pitas are so impressive!


Thanks Sabrina!

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