Saturday, January 31, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Roasted Squash and Harissa Hummus

© Constantine William Spyrou
Growing up in a Middle Eastern church, I got exposed a lot to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. As such, one of my favorite dips/appetizers has always been hummus. This blend of chickpeas, lemon, tahini, and spices has always had a very nostalgic feel when I eat it nowadays. 

Recently, I discovered an awesome recipe from Gordon Ramsay that incorporates roasted butternut squash into hummus for a unique sweet yet tangy flavor. I decided to take it one step further and incorporate some heat, which follows one of my favorite philosophies from Thai cooking: balancing each of the five flavors of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter. To do that, I incorporated a North African paste known as harissa.

Harissa is a fiery hot but flavorful bell pepper paste that is also used in making one of my favorite sausages: Merguez. To me, it's the perfect complement to the sweetness introduced from the butternut squash in this dish, which takes hummus to an amazing new level! 

Recipe makes about 3 pounds of hummus, enough to serve 20 people at a party.


1 pound butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
10 whole cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon Ras el Hanout seasoning (If you can't find it in stores, a custom blend is below)
1 1/2 pounds garbanzo beans/chickpeas
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 pound bell pepper, ground/pureed
1 tablespoon dried chili flake or ground up red chilis (bird's-eye is good for this one!)
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper to season

Ras el Hanout mix:

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 star anise pod, ground
1/2 tablespoon ground clove
1/2 tablespoon ground bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon pink pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric

Simply mix well to combine.


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Scatter your butternut squash cubes onto a baking tray. Coat with 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to season, and 3-4 of the garlic cloves (crush them with your hand first to let the flavor spread!). Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft.

3. As the butternut squash roasts, combine the pureed bell pepper with one minced clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, the chili flake/ground chili, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. This is your harissa paste. Set half of it aside for garnish.

4. Once the butternut squash has cooled, add it into a food processor along with the rest of your ingredients EXCEPT for the lemon juice and olive oil and half of the harissa paste.

5. Blend the ingredients together on pulse, slowly adding in the olive oil and lemon juice until you get a smooth, creamy paste.

6. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, then top with the remaining harissa. Serve with pita bread and cold-cut vegetables for dipping!

This dish is all about balancing the flavors out to your liking, so use however much harissa you'd prefer for the hummus depending on how spicy you want it. Keep in mind that it does balance out the sweetness of the butternut squash too! This is a great dish to have for any upcoming gameday parties! (wink wink nudge nudge)

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make this at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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