Friday, May 11, 2012

Walnut Hummus with Roasted Garlic

Walnut hummus is in the smaller dish upper right. It doesn't look like much,
but it's delicious! Also seen here, on plate, upper left: Wasa bread, quinoa 
tabbouleh, walnut hummus, white bean dip, queso fresco, raw baby carrots. 
As much as I hate to admit it, my ex was a fabulous cook -- inventive, daring, and attentive to details. He loved to plan and perform elaborate dinner parties for his friends, each with a theme, several courses and homemade dishes. One of the most ambitious parties I ever saw him pull off occurred early in our relationship -- the Turkish Delight, I like to call it.

The private university "Bill" was so fortunate to attend attracted students from all over the world, and being the gregarious and likable guy he was, he made friends with people from all over, including Turkey.
At that time, I was particularly enamored of all things Middle Eastern, from books to bellydancing to cuisine. So was Bill; he even owned a cherished Turkish cookbook from which he hoped to systematically test all the recipes.

When he asked me to help him with this sumptuous feast, I was only too eager to jump in. He had already tried out a few of the dishes, so he was pretty confident that he could execute the meal. He'd even been told by his Turkish friends that his Turkish coffee was good enough to make him a desirable wife! (The tradition is this: when a couple gets engaged, the bride-to-be must make coffee for her soon-to-be in-laws and apparently many hopes hinge on the perfection of her cups.) Still, on the night of the Turkish Delight, he wanted to prepare several dishes, so he needed me to help him put it all together and get everything out on time. What an undertaking!

I should have known then that this was how he was -- a little over-ambitious, sensitive to criticism, perfectionistic, controlling. But I was crazy in love at the time, so I just chalked it all up to a desire to please his friends.

I can't remember it all, but I know that we made zucchini fritters, a lamb dish with an eggplant cream, and a delicious walnut hummus. I loved the seasoning in the hummus -- it tasted "exotic" even though the spices were ones I was familiar with.

What follows is not the recipe we made that night, for I have long since forgotten what exactly went into that. Like the relationship, what's left is a lingering sensory impression of warmth and passion. Anyway, most of the recipes for walnut hummus that I found on the Internet simply cut a regular chick pea hummus with some walnut paste, but I don't remember any chick peas going into the recipe we made for the Turkish Delight. So, I've put together my own version here. This is very nutty and warm from the addition of cumin, cayenne, and paprika.

For when you want to remember how good it once was --

Walnut Hummus with Roasted Garlic
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Put 2 or 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled, in a shallow dish and sprinkle with olive oil. Bake until the peel is crisp and the inside tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Grind a little more than 1 cup of walnuts into a dry paste. Add the peeled garlic and the residual oil and grind up. Remove to a medium bowl.
3. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon.
4. Add seasoning: scant 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. coriander, a dash of cayenne and a dash of Hungarian hot paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to make a paste of a consistency you like. I added only about 1 tbs.

This is delicious with carrot sticks or on Wasa bread (or pita bread, of course). You can keep most of the oil out and just add it at the table, mixing it in like Middle Eastern restaurants do with regular hummus. And, I'm imagining the sweet possibilities, too. Take out the garlic and the savory seasonings and add instead cinnamon, nutmeg and some sugar. Maybe swap out the olive oil for some coconut oil, and you could spread it on a bagel or a slice of zucchini bread. Could be great for Mother's Day.

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