Creamy Parsnip Hummus with Parsley
Hummus versions abound, but most-except for some Turkish recipes-are made with chickpeas and tahini. Hummus means “chickpea” in Arabic, and it is taken very seriously in the Middle East, where people debate questions such as whether the chickpeas should be peeled before pureeing or whether chilling the tahini ruins its texture. Sometimes I like to leave out the chickpeas and experiment with ingredients such as white beans, avocados, pumpkins, squash, and parsnips. This, of course, breaks the rules since technically hummus is not hummus without chickpeas. Oleana’s customers, though, understand why I call this recipe hummus when they taste it. I purée parsnips in place of the chickpeas, but I flavor the dish with the traditional garlic, lemon, cumin, and tahini. The parsnip’s texture is perfect for hummus: it is smooth and creamy, just like chickpeas, but has twice as much flavor. In New England, parsnips are the first spring crop, even before spinach, nettles, or fiddleheads. Farmers like to harvest parsnips after they’ve “wintered over” because the freezing ground makes the sugars more intense. The sweetness of the parsnips paired with the bitter, nutty tahini and earthy cumin is just divine.
If I’m serving this dish to a group as a mezze, I mound the creamy parsnips onto a platter and make a well in the center, which I fill with tahini sauce, and then serve it with crick-cracks or pita bread. This dish is also a wonderful accompaniment to the beef shish kebobs with sumac onions and parsley butter; my guests pass the tahini sauce around the table like gravy at Thanksgiving.I happen to like the dramatic visual contrast of the white parsnip puree holding the dark tahini sauce, but if this presentation seems too fussy to you, you can combine the tahini with the parsnips before serving. If you serve parsnip hummus as an hors d’oeuvre, try pairing it with a Falanghina from Italy; the flavors in the wine have just enough bitterness to set off the tahini and sweet parsnip.
Makes4 cups to serve 8 as an appetizer or 4 as part of a meal
Total Timeunder 2 hours
OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together, game day
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Taste and Texturecreamy, garlicky, rich, savory, spiced, sweet
Type of Dishdip/spread
- 1 pound parsnips (about 6 medium or 4 larger) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 large cloves)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ recipe tahini sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
In a medium saucepan, cover the parsnips with water and bring them to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the parsnips for about 20 minutes, until they are very tender when squeezed with a pair of tongs or pierced with a fork. Drain the parsnips in a colander, reserving 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid or water.
Transfer the parsnips to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Purée the parsnips with the reserved cooking liquid, garlic, lemon juice, butter, oliveoil, and cumin until smooth and creamy, for about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times.
Season the purée with salt and pepper. Spoon the purée into a serving bowl and cool it to room temperature, for about an hour.
Use the back of a large serving spoon to create a well in the center of the purée, big enough to hold about ½ cup. Spoon the tahini sauce into the center of the well. Garnish with parsley and serve.
2006 Ana Sortun