Sunday, November 22, 2015

Autumn wonderland & roasted pepper hummus

Autumn - the most colorful season of all!  But so underestimated.  People tend to prefer Summer - because of vacation time and good weather; Spring - because of life awakening after a long sleep; or even Winter - because of the magic of snow, winter sports and cosy fireplaces.  Autumn is seen as the grey, rainy, useless time in between, when we have to go back to school or work, when the days become shorter, and when we give in to the Autumn blues.

I couldn't agree less!  Not convinced?  Just look at those pictures!

In my book, Autumn really is the most beautiful time of the year.  Or at least - it has the potential for it (forget the rainy days for a moment).  On a sunny Autumn day, I take every opportunity to leave the city and explore nearby parks or forests to soak in the colors.  A few weeks ago I went to see the beautiful Château de Courances and its surrounding park, which left me speechless for quite some time (and trust me - this is quite unusual for me).  The colors and sights where so ridiculously beautiful, that I was jumping up and down like a little kid and running around with my camera from one place to the other to capture as much as possible.  I knew the castle would be pretty, but I only saw pictures of it taken during Summer time - and the Autumn colors really exceeded my expectations. 

The hummus I prepared today mirrors Autumn colors, thanks to the lusciously red roasted peppers.  Hummus is so versatile - once you have a good base you can add many different ingredients to customize it according to your favorite flavors or whatever you feel like eating that day.  I am a big fan of this roasted red pepper version, because of the smoky sweetness that goes so well with the earthiness of the chickpeas.  But you could also do lime and coriander, roasted garlic, basil pesto, spicy chilli, curry and ginger - and so much more.  Many people also like to mix in a tablespoon or two of thick Greek yoghurt, which lightens the hummus and makes it fresher (I like to do this on hot days, when you're not so hungry and prefer light food).

The key to success is a good base recipe.  Feel free to experiment with it, to find what works best for you - surprisingly enough, it's not easy to get it right the first time.  I think it's really important to use (i) dried chickpeas instead of canned - taste is so much better, with little effort, except for some prep work; (ii) good quality tahini - beware of the ones with additives or that taste bitter; (iii) good quality olive oil - it's taste will be really recognizable and distinct in the hummus, especially when drizzled on top, so make sure to use a good one.

What works for me is adding more tahini and less olive oil - I just love tahini, and when hummus is thick and earthy.  I sometime replace tahini with pure almond butter (or  pure walnut or hazelnut butter) - so delicious and gives it a slightly different twist.  Piece of advice: be careful with the lime/lemon juice (I often found hummus to be too sour).  Add less at the beginning - taste, and see if it needs more.  Play with the ingredients and have fun with it.  It's also good to leave it in the fridge overnight - the flavors will be much more pronounced the next day.

Once your hummus is ready - there are a million ways to serve it.  The classic being of course: as a dip for vegetable sticks (I love it with carrots, peppers and cucumbers -- but celery stalks, radishes, cherry tomatoes or other veg would work just fine).  I also like to put in on bread or in wraps - it is a great vegan substitute for butter or cream cheese.  Pair it with tomato and red onion - absolutely divine!  It's also great as a sauce - you can make it a bit thinner for that purpose - and eat it with falafel or quinoa and mung bean patties, for example.

So easy and versatile - no more store-bought, just make your own perfect hummus!


  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini (I tend to add more)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • juice of 1 lime 
  • olive oil (sometimes I use grilled sesame oil to enhance tahini flavor)
  • salt & pepper

  • Soak chickpeas overnight.  Change water, and cook according to package instructions until soft (approx. 45 minutes).  Adding salt to water will slow down the cooking - I suggest not to add salt at all at this stage.  Drain chickpeas and let cool.
  • Slice peppers in half, remove stems and pips. Grill in oven for about 30-40 minutes, until skin is black.  Put in ziploc bag, seal properly and wait for about 10 minutes (longer is even better).  The locked-in steam will help loosen the skin.  Roll the bag with your hands, squishing the peppers (again - to help remove skin).  Open bag, peel off skin (should be easy by now).
  • Pulse chickpeas and peppers; add tahini, garlic, lime juice (try half of it first), olive oil to taste (I don't add a lot -- 2 tablespoons -- and prefer to add more tahini; but feel free to triple this amount of olive oil if you wish), and season with salt and pepper (plenty of pepper!) to taste -- BLEND!  Taste and add more tahini, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, salt or pepper, if necessary.
  • Refrigerate and serve cold; tastes even better the next day when flavors fully blend.
  • I absolutely adore it on toasted revolutionary bread, with tomatoes and red onions!
Bon appetit!

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