Tag Archives: #healthydiplomat

Meriwether’s: Portland, Oregon’s original farm-to-table restaurant

Taste the farm without leaving Portland’s city limits at Meriwether’s, Portland’s first – and still fabulous – true farm to table restaurant.

The farm-to-table concept is no longer just a hot trend in the food world. It’s now so well-integrated into the mainstream restaurant industry that it almost seems commonplace. Yet Meriwether’s literally brought the farm to the table in Portland, well before the concept became fad. Produce, meat, and herbs from nearby Skyline Farms determine each week’s menu.

Portland, Oregon is near and dear to my heart. I’ve spent a few posts paying homage to the quirky City of Hipsters and its food scene. Some of its staples have gone from cult following to tourist trap status, such as Voodoo Doughnut and Salt & Straw (ice creamery). The real stars of Portland’s food scene are those who dared to be different well before it was cool, and who refuse to change their execution to scale up to the masses.

Meriwether’s is one of those pre-Portlandia places. Located in a mostly industrial, slow to gentrify pocket of northwest Portland, the English Tudor-style restaurant and its Ivy-covered garden patio seating area seem out of place, yet perfectly logical in that strangely hipster environment that is blue-collar Portland. Why wouldn’t a farm-to-table restaurant resembling an English country cottage be located next to warehouses, an abandoned processing plant, and a franchise of the fanciest automotive garage you’d go for an oil change maybe anywhere?

 

Each week’s menu tells Meriwether’s story and what is newly in season

 
In oft-cloudy Portland, Meriwether’s is part cozy refuge – with indoor fireplace and dark wood furniture – and part outdoor oasis for those gorgeous summer months. Created to showcase the bounty of Skyline Farm, located 15 miles away and just outside of the Portland city limits, its food is elegantly simple and uncomplicated. It lacks the hipster pretention of trendier urban restaurants, which makes it a great place to relax with friends.

 

Fabulous chilaquiles

 
I did just that for a lovely Sunday brunch in early July. Each of our brunch dishes featured farm-fresh eggs. Though the restaurant is hesitant to make any accommodations or substitutions, they honored my request to turn their breakfast scramble of the week – with asparagus, leeks, goat cheese, and basil – into an omelet. Two friends ordered the scramble themselves, while a third ordered the chilaquiles – topped with fried egg and looking amazing, as that dish I like to call “breakfast nachos” tends to do.

 

The farm scramble

 
My omelet was served with fried, skin-on potatoes. I’d call them blistered more than fried, but that isn’t reflective of how addictive they were. I rarely eat white potatoes (well, ok excepting French fries), and these were indescribably good and worth every calorie. Thick country toast from Pearl Bakery accompanied most brunch dishes. Its thick, pillowy softness really was just the perfect vehicle for the amazing homemade strawberry jam Meriwether’s did me the injustice of placing in front of me. A salad of fresh, slightly bitter garden greens made me feel a little less guilty for the potato indulgence.

Brunch in the garden at Meriwether’s was a memorable Portland experience that reinforced how serious Portland takes its food and its farms. It’s a must-try Portland legend!

Healthy Diplomat: Vegan avocado basil pesto brightens any savory dish

Even if you’re not vegan, this pesto is bursting with summer freshness. Rich, yet light, this savory condiment is perfect for everything from pasta to meat and vegetables.
When one of my friends conjured up a version of this pesto to get rid of some ripe avocado, I was curious how it was going to turn out. Turn out it did. Sampling it straight from the jar, I knew I would recreate it myself at some point. That point came when I joined another friend’s BeachBody challenge group. Needing “clean” recipes and having bought a giant spaghetti squash, now was the time for some dairy-free pesto.

 

Basil, the defining component of traditional Genovese (Genoan) or Ligurian pesto

 
I’m a huge fan of traditional Genoese pesto. I first made it back in college with my first food processor. For those who haven’t made it, it’s extremely easy. It’s also calorie dense. A typical pesto usually involves about 2 cups fresh basil, 4 cloves raw garlic (can we say garlic breath?), 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pignoli (pine nuts). That’s a lot of fat – even if most is fairly healthy.

My goal in creating this avocado pesto was to mimic the richness of a traditional pesto but with less oil and calories. I’ll remind everyone up front that this pesto still is not a low calorie food, thanks to the avocado, but fats are healthy and we get a little bit of crunch and fiber from almonds too!

The beauty of a pesto is you can tweak it to fit your own preferences. One clove of garlic was enough for the pesto to stand up to meat or roast veggies (or even as a dip – great with plantain chips or sugar snap peas as a snack!), but you may wish to add more garlic if you plan to make this a standalone accompaniment to pasta or a pasta substitute. 

  
I paired it with my Romanesca meat sauce over spaghetti squash for a bit of yin-yang (meat/veggie). You’ll also want to add the lemon juice gradually; its acidity is needed to preserve the fresh green color of the avocado, but too much and you’ll overpower the basil. Unless, of course, you’re going for basil guacamole!

Vegan Avocado-Basil Pesto

  • 1/4 cup roasted or toasted plain almonds
  • 1-2 cloves raw garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 small, ripe Haas avocado (or 1/3 to 1/2 large)
  • 2-4 Tbsp extra Virgin olive oil (preferably cold-pressed)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon)
  • Sea salt to taste

In a food processor, chop almonds until ground. Add the garlic, basil, and avocado. Pulse to mix the ingredients. Slowly add in olive oil; puree the mixture on a high speed setting, adding more olive oil if needed. Add in lemon juice and salt to taste. Blend until smooth.

  
The pesto is ready to serve immediately, but it also can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week.

Healthy Diplomat: Vegetarian Quinoto-stuffed peppers

Tired of boring old quinoa? Need new ideas for healthy entrees – vegetarian or not, or just an impressive side dish for guests? Try this Peruvian inspired delicious bell pepper stuffed with a goat cheese quinoa risotto, also known as quinoto. It is rich, yet light – typically under 300 calories per serving and a great alternative to traditional risotto.

At the end of my first trip to Peru a few years ago, I tried quinoto for the first time. The creamy quinoa dish was Peru’s answer to Italian risotto. It was velvety, nutty, and very heavy. 

  
Determined to make it at home, I transformed my typical quinoa pilaf into a lighter version with the addition of a few ounces of tangy chèvre. A small amount goes a long way and makes it taste far more decadent than it actually is. Lest you think it too light, the high protein, high fiber content in the quinoa, along with a full, sweet bell pepper gives it enough substance to really satisfy you – or your guests.

Tips: I prefer to use chicken broth if cooking for carnivores, but vegetable broth adds plenty of flavor and depth for vegetarians. 

  
Also, quinoa can be very messy. When rinsing (which removes the bitterness from the husks surrounding the seeds), F you don’t have a fine sieve, I like to line a sieve or colander with paper towel to ensure the seeds don’t escape, and then scrape the seeds off the paper towel. You’ll certainly lose a few, but fewer of them!

  
Not a fan of goat cheese? Try parmesan or cotija cheese for a similar texture – and different flavor.

The quinoto can be made in advance. Stuff the peppers, then tightly wrap and refrigerate overnight before baking.

  

Quinoto stuffed bell peppers


Servings=4
Difficulty=Easy

  • 4 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine, optional
  • 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned finely
  • 1/2 small red onion or 1/4 large red onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/2 c. Crimini or button mushrooms, washed and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 2 oz. chèvre cheese, plus additional for topping

Place the broth and quinoa in a 2 quart (medium) saucepan and bring to a boil over the stovetop. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring every two minutes or so. Meanwhile, remove the caps, ribs, and seeds from each bell pepper. Set aside.

  
While the quinoa cooks, sautée the vegetables: Over medium heat, place about 1 Tbsp olive oil into a nonstick or cast iron skillet. Once the oil is hot, sautée the garlic and minced onion for about 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add in the tomatoes and mushrooms. Sautée another 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms have reduced in volume by about half. 

  
Remove from heat and set aside.
When the quinoa has absorbed all but a small amount of liquid, add in the wine if using and allow it to heat and evaporate. Next, stir in the vegetables until fully incorporated, over medium low heat. 

  
Fold the goat cheese into the quinoa mixture. Remove from heat. If serving immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  
Stuff each pepper with roughly one cup of the quinoto, leveling off. Spread a few teaspoons of goat cheese atop the quinoto. Wrap each pepper in aluminum foil. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until approximately 45 minutes before serving; preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  
On a baking sheet – or placing the peppers upright in a large muffin tin – bake the peppers (covered) for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet/tin from the oven. Unwrap peppers and return to the oven for 10-15 more minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a garnish of roasted red pepper coulis and basil for drama! Disfrute!

The Healthy Diplomat’s Mediterranean-inspired turkey burgers

The all-American hamburger gets the CD international treatment with infusion of flavors that span the northern and eastern Mediterranean. An oh so easy classic you might just turn into a weeknight menu staple!

  
America has a love affair with the poorly named hamburger. Though the name refers to its attributed origin – immigrants to the US cooking steak in the style of Hamburg, Germany, it always threw me off as a child, thinking it was made from ham. And clearly, the rest of the world has embraced the burger concept as a signature American export – one that has moved well beyond fast food, judging by the explosion of gourmet burger joints throughout the Americas. I’ve seen fancy pants burger houses in places as far flung as Peru, Oman, Austria, Lithuania, and Hong Kong. The meat patty (or non-meat) on a bun concept resonates with an audience receptive to culinary globalization.

Ok, enough waxing philosophical. Let’s get down to business. You just want to know about THIS burger, right?? Ok, ok you all know I like to get a little too much into the “diplomat” before delving into the culinary.

So I recently joined an old friend’s seven day clean eating challenge, complete with set meal plan. When she mentioned that she was looking to me to put my own spin on the recipes, I tried to step up to the challenge.

When it came time for the turkey burger, I wasn’t the most confident. Homemade burgers have never interested me, as I’d prefer even a pseudo-beef cheeseburger from McDonalds over DIY. But I decided to incorporate a few of my go-to healthy ingredients to spruce up an otherwise bland patty.

A few key points to ensure your burger is a success. First, do NOT use the leanest ground turkey; a bit of fat is necessary to ensure a moist, juicy burger. You can substitute ground beef, bison, chicken, or lamb if you prefer. 

Incorporating fresh ingredients and spices inside the patty makes every bite addictive

Third, mixing/massaging veggies and spices directly into the meat produces a delicious patty that needs no bun or sauce; however, Greek tzatziki only enhances the burger’s Mediterranean flavor . Try making it yourself with my recipe here; omit the feta cheese if you’re trying to keep it “clean.” 

  
I serve it directly over salad, but it’s perfection with a multigrain bun. Finally, this recipe uses portions for a single serving; simply multiply to make as many as you need. Definitely make and eat them as soon as cooked. They are so easy to make, minimal prep is needed!

Mediterranean inspired turkey burgers

Difficulty: Easy

Servings: One

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) ground turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped, fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Red onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned and chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. zata’ar spice blend
  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, massage the spice blend, salt and pepper blend throughout the meat. Next, add in the fresh vegetables and basil and massage to incorporate all evenly. Roll the mixture into a ball; press onto a firm surface (cutting board or wax paper atop counter) with hand to flatten to about 1/2 inch thick patties.

Grill or pan fry (with a slight amount of olive oil or cooking spray in a nonstick pan, or, preferably a cast iron skillet) for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until slightly brown and cooked through (poultry should have lost all pink color; beef/bison or lamb may be cooked for less time on higher heat to produce a pink center). Serve over salad, lettuce wrap, or bun, topped with 1-2 Tbsp. tzatziki sauce.

Unorthodox Moroccan spiced Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

Slow-cooked chicken, bright sweet potatoes, and jalapeños get a kiss of Near East spices. Moroccan tagine meets American chili. Whether you are thawing out from a snow-in, rain-in, or simply are looking for a great winter (or Super Bowl) recipe, this unorthodox chili is a great alternative to a standard chili con carne or white chili. It can be made vegetarian friendly, too!

It started with a rainy weekend and a need for culinary inspiration. I opened an old cookbook for some recipe roulette, in search of soups. And there it was, in an old Whole Foods Market Cookbook given to me by a college roommate: a simple but intriguing recipe for a sweet potato chili with chicken But it was missing something: international flare.

What could spice up a bland but sweeter chili? Aha! Moroccan spices – cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and coriander, to start. With a few of those individual spices absent from my spice cabinet, I added my own spice blend, searching to achieve the fragrant sweetness of a Moroccan tagine with the savory heat an American chili, even taking a hint of cocoa to add depth and richness (shh!) The recipe below will offer options if you have the necessary spices, as well for my tip of making the most of the spice blends you might already have in your cabinet.

Here’s my secret: by combining a curry powder with pumpkin pie spices, you’ll manage to hit most of the more subtle spices in American, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking. Just be careful on proportions and ALWAYS keep ground ginger and cinnamon on hand. My #3 spice blend (but #1 for garnishes, cold dips, etc.) is za’atar. In this case za’atar is more widely associated with Levantine (eastern Mediterranean) or Arabian cooking than North African, but it helps round out the sweetness of the chili for those that want a more savory dish.

As hearty as chili can be, this one won’t weigh you down. It’s packed full of protein, nutrients, anti inflammatory capsaicin from the jalapeños, and dietary fiber. Dare I say it qualifies for the Healthy Diplomat stamp of approval?

Tips:
The recipe calls for a minimal amount of fat (oil), so I use small amounts of chicken stock to deglaze the pot and prevent sticking when sautéeing vegetables initially.

 

sauteeing the veggies and chicken, deglazing with a bit of broth

 
To make this dish vegetarian/vegan, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock, omit the chicken or replace it with texturized vegetable protein or a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans.

Moroccan spiced sweet potato chili

  • Servings: 8;
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Adapted from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook, Copyright 2002 by Whole Foods Market Services, Inc.

  • 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (about 1″)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger*
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 tsp. curry powder*
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. Cocoa powder
  • Pinch each, cardamom and cayenne pepper
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth or stock (plus additional for deglazing)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (15 oz) cannellini or great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 3 medium or 6 cups chopped), peeled and diced to 1/2″
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • Plain Greek yogurt for garnish
  • Za’atar for garnish (optional)

*If you have individual spices available, try these: 1 tsp. Cinnamon; 1/2 tsp. Ginger, 1/2 tsp. Coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp. Turmeric, 1/2 tsp. allspice. Proceed with the remaining (non-starred) spices in the list.

  
In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil and sauté garlic, onion, and bell pepper until just tender (onions will be translucent). Add the chicken and brown for about 4 minutes, tossing midway. Add in the spice blend, toss to coat and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Slow cooker: If using a slow cooker (Crock Pot), place on “high” heat setting. Add in the chicken broth and water, followed by the jalapeño, sweet potatoes, and beans. Stir in the chicken and vegetable mixture until smooth. Leave on high setting for 3-6 hours, reducing heat to low as needed.

 

chili after hours of slow cooking.

 
If cooking via stove top, do not remove from heat; continuing on medium heat, add the jalapeños to the chicken and vegetable mixture. Sauté, slowly adding a small amount of chicken broth to cover the mixture and prevent sticking. Continue to add the remaining chicken broth; stir in the sweet potatoes, beans, and, finally, water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes to one hour – more if desired.

Serve with Greek yogurt, and if desired, za’atar. A fluffy but porous dinner roll will mimic traditional North African bread. I also like to serve it with plantain chips to serve as a New World counterpoint to the Old World spice in the chili.

  

Italian-Californian fusion: A hearty sauce Romanesca over roasted spaghetti squash

This classic, hearty Italian sauce adds some masculinity and depth to roasted spaghetti squash for a nutritious and satisfying low-carb, comfort meal. Customize by going meatless or pair it with your favorite pasta for a taste of Roman home cooking in your own kitchen.

 
I believe that Italian food is the world’s comfort food. Whether you have a taste for Mediterranean calamari, pasta, pollo Milanese, Genovese pesto, northern risotto, or Neapolitan pizza, Italy serves flavors that transcend culture. So after a trying day of wine tasting in Sonoma County, California, my Italian friend’s home-cooked Roman meat sauce (similar to a Bolognese) served over rigatoni and paired with one of our favorite Sonoma Zinfandels, was the perfect ending to one of those days that makes you grateful to be alive and for those around you.

  
The dish was so straightforward, not the sort of slave-all-day complexity that surprises and delights. Mushrooms and beef are better together than separately. The tang of ripe tomatoes, with fresh basil and a subtle heat create a combination you couldn’t imagine any other way. 

Personified, this Roman-Bolognese is that friend you haven’t seen in years, but you pick up right back up as if you’d been in touch all along. In other words, make it and you have an instant go-to dish.

a hearty Bolognese/Roman sauce featuring beef, mushrooms, and tomatoes that can be made meatless

After watching my friend cook this pasta dish. I realized that I needed to recreate it, but with a California twist. After months of transient living, restaurant food and perhaps a bit much wine have taken their toll on my body, so of late, I’ve been looking for healthier options. My philosophy is not to fear carbs or be overly restrictive (as you’ll see on my Healthy Diplomat page), but to load up on vegetables, fruits, and limit processed foods.

West Coast cremini and chanterelle mushrooms

In Northern California, the abundance of fresh, local produce is one of the secrets to the area’s culinary notoriety. Quality ingredients make quality food. So I turned to spaghetti squash from a local farmer’s market to carry its weight with this hearty Roman version of a Bolognese (meat sauce).  

It is an easy way to lighten a heavier, food-coma inducing dish without sacrificing the experience and texture of al dente pasta. It also is friendly to those on gluten-free, paleo, or low-carb diets. Substitute crumbled seitan or texturized vegetable protein for the meat in the sauce (or double the amount of mushrooms) to make it vegetarian or vegan (without cheese). If you don’t have dietary restrictions, try making it different ways to see which one you prefer!

  
I used local and almost exclusively organic produce for the entire sauce, including canned San Marzano tomatoes for that “authentic” (a word I generally hate to use in food speak) Italian flavor. Feel free to substitute whatever varieties you can find in your area.

This dish isn’t at its best without wine (so long as you are of age!). A California Zinfandel’s subtle sweetness and fruitiness are a perfect pairing for this sauce, but I’ve also had it with a bold, jammy Cabernet Sauvignon. Whichever you choose, the wine and dish play together very nicely, only enhancing the flavor of each.

Start to finish, it can be made in about an hour and fifteen minutes, but simmering the sauce for a few extra hours will deepen the flavors.

When using pasta, rigatoni is ideal, since its tube shape and ridges carry the sauce easily, though spaghetti or angel hair would be appropriate substitutes. Whole-grain wheat, spelt, or quinoa pasta are wonderful, more nutritious alternatives to “white” pasta.

Sauce Romanesca over Roasted Spaghetti Squash 'Pasta'

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash OR 8 oz. (typically half of a bag/box) uncooked rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and pressed or minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cups mushrooms, chopped (cremini and/or a mix of varieties)
  • 1 lb. (about 400 g to 1/2 kg) ground beef (ideally 15% fat) OR 3 cups of crumbled meat substitute
  • 1 cup fresh whole basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
  • 1 28 or 32 oz. can of crushed or diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of cayenne or black pepper – to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast), grated

Directions:

Squash
To roast/steam spaghetti squash, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place whole squash in a roasting pan with about 1/4″ water. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove temporarily; cool for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. 

  
Using a fork, scrape and remove the loose innards and seeds (usually darker than the bright yellow, edible flesh beneath) and discard. Leave the remaining flesh intact and return to the roasting pan, cut sides up. Brush or drizzle with olive oil. Return the pan to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until inner flesh begins to brown slightly. Remove and cool.

Sauce
May be made in advance of spaghetti squash or simultaneously.

If preparing the sauce and squash simultaneously, begin the sauce after placing the whole squash into the oven for the initial bake.

In a medium pot or saucepan (ceramic is preferable), heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the crushed garlic. After about a minute, add the chopped onion. Close the lid and allow the onions and garlic to sweat and cook until tender (monitor constantly and stir as needed, especially with a steel or copper-bottomed pot).

Add meat or meat substitute and brown thoroughly. Roughly chop about 1/2 cup of the basil leaves and add them to the mixture. Next, stir in the mushrooms. Cook while covered, for about five more minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and peppers, stir continuously for a few minutes. Cover. 

  
Allow sauce to come to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Add most of the remainder of the basil, reserving some for garnish. If you have time, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

If using pasta, cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and drain again. Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine.

If serving with squash instead of pasta, top with sauce during – not before – serving.

Top with reserved basil and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, or if staying dairy-free or vegan, nutritional yeast.

Having fun with harissa, Part II: Spicy harissa hummus

Give that tired, mass-produced hummus a run for the money with a hearty homemade hummus with the smoky red pepper and chili kick of North African Harissa. Hummus will never be the same!

After a few weeks in Tunisia, I was inspired to find several ways to use harissa. In my last post, I discussed my re-creation of my spicy egg white breakfast omelet for a quick, healthy, anytime entree with an exotic flair. Today, I hope you’ll embrace harissa even more by making fresh, nutritious hummus from scratch. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I stand converted!

My aunt and mother first introduced me to hummus when I was a young child, long before hummus and even salsa became mainstream snacks around the world. Unfortunately for me, I hated it then. A decade or two later, I finally acquired a taste for it, so much so that I never again passed on it at home or at my favorite Lebanese restaurants.

Yet pre-Tunisia, I’d never made hummus from scratch myself. I tried the boxed mixes during college a few times, but out of laziness and a lack of a decent food processor, it took a new Cuisinart processor [I am NOT paid to say that!] and a trip to the Middle East to embolden me. I didn’t want to make just hummus; I had two goals – make it truly from scratch with organic, dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) instead of canned, and to make it unique and spicy with harissa.

You may substitute canned chickpeas for the dried ones of course, which eliminates the need to plan ahead (soaking takes little effort but a lot of time to let them rest, preferably to sprout and release more nutrients, while also making the tough legume more digestible). Using dried chickpeas also requires the addition of water to the food processor. You still may need to add water if you use canned chickpeas, but that amount will be substantially less.

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Make this recipe your own by tweaking it to suit your tastes. I love garlic, so I used both raw and roasted cloves for depth of flavor. I find that lemon juice can really overpower hummus, so I used it with caution. Others may like to add more tahini for its distinctively nutty flavor. Slowly add flavorings incrementally so that you hit the flavor sweet spot for your tastes.

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Of course, you may substitute cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, or Asian chili paste or omit the harissa entirely, but it adds a smoky and definitely spicy kick – unless you find and use a mild version. In that event, it’s a shortcut to roasted red pepper hummus. The hummus universe is limited by only your own creativity and the ingredients you choose to use!

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Spicy Harissa Hummus

  • 2 cups cooked, dried chickpeas/Garbanzo beans (see below)
  • 2 cloves raw garlic
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 1/4 c. Lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 c. filtered water (or more to thin)
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Harissa

Soak 1 cup of dried chickpeas in 4 cups water for at least 24 hours up to 72 hours (once the chickpeas have germinated and begun to sprout). Drain and rinse. Bring about one quart (4 cups) fresh water to a boil; add chickpeas and cook for about 15 minutes or until tender (or several hours in a slow cooker). Drain. The cooked chickpeas should amount to about 2 1/2 cups.

Alternatively, use canned chickpeas (one full 15/16 oz. can); rinse and drain before proceeding. (Omit the salt or add in to taste if using canned chickpeas with added salt.)

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except water and harissa. Pulse to incorporate. Gradually, add water to thin to desired consistency. Add harissa (or substitutes) and additional salt to taste if desired.

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Serve topped with additional harissa, ground sumac, or pistachios as pictured below.

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Hummus without harissa – great either way!