Middle eastern dip trio

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One of my errands last Friday (in addition to rummaging around the thrift store) was to the Persian grocery store. I don’t go to this place too often (it’s just a little bit out of the way, and only really useful to us for a few specialty items), so every time I go I seem to get sucked into wandering around staring at things. The store basically has: a huge selection of bread (pita, lavash, and the like), a huge selection of bagged teas, a huge selection of faux-British cookies (chocolate digestive biscuits, etc., but with Arabic text on the wrappers), an awful lot of olive and grapeseed oils. Filling out the offerings are things like pomegranate molasses (multiple varieties, natch), dried beans, yogurt and kefir, and, of course, tahini:

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This 4lb jar is actually not the largest size on offer, there is an 8lb iteration as well. I go back and forth as to whether or not it’s worth the extra savings to size up but keep going with the 4lb jar. Something about buying 8lbs of tahini for a two-person household just seems like it would be crossing a line. Still, even at 4 lbs, buying in bulk is definitely worth it: this jar is $17, or $4.25/lb. It’s been a while since I shelled out for a 1lb jar of tahini at Whole Foods or the health food store, but I’m pretty sure they cost at least $6 or $7. Bulk purchasing for the win, again.

So what am I going to actually do with all that tahini I hauled home? I have lots of uses for it, but a favorite means of disposal is in hummus, or blended with eggplant to make baba ghanoush:

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Saturday evening we had a party to go to, and I put together this little dip trio to bring, along with a plate of raw veggies for dipping. I’ve been trotting variations of this dip platter out for quite some time, check out this vintage 2009 batch (with toasted pita wedges, also yum) as proof of its enduring nature:

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Really, I’m still amazed at how impressive people find a nicely arranged platter of something really, really, almost embarrassingly easy to make.

While hummus and baba ghanoush are traditionally served as dips or spreads, I find they also make a great dressing for salad or even (in the case of hummus especially) roasted vegetables like peppers or zucchini. Just thin out with a little water or extra lemon juice.

And, it should go without saying, but just because all three of these recipes are presented in one post, doesn’t mean you have to make them all at once. But if you’re going to a party, you really should.

Hummus times two, plus baba ghanoush

Ingredients
For plain hummus
2 c. cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. tahini
1/4 c. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

For red pepper variation
same ingredients as for regular hummus, plus two red peppers

For baba ghanoush
2 medium eggplants (about 2.5 lbs)
1/3 c. tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp cumin
pinch of chile powder
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Method

1. If making red pepper hummus or baba ghanoush, you’ll first need to roast your pepper or eggplant. To do this, I like to place the vegetable in question under the broiler in the oven, then turn every 5 minutes or so until the exteriors are charred and the flesh is soft. For peppers, the time in my oven is typically 15-20 minutes. Eggplants are closer to 30 minutes. Once the pepper or eggplant is roasted, allow to cool, then peel off the skin. If you are using red peppers, slice them open and discard the seeds and white ribs (also discard the stems, for either peppers or hummus). Chop into coarse pieces.

2. For any of the dips: Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust lemon juice, salt, or tahini as needed.

Other variations:

Try using roasted garlic instead of raw for a more subtle and slightly sweet flavor (you may want to use more garlic in this case as the flavor is mellowed by roasting).

Add a spoonful or two of yogurt for an extra creamy texture and tanginess

“Mediterranean Hummus” (a la Trader Joe’s): top with finely chopped fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and toasted pine nuts

Roasted tomato hummus: Roast 1-2 tomatoes in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Peel and blend into plain hummus.

Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper for an extra spicy dip

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