Hummus: Sweet Potato and Pumpkin

My world underwent a quiet but dramatic change about a month ago. My dear friend Rocco, who is a fabulous cook, started it all when he pointed me to the beet hummus on the Simply Recipes site.

Up to that point, I’d never considered anything other than chickpeas and roasted red peppers as the basis for hummus. How foolish I was! If the unloved beet could be converted into a delicious hummus, then anything was possible.

Luckily, two purple sweet potatoes from the Durham Farmers’ Market rested on my counter top at that time, waiting for their moment of glory. Looking at them, I was certain I was about to blaze a trail through the hummus jungle, forging past black bean and red pepper and into a territory of new taste. I’d be the first person to make sweet potato hummus. I’d be famous. I’d never have to work again.

Following the general contours of the beet hummus recipe, I came up with a sweet potato hummus using the purple sweet potatoes, with just the right mix of spice with lots of lemon to brighten the flavor.

My success made me think that other vegetables in the same genre, such as winter squash, might also work. Having bought about a dozen cans of pumpkins (on sale!) over the holidays, I tackled pumpkin hummus next. Experiments led me to tone down the lemon, allowing the pumpkin to assert itself. The addition of tomatoes increased the acidity but provided a softer, earthier complement to the gentle pumpkin than more lemon would have and made for a more balanced flavor.

After my work was done, I googled “sweet potato hummus” and “pumpkin hummus” just to confirm that I was the first.

I won’t humiliate myself by linking to the results. So the blogosphere is not likely to be wowed by this post. But I like both these recipes. Unlike many of the other hummus variations I discovered, these don’t include chickpeas, which allows the flavor of the base ingredient to stand out. Maybe I’m not the first, but I’ll imagine I’m among the best.

Pumpkin hummus, foreground, and purple sweet potato hummus. (My limited photography skills kept me from getting a good close-up of the sweet potato hummus Let’s just say that the close-ups took the idea of “food porn” to a new and somewhat disgusting level.)

Sweet Potato Hummus

1 cup cooked sweet potato (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup olive oil (or more to taste)
1/4 cup tahini (or more to taste)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 – 2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cardamom
2 tsp. cumin (or to taste)

Mix ingredients in food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with celery, carrots, bread, or crackers.

Pumpkin Hummus

1 can pumpkin
4 tbsp. tahini
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cardamom
4 tbsp. crushed tomato (or more to taste)
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Mix ingredients in food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with celery, carrots, bread, or crackers.

Arugula, Lamb’s Quarters, and Goat Cheese Salad

Yesterday offered a sobering reminder of why gluttony is a sin. Fred and I joined a friend at our beloved  Federal to watch Butler and VCU in the Final Four. I found myself drinking barley wine, a deceptively named beer that even I, normally not a beer drinker, could enjoy. We dug into a plate of fries, then moved on to a pork belly sandwich (Fred ordered, I sampled). We downed a mountain of nachos. 

After seeing a plate of nachos with guacamole at a nearby table, however, and realizing that we had at least 30 more minutes of basketball remaining, I decide that additional nachos were needed. This was a serious error. The onslaught of more cheese, beans, sour cream, and chips–now with guacamole thrown in–proved devastating to internal systems already groaning under the weight of the garlic fries and the barley wine. The rest of the evening was lost to a food coma of monumental proportions. I’m still recovering.

The moral of the story? Greens are your friend. Greens will make up for a multitude of sins. Greens are what I will eat for the rest of this week. (Guacamole does not count as a green.)

Most importantly, greens are delicious, and the Durham Farmers’ Market has some beautiful examples right now, including some I’ve never tried. Recently, for instance, I picked up lamb’s quarters, pictured below. They may look like tree leaves, but they have a mild flavor–more like lettuce than a green–with a light peach-like fuzz that disappears after they’re washed.

I bought Russian kale as well. (Note the continuation of the tree leaf theme.) This is a mild kale, and the purple adds a nice bit of color.

Most people recommend lightly sauteing these greens before serving. I’ve found, however, that both lend themselves quite well to salad. The lamb’s quarters, in particular, offered the perfect balance for some sharpish arugula we picked up on the same day. The resulting salad was, according to a friend who came over for dinner, the best he’s ever had. Truth be told, it was even better than the nachos.

Arugula, Lamb’s Quarters, and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 4

6 cups mixed lamb’s quarters and arugula, large stems removed from lamb’s quarters, all greens rinsed and dried
4 spring onions, all but 1″ of green part removed, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, or to taste

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, cut into six pieces
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt, or to taste (can substitute regular or kosher salt)
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in small bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes or so. Place greens in large bowl. Remove garlic pieces from dressing. Whisk dressing again and pour over greens. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and toss. Add onions and goat cheese. Toss one more time before serving.

Other ingredients that work in this salad: Mushrooms, cubed Granny Smith or other sour apple, chicken, Parmesan cheese instead of the goat cheese.