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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Spreads: Hummus and Chutney Cream Cheese

 We really like (and miss) the hummus at Tommy's in the Coventry area of Cleveland Heights; they serve it with Cheddar melted on top. That and one of their spinach pies makes a heavenly meal.

These days you can buy commercial hummus of varying quality just about anywhere, but it's really very easy to make.

Both of these spreads are great with pita, naan or other flatbread. The hummus is also good as a vegetable dip; I especially like it with raw carrots. I've tweaked the recipe I got in the '90s from my friend Andrea, who introduced me to hummus. In fact, the bowls are sitting on cloth she brought me from Thailand years ago.

 I admit that I often don't measure exactly; I add a bit of this and that and then taste. Different brands of chickpeas and tahini will vary in sodium, for example. If the tahini is very thick, I might add a little more olive oil or reserved chickpea liquid to the hummus to get the right consistency. You can change it up easily by throwing in pine nuts or roasted red pepper.

The Chutney Cream Cheese spread is adapted from Sarah Leah Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking. She recommends piping it onto dried fruits such as apricots and garnishing with toasted coconut; I've never tried that though I am sure I'd like it. I first ate it at my sister's house with pita bread, and that tastes so good I just never strayed. Chase doesn't specify mild curry powder; that's my preference. I also use neufchatel because it eliminates some fat without sacrificing creaminess or flavor.


2 cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/2 cup tahini (ground sesame paste)
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 4 tbsp. lemon juice (bottled is fine)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup or so coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. salt (taste after adding 1/4 tsp., then adjust)
1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice (you can skip this if you don't usually have it)

Drain chickpeas, reserving about 1/2 cup liquid. Place chickpeas and just 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid in food processor. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil, tahini, garlic and 2 tbsp. lemon juice. Pulse till just starting to get smooth. Add parsley, pepper, allspice and salt. Process till smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings or thickness (with olive oil, reserved chickpea liquid and/or lemon juice; just add a little at a time) as desired.

Tips:   Recipe is easily halved.
          The hummus will be better if you use a good brand of chickpeas such as Progresso. But you don't need to buy the most expensive tahini. I usually get one of the brands I can always find at Giant Eagle -- Ziyad or Kronos, $7 or $8 for a 16 oz. jar. I recently bought it at Meijer for under $7. Sometimes you can find it in a can, also not too expensive. Be sure to stir any brand before you use it because it tends to separate.
        For an excellent sauce for fresh, grilled tuna, thin a little hummus (1/4 cup or so) with a few tablespoons of cold water and stir well. Yum. Also good on steamed carrots, broccoli, asparagus, chicken sandwiches and your index finger.

Chutney Cream Cheese 

1 lb. cream cheese or neufchatel (lower in fat)
3/4 cup  mango chutney, finely chopped if very chunky
3 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. medium dry sherry
Scant 1 tbsp. mild curry powder
Scant 1 tbsp. ground ginger
Scant 1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. onion powder or small bunch scallions, trimmed and minced
Grated rind of 1 fresh lime, or 1 tsp. lime juice
1 generous cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped

Cream the neufchatel or cream cheese with chutney, sherry, brown sugar, lime and spices using an electric mixer. Stir in scallions, if using, Cheddar and almonds. Chill for a few hours to let flavors mellow. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

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