roast garlic hummus with lots of tahini

Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus

It's amazing the variety of things you can make with a few basic ingredients. For instance, it always surprises me that a crêpe has the same ingredients as a pancake—they're both essentially flour, eggs, butter, and milk—but these two different griddle cakes taste nothing alike. While their uniqueness has a lot to do with texture (one is of course flat and the other fluffy), they also just taste different. Like, if someone took a crêpe and puréed it, and did the same to a pancake, I would bet that most people would be able to tell which is which, and this difference (preparation methods aside) is largely due to ingredient proportions.

Unfortunately, there aren't any actual pancakes in this post, but the principle is universal. In the case of hummus, the chickpea:tahini:lemon ratio is one of the most important things to consider. Even though everyone's using the same basic ingredients, no one's recipe tastes like anyone else's.

Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus

This post's hummus is not my usual recipe, which has way more lemon juice than you might ever think to add. And while I use lemon with reckless abandon, I'm not a big fan of garlicky hummus—I want the garlic to be a background note, and not such a primary flavor. And while I like to use a good amount of tahini, I don't normally use a ton. So my ideal hummus tends to be bright and lemony, with a few subdued earthy flavors in the background.

But not everyone likes their hummus the way I do, so this recipe is for everyone who hears "bright and lemony" and totally turns off. This hummus is all about savory and earthy flavors, with a hint of lemon and fresh garlic for some brightness (but don't worry, not too much). There's a ton of tahini for nutty earthiness, and even more roast garlic, for those who start every meal prep by finely mincing up a whole bunch of cloves to be sautéed, and who never sit down to a meal without a bottle of sriracha on the table. While my citrus and salad loving family always makes their hummus the way I do (I mean, where do you think I learned how?), I like to make this extra-tahini and roast garlic hummus for my in-laws, who are more into spaghetti carbonara, peanut soup, and pasta puttanesca.

Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus
Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus

These savory flavors are especially priceless in a vegan diet. There are certainly a ton of plant-based ingredients that have rich umami flavor, but if your idea of eating vegan mostly includes things like herby lemon salad with romaine and chickpeas, you're probably missing the meatier flavors that are simpler to find when eating... well... meat! An extra jolt of tahini and roast garlic is just the thing for some bonus savoriness.

Many Assyrians spend a big chunk of the year on a vegan fast, so this hummus recipe is particularly perfect for fasting times (or "soma"). There's an important, albeit short, vegan fast coming up soon (depending on the denomination, some will observe it this week, some next week), called the Fast of Nineveh. This fast commemorates Jonah's prophecy and the subsequent repentance of the Ninevites (the Assyrians living in the city of Nineveh). My grandmother says that this holiday is like Assyrian Thanksgiving, because it's a time to reflect on what you're thankful for. I'm definitely thankful for hummus in all its forms!

Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus

More hummus: zesty lemon hummus

roast garlic hummus with lots of tahini

Download a PDF to print
If you want to skip soaking and cooking the beans, simply use 2 15.5 ounce cans of chickpeas, and skip to "making the hummus."

Soaking the beans

1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
2 quarts water
2 teaspoons baking soda

  • Cover the chickpeas with the water and baking soda, and stir until the baking soda dissolves. Soak overnight, for at least 12 hours.

Cooking the beans

2 quarts water
2 teaspoons baking soda
Soaked chickpeas

  • Discard the soaking liquid, add the drained chickpeas to a small stockpot, and cover with another 2 quarts of water and 2 more teaspoons baking soda.

  • Bring to a boil over high heat, and then immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the chickpeas are completely cooked through.

  • Once they're done, strain them and rinse them under cold water.

Making the hummus

cooked chickpeas (or 2 15.5 ounce cans of chickpeas, strained and rinsed)
8 whole unpeeled garlic cloves, for roasting
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, raw
2/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice *
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste **
2 tablespoons water, or more if necessary
For serving: extra virgin olive oil, za'atar *** and/or paprika, and pita bread and/or veggies

  • Preheat the oven to 400° F.

  • While the chickpeas are cooling down, roast the garlic: coat the unpeeled cloves in the 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and roast them for 20 to 30 minutes, until they're very soft, and the skins have cracked open a little to reveal some brown spots on the cloves underneath.

  • Once the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, peel them out of their skins (they'll most likely easily peel away, but if they don't, you can squeeze them out of their skins like toothpaste).

  • Finely mince the 1 clove of raw garlic in a food processor.

  • Once the chickpeas have cooled, purée them with the minced fresh garlic, roast garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and 2 tablespoons water, until completely smooth. Add more water if necessary.

  • Spread the hummus on 2 plates (or freeze half for another time and spread half on one plate), make little indentations with the back of a spoon, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with either paprika or za'atar (pictured: one of each).

* Feel free to use just 1/4 cup if you prefer, but it's really good with the full amount.
** If you're using canned chickpeas instead of dried, you might want to cut back on the amount of salt you add. This recipe has you cook the chickpeas in unsalted water, so this is the only opportunity to add salt to the hummus. Some canned chickpeas, on the other hand, come with quite a bit of sodium.
*** Za'atar with plenty of sesame and thyme works great here, since this is a more earthy, less zesty hummus.

Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus
Earthy Roast Garlic Hummus

flat bean stew with rice | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh

green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh

I'm writing this post on my way back home from Chicago. This was our first real stretch of time away from Hong Kong since moving there in August, and I've been missing it, just like I was homesick for Chicago right before traveling home for the holidays. My homesickness has as much to do with missing certain ingredients as it does with missing certain company, because you can't facetime food.

Back in December, I was so badly craving really good mesta and labneh (I haven't found Middle Eastern yogurt in Hong Kong). So when I got to Chicago, I cooked with and ate my body weight in dairy (maybe literally?), all the while wishing I could just walk across the street for some fresh rambutan to go with it. I miss the market by our apartment, with its friendly vendors and the scent of drying green mandarin peels (always precisely slit open, carefully peeled whole, threaded on strings like flowers, and hung outside every stand in November and December). I have no idea what January will bring, and I'm excited to find out.

green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh

I'm so glad I got to spend time cooking with my family, and I'm putting together a whole bunch of posts this and next month, documenting all these family recipes. This first post is particularly on topic, because just as my life is a constant fruitless attempt to find ingredients that are hard to find where I am, and easy to find where I'm not, my grandmother is always on the lookout for flat beans, which are just like green beans, but larger than life and so much more flavorful (with an almost starchy sweetness).

Flat beans aren't the easiest to find outside the Mediterranean, Middle East, and South Asia, but in Chicago, you can often find them at grocery stores that import a lot of goods from Greece. If you're lucky enough to find them, they'll work beautifully in this veggie beef stew. But if you can't scout them out, plain old frozen green beans will absolutely work here too. Either way, riza shirw'it fasouleyeh (riza = rice, shirwah = stew, and fasouleyeh = beans) makes a wonderfully comforting stew that's just perfect for staying warm and eating healthy. And best of all, there's not much meat involved, which is nice if you're trying to eat more plant-based foods, but don't want to give it up altogether.

green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh

flat bean stew with rice | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh

serves 6 to 8
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 90 minutes
download a PDF to print

stew the meat

1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat cut into medium chunks
2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • Combine the stew meat, water, black pepper, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium, and cook with the lid very slightly cocked to the side for about 50 minutes to an hour, until the meat is tender. Maintain a low boil while it cooks. If too much water evaporates and exposes the meat, add a little more water.

finish the stew

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup medium diced onion
2 jalapeños (or 1 big banana pepper), cored and diced medium
2 14.5 ounce cans stewed tomatoes *
1 cup boiling water
Salt to taste
1 kilogram bag of frozen flat beans **
1/4 cup + 2 T lemon juice (from about 1 very juicy lemon)
serve with: 1 medium pot of simple rice

  • While you're waiting on the meat, in a stockpot or dutch oven, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions and cook for 6 minutes, stirring every minute or two, until they're a little golden.

  • Add the jalapeños to the stockpot, and cook for 3 minutes to soften them a little.

  • Add the stewed tomatoes to the stock pot, stir everything together, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer covered for about 35 minutes until the tomatoes disintegrate a little (but not completely). Set it aside while you wait for the meat to finish cooking.

  • (This is a good time to start the rice).

  • Add the meat and its cooking liquid to the tomatoes. Stir in the cup of boiling water, salt to taste, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the meat to become a little more tender.

  • While you’re waiting, thaw the flat beans a little by running water over them for a minute or two. Let them drain and cut them in half into shorter pieces.

  • Stir in the flat beans, bring back up to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, until the beans are tender.

  • Stir in the lemon juice, salt a little more to taste if necessary, and serve the shirwah alongside basmati rice.

* Just about any grocery store will have stewed tomatoes, there is usually not as much selection as diced, so you might have to scour the tomato aisle for a minute or two to find them.
** Flat beans, which are huge, broad green beans with an edible shell (usually imported from Greece, and pictured here) work particularly well here, but you can use 2 1/4 lbs of whatever frozen green beans are available at your grocery store. Flat beans that are imported from Greece are usually sold in 1 kg bags. Look for flat beans in Greek and Italian markets, as well as supermarkets with large imported frozen food sections (in Chicago, we usually find them at Fresh Farms and Treasure Island foods).

green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh
green bean stew | riza sherw'it fasouleyeh