Three of my favorite Mediterranean / Middle Eastern dishes, Hummus, Tabbouleh & Baba Ganoush. Light, healthy and easy to make, they are perfect on a hot summers day with toasted pita bread, a Mediterranean Salad and some kebabs.
There is a great vegetarian restaurant in Dallas called the Cosmic Café, and their Hummus is my all-time favorite. I could never figure out why their hummus was so much better than my recipe, so we asked, and luckily, they were very gracious and answered our question. It’s simple enough, they use cucumber to thin the hummus rather than the standard liquid from the chickpeas, that’s it and the flavor is out of this world.
If you doubt this, do yourself a favor, taste a spoonful of the liquid from the chickpeas. Sounds pretty unappealing, right? If an ingredient doesn’t taste good on its own, then why on Earth have we all been adding it to our Hummus all these years?
As soon as I learned about the trick with the cucumber, I immediately changed my Hummus recipe to add cucumber to it and remove the liquid from the chickpeas. It has made all the difference, and it’s the only way I make Hummus now. I highly recommend you bookmark this recipe, and if you’re ever in Dallas, Texas, go eat at the Cosmic Café!
Here’s how I make my Hummus…
- 3 cups Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), Drained, Rinsed (2 cans will leave a few chickpeas for garnish)
- 1 Lemon, Zest, and Juice
- 3 Tablespoons Tahini
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Crushed and Chopped
- ½ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- ½ Teaspoon Paprika
- 1 ½ Teaspoons Salt (to taste)
- 1 Cucumber, Sliced
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Dill (optional)
-Drain and rinse chickpeas
-Add garlic, lemon juice and zest to a food processor, puree until smooth
-Add ½ of the cucumber, chickpeas, and spices (except salt)
-Puree, begin adding slices of cucumber until you reach the desired consistency
-Add salt in small quantities, taste. Add until you get to the desired amount of salt. The taste of salt in hummus changes overnight, so you may need to add more the next day (weird, right?)
-Add fresh dill if desired, it goes really well with the cucumber (try a ½ cup of hummus with dill in it first to see if you like it)
Tabbouleh is a light vegetarian salad made of finely chopped fresh parsley, bulgar wheat, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and mint, with a light lemon and olive oil dressing. It is a very simple recipe with only a few ingredients and only takes a few minutes of preparation. Crisp, cool and refreshing, Tabbouleh is a perfect starter or side salad great for a picnic or backyard cookout on a hot summer day.
Don’t cook the bulgar wheat based on the package directions. Bulgar wheat is already partially cooked and then dehydrated for packaging. To reconstitute the bulgar wheat, simply soak it in the lemon dressing for at least two hours before you mix it with the other ingredients. The bulgar wheat will be perfectly al dente and will have absorbed all the great flavors in the dressing and your Tabbouleh will be more flavorful and not watered down.
Here’s how I make my Tabbouleh
- ¼ Cup Bulgur Wheat
- ¼ Cup Lemon, Zest, and Juice
- ¼ Cup Olive Oil
- ¼ Cup Water
- 1 ½ Cups Fresh Parsley, Chopped
- ¼ Cup Fresh Mint, Chopped
- ¼ Cup Scallions, Sliced Thinly
- ½ Cup Tomatoes, ¼-inch Dice
- ½ Cup Cucumber, ¼-inch Dice
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
-Combine Bulgur Wheat, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and water. Let sit at room temperature at least 2 hours to soften wheat
-Combine all the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate.
-Combine the wheat mixture with the salad, mix well
-If the wheat is too dry add additional lemon juice or a small amount of water or olive oil
Baba Ganoush, a mild tart, smoky and garlicky 5-ingredient starter dish from the eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Baba Ganoush is made with roasted eggplants, fresh lemon juice, tahini, and garlic. It’s has a terrific flavor and is super easy to make, the eggplants roasted either on the grill over an open flame or roasted in the oven. I prefer roasting it over an open flame, blackening the skin until completely charred and the flesh is creamy smooth.
Most Baba Ganoush recipes have all the ingredients pureed until perfectly smooth. It can, however, be simply mashed with a fork, leaving it with a more interesting texture. There are a lot of seeds in some eggplants, which could make it less visually appealing if not pureed in a food processor. But, since Baba Ganoush is a centuries-old recipe, it is definitely more authentic to be mashed rather than pureed. I personally don’t think a few seeds are that big of a deal and I like the texture of a mashed Baba Ganoush rather than pureed.
Here’s how I make my Baba Ganoush…
- 3 Whole Egg Plants
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 3 Tablespoons Tahini
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- ½ Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- ½ Teaspoon Cumin
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Drizzle as Garnish
-Light charcoal grill
-Place whole eggplants on the grill, directly over flames, rotate every 5 minutes until completely blackened. Do not puncture, let the flames cause the skin to burst
-Remove eggplants from the grill and scrape the insides into the food processor
-Add all ingredients (except olive oil) to the food processor and puree
-Drizzle with olive oil