Friday, June 19, 2015

Ahead of His Time in the Kitchen
What’s cooking? Charred Carrot Hummus

He wasn’t a big man, but he was a man of large gestures. The ultimate salesman, my dad greeted everyone as a long lost friend. “Niiiiiice ta seeeeeeya,” he’d say, as he pumped your hand up and down. My husband always claimed it wore his hand out waiting for Dad’s opening line to finish.

Born in New York City and raised on the shores of Long Island and Connecticut, Dad nevertheless embraced Texas life and Texas culture upon marrying my mother. He was as gracious a host and as generous a friend as anyone I ever met.

He made only big fires in the fireplace. Where he’d grown up in Connecticut, the word “cold” really meant something, and he never completely adjusted to South Texas winters.  I can still hear him warning us, “You kids stand back!” as he struck the match. The resulting fire would be so hot, we always had to leave the room.

And when it came time to grill a few steaks, he used nearly a full can of lighter fluid to get the coals started. My mother would turn to guests and say, “I hope you like your steak charred.” But she was happy that someone else was cooking, so she never actually complained. His barbecued chicken always came with a healthy – or unhealthy – helping of blackened skin.

So I was thrilled to find that Dad’s penchant for darkly crispy has at last come into vogue. The May-June issue of Plate magazine (one of my new favorite sources of inspiration) is entirely devoted to “burnt food.” Apparently, chefs from Boston and New York City, from Charleston to New Orleans and on to L.A., have all decided to embrace the concept of actually burning food to achieve the ultimate in rustic, earthy flavors.

It’s true. They’re taking charred vegetable scraps and making them into sauces, overtoasting bread to serve with ricotta and jam for breakfast, infusing olive oil with onion ash, and making chili from the burnt ends of meat. Then at a spice store in New York this week, I was introduced to omani lemons – Persian limes that have been brined and dried into small, blackened orbs that nevertheless add an amazing citrus flavor to spice mixtures or thrown whole into soups. They’re not charred – they just look it. Who knew?

The Kitchen Goddess figures she can burn with the best of them. So I have for you today a terrific appetizer for your Father’s Day celebration – a wonderful new hummus, made with charred carrots. It’s ridiculously easy, and offers a complex, smoky and very carroty flavor. The chef who came up with the original concept says he serves it as a dip with raw carrots, but I loved spreading it on toasted pita. Am thinking it would also be great with red bell peppers, celery, or English cucumbers.

Kitchen Goddess note: Tahini is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds, and is essential to Middle Eastern cooking. You can buy it in a grocery store or make your own in a food processor. The Kitchen Goddess, being unschooled in the ways of tahini, bought hers. But it seems easy enough to make – toast a cup of sesame seeds, then purée them with ¼ cup of a neutral oil like grapeseed or a mild olive oil – and you won’t have as much left over as I did. If you buy some, be sure to stir it up well, as the oil has a tendency to separate from the paste during its stay on the grocery store shelf. But the taste of this hummus is magic, and it’s so easy, you’ll want to make it again, so the purchase isn’t a terrible idea. The KG plans to make her own tahini next time – she bets the homemade stuff will taste even better.

Charred Carrot Hummus

Adapted from a recipe by Chef Moosah Reaume at Soho House Chicago, from Plate Magazine, May/June 2015

Makes 3-4 cups.

Stage 1: cut into 3-4" pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into 3-4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1¼ teaspoon ground cumin
15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), with liquid
2 heaping tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, separated

Preheat oven to 500º.

Stage 2: tossed in spice rub

Combine the coriander and cumin with 1 tablespoon olive oil to make a paste. Toss the carrots in the paste until well covered. Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, checking periodically to make sure they don’t get overburnt. If at the end of the 30 minutes, the carrots are tender but not as charred as you’d like, run them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

Stage 3: roasted to a char

Purée the carrots in a food processor with ¾ teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of water, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Adjust salt to taste. Add the garbanzo beans with their liquid to the processor, along with the tahini, lemon juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Process to a relatively smooth consistency.

Serve as a spread on toasted pita, or as a dip with raw carrots, celery, red bell pepper, or English cucumber slices.

And have a wonderful Father’s Day lunch!

Tamales, a green salad, tahini on pita, and fresh cherries for dessert. Yum!


  1. I so enjoyed getting a glimpse of your daddy...wonderful story!

    Eileen in Atlanta

    1. Thanks, Eileen. He was a terrific guy, a loving dad, and a wonderful grandfather. I still miss him.