An Exploration of Syrian Flavors: Hummus Topped With Beef, Fried Walnuts, Cauliflower and Mint (Featuring The Best Hummus Recipe)

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There’s something about making a middle eastern dinner that makes mealtime feel like an event. Maybe it’s the way the food is presented, which is typically family-style, and in which we are encouraged to eat with our hands out of one communal serving dish. Or, maybe, it’s the festive details and garnishes, like fresh green herbs and hot paprika butter, that elevate the flavors of the dish and create a bright, cheery presentation. For me, it’s also in the preparation, where each component is a labor of love in which lots of fresh ingredients are put together from scratch and one must taste continuously as they cook to ensure a proper balance of flavor.

This dish is middle eastern comfort food at its finest. Creamy hummus is topped with a mixture full of savory ingredients, varying in textures in flavors. Then it’s layered together in a big bowl to be scooped up with warm, fluffy pita bread. No forks required.

Ingredients:

Hummus:
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped

2 16oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1/2 cup lemon juice

2-3 heaping tbsp of tahini

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Beef Topping:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp coriander

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne

1 bag frozen cauliflower florets, chopped into small chunks

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped

3 tbsp ghee (olive oil if not available)

2 tbsp paprika

Serve with pita warmed up in the oven.

Hummus:

Note: In my opinion, the secret to making amazing hummus is not being afraid to use lots of garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s those complimentary flavors that make hummus complex, and it’s very traditional to embrace these ingredients as much as possible.

1. Toss garlic, a splash of lemon juice and the tahini in food processor. Blend until well mixed.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the olive oil. Pulse several times until chickpeas appear mashed.


Note: If you’re at the bottom of the tahini jar and it’s hard, toss it in the microwave for a minute or so and it should soften right up.

3. With food processor on, drizzle in olive oil slowly. It should reach a very creamy consistency. Add salt to taste, and add more lemon juice if needed.

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Topping:

1. Cook beef in a saucepan with the olive oil on medium-high heat. Sprinkle with salt, coriander, paprika and cayenne. Immediately begin breaking the meat up into crumbles with a wooden spoon. When the beef is nicely browned, remove from the pan with a spider and transfer to a plate. Drain excess liquid if necessary.

2. With the heat still on, saute the cauliflower and garlic together until golden brown. Then add the walnuts.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, cook the ghee and the paprika together on medium-low, until paprika is fragrant.

To serve:

Spread out the hummus in a wide pasta dish, leaving some room around the perimeter for the pita bread. Spoon the beef, cauliflower and nut mixture on top of the hummus, and drizzle the paprika butter on top. Garnish generously with mint. Along the rim, place wedges of pita bread.

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