The first time I had Middle Eastern food was 20 years ago when a college friend who was also studying in Paris for the year introduced me to Falafel. She took me to a little hole in the wall, counter take-away place in Le Marais (ironically the Jewish section of Paris) where we purchased a half moon pita bread stuffed with piping hot falafel, shredded lettuce and a sauce that sung to me. I was so in love with this new discovery that I constantly badgered her to take me back for more.
Since then, Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus and baba ghannouj have become fairly ubiquitous and it’s safe to say most people who have lived in a big city have probably had them at some point. My theory, completely unscientific of course, is that they lend themselves to easy snacking while providing amazing taste and protein, making them a staple of vegetarian cookbooks and culture. Having been a vegetarian for 15 years, I can attest to making this delicious dip many times.
In this version I use roasted red pepper to give it a sweetness and its orange hue. I give instructions below for how to roast your own peppers, but store bought are equally good; I just hate to buy when I can make it and for so much less. I also substituted white beans for the traditional garbanzos simply because they were already cooked and I don’t taste the difference in my hummus.
While hummus is traditionally eaten with warmed or toasted pita triangles, I am more apt to eat it with vegetables since I love the crunch of the crudites with the softness of the dip. Often this version ends up at parties or sometimes I’ll do the roasted beet version (details below) for a really rosy hued hummus. Additionally, although this theory is untested I would think this would be a great way to entice (trick!) kids into eating more vegetables since dips are fun to eat and this one is especially addictive without being overpowering.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
1 1/2 cups white beans (or 1 15 oz can, drained
1 medium red pepper (or 1/2 cup canned peppers)*
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne
small handful of fresh basil leaves (optional)
Preheat oven to 400. Place pepper on baking sheet on foil and roast for 30-45 minutes until blacken and sunken in on itself. Remove from oven, wrap foil around pepper loosely and place in brown bag to steam for 5-10 minutes. Remove from bag and as soon as you’re able to touch it place pepper in a bowl and peel away skin. Discard skin, stem and seeds but save liquid and pulp. In a blender, puree garlic, 1/2 of beans, olive oil, and half of pepper until blended. Add remaining ingredients and continue to blend until fully mixed. Adjust salt and lemon juice (quite often you need more of each of these to bring the full flavor to the forefront. Beans require a good dose of salt since they absorb so much of it.) Serve immediately or chill and allow flavors to marry.
*For the beet version, substitute the red pepper for 1 medium or 2 small boiled or roasted beets, peeled and diced. Adding dill to this version is a good herb compliment.