Tis the season for holiday parties and family gatherings. And for food. Lots of food. Cocktail weenies, and barbecued meatballs, and cheese plates piled high with a million varieties that all MUST be sampled-- for comparison's sake you know? What if I missed out on trying the most perfect and best cheese ever just because my plate was too full? That would be tragedy and I will not stand for it. They ALL must be sampled.
But I digress. The point here is that there is a lot of food and I LOVE it! But it's also maddening. The will power to resist a second round of cheese sampling (elimination round, duh) is enormous. Splurging is all well and good until you've wolfed down 5 meatball sliders and an entire row of Christmas cookies and suddenly have lost all will-power to move from the couch for three days.
So to prevent this inevitable tumble into a food-induced coma-- I devised a plan. Every time I attend a holiday party I always bring something slightly healthy...but still delicious... that I don't feel guilty eating, even if I end up eating an entire bowl. The trick is finding that perfect dish that feels decadent, but leaves you light on your feet.
After years of trial and error with kale chips and brussel sprout pasta salads (God bless my friends and family for putting up with me) I finally found the perfect platter. The answer? A veggie and hummus tray.
Bear with me.
I knooowwww veggies and hummus don't sound exciting. No one is rushing to eat soggy cucumbers and storebought hummus.
To make it feel special, I jazz it up with the most stunning and colorful varieties of veggies I can find. I don't mess around with out-of-season celery or cherry tomatoes, but stick to crisp, vibrant veggies. Deep fuschia and golden beets sliced into rounds, purple and white carrots with their green tops still attached, peppery pink radishes, crunchy parsnips and celeriac carved into perfect sticks-- it's like a fireworks show on a plate.
Homemade hummus is so simple and so economical. The basic recipe calls for white beans, garlic, tahini, and olive oil, but it can be dressed up in so many different and delicious ways. I almost always make my hummus with seasonal roasted vegetables-- whatever I have on hand-- for an added boost of flavor and color. One year it was sunchokes. This year it's parsnips. But any good root vegetable or squash will do. The possibilities are nearly endless and always fascinating.
Below is a basic hummus recipe and a few ideas for seasonal add-ins. Mix and match the recipe with your favorite vegetable to create your own signature hummus.
Basic Hummus Recipe
1-2 cloves garlic
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice (please use fresh lemon! And if you have a microplane, add in a teaspoon or two of grated lemon zest. You won't regret it.).
1 15-ounce (425 g) can chickpeas, lightly rinsed + drained
3-4 Tbsp tahini (if you can't find this next to the peanutbutter, look in the ethnic food isle. You can also sub roasted sesame seeds, which I've had to do before and which worked out dandy.)
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of sea salt and pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
optional: 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth. Add more olive oil as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
Optional Seasonal Flavors
All of these flavors require roasted vegetables. To roast, simply wash and trim your veggies, toss with a Tbsp of olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Throw your roasted vegetable of choice into the blender with your basic hummus recipe and blend until smooth. I have a little magic bullet that works like a DREAM for making hummus, but any good blender or food processor will do. If you're having trouble getting your mixture to blend, add a few additional tablespoons of liquid (water, lemon juice, or oil).
1 small to medium roasted beet diced into chunks.
Sub tahini for feta cheese--- the rich, salty feta goes perfect with earthy beets.
1 cup butternut squash roasted and diced into chunks.
1 cup of parsnips cubed and roasted
2 Tbsp of water-- plus more as needed to create desired consistency (Parsnips are quite starchy and may require a little bit of additional liquid to help them blend better).
Sunchoke Hummus (still my favorite!)
1 cup of sunchokes diced and roasted
2 Tbsp of water-- plus more as needed to create desire consistency
There you have it folks. Now when the cheese plate starts staring at me, I pile my plate with heirloom carrots and bright pink beet hummus and never look back. I may never end up getting to the third and final championship round between sharp cheddar and Manchego, but I still walk away feeling like a winner.