Hummus with Kawarma and Pita

Chickpea: The Most Versatile Legume! 

I didn’t even know what a chickpea was until a few years ago.  I had tasted hummus from a jar and thought it tasted like paste.  When tasting a chickpea from a tin, it was chalky and tasteless.  I wasn’t interested at all.  My palate has become a little bolder in recent years, and I’ve become more interested in a healthy diet, which caused me to explore the chickpea on another level.  While traveling in India the first time, and eating chickpea curry, which is a delicious stew of spices, juicy chickpeas and rich gravy, I decided that chickpeas could be delicious if they were just dressed up a bit.  I ate really good hummus in Istanbul and Israel, and learned that the stuff we buy in a jar at home just isn’t the real thing.  There are also loads of ways to make hummus fabulous by adding roasted vegetables, nuts, oils, and even cheese.

 On their own, chickpeas have very little flavor or aroma.  But when combined with flavorings and spices, they take on a nutty, creamy flavor.  They are available either canned or dried, and depending on who you ask, there’s not a lot of difference between the two once the dried ones are cooked.  Personally, I like to cook with the dried ones, which takes a lot of time.  But I like the idea of knowing those little guys were cooked with love and never trapped in a tin and set on a shelf waiting to be chosen. 

Then there are the health benefits of chickpeas, which are quite impressive.  Not only are they fairly low in fat, they are very high in dietary fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.  For someone with high cholesterol or diabetes, they are a great choice for a healthy diet.  And they’re very inexpensive, so why not eat chickpeas?!

In India, dried chickpeas are ground into gram flour, which is used for curries, fritters and sweet treats.  It is also used as a mild skin cleanser, especially for babies.  One of my favorite ways to cook chickpeas is by roasting them in a hot oven with oil and spices until they are crispy.  They make a great snack or garnish on salads.

Here are three of my favorite ways to cook with chickpeas, and the recipes are easy to make. I learned to make really good hummus on my recent trip to Tel Aviv, Israel (the key is good tahini). The curry looks a little intimidating with so many ingredients, but if you make the effort to find and use them, you’ll be glad you did.We’re fortunate to have several good Indian spice shops in Tulsa, but my favorite is Spices of India on 41st Street.

I learned to make delicious hummus from Chef Nir Feller in Tel Aviv.  It really makes a difference if you cook dried chickpeas, instead of using the ones in a tin.  It takes some time to cook them, but you can cook a huge batch and freeze them for using later.  Be sure to freeze the cooking liquid separately to use also.  Another important ingredient is the tahini, which should be organic 100% tahini with no additives.  I order Har Bracha Tahini from Israel online because I think it tastes the best.

makes 3 cups

2 cups dried chickpeas
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil

Method: In a large pot, place dried chickpeas and cover with plenty of cold water, at least 2” above the chickpeas.  Add onion and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 2 hours.  Remove onion pieces, and drain chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.  Set aside 1/4 cup of the chickpeas for garnish.  Place remaining chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor, along with 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt.  Process until smooth, adding more liquid or water until the desired consistency is reached.  Taste to see if more salt is needed.  Pour into a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top.  Add reserved chickpeas and serve.

I first ate this dish at a restaurant in Tel Aviv where they made the most delicious hummus and topped it with this spicy lamb (called Hummus Im Basar). You can also use this dish in salads or pita. If there is any leftover, I love to add it to an omelet for breakfast!

Spicy Ground Lamb

serves 4-6

10 ounce ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoons dried za’atar or dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, minced
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Method: In a bowl, combine the ground lamb, garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, za’atar, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Mix well and over with plastic wrap. Let sit in refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet and melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the lamb mixture and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Top with pine nuts and serve.

There is just nothing like fresh pita warm out of the oven! The key to making these light and airy is to keep the dough sticky and moist.  In this recipe you bake them in a very hot oven, but you can also roll the dough thinly and place them on a hot griddle or grill.  You should always place the hot pita into a bowl covered with a towel to keep them soft.  You’ll never go back to store-bought pita again!


makes 8 to 10

1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour (bread flour is best)

Method: In a large bowl, put the water, yeast, sugar, olive oil, and salt.  Mix well.  Add flour, one cup at a time, and mix until dough comes together.  Add flour until dough is firm enough to handle, but still sticky.  On a floured surface, knead dough for 5 minutes, adding flour if necessary.  It’s important the dough is not too firm, but quite sticky.  You can mix and knead the dough in a standing mixer with the dough hook if you prefer.  Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for one hour, or until doubled in size.  You can put in refrigerator and leave overnight, if you prefer.  Turn out dough on a floured surface and divide into 8 or 10 balls.  Flatten each ball into discs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let pita discs rest for 20 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pitas in a bowl.  Cover immediately with cloth towels to keep the steam in, and keep pita soft.  Let rest for 15 minutes, then serve.

AppetizersEvan Wei-Haas