The Food Matters Project is a weekly recipe share based on the best-selling cookbook The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living, by Mark Bittman. Each week myself and fifty other food bloggers cook a recipe selected by that week’s host, adding our own interpretations, insights and experiences. The result is a forum that promotes healthier eating habits centred around plants and a lifestyle more conscious of the world around us.
How do you reinvent a classic mediterranean dip into something new and exciting without compromising the flavours of the dish and the ingredients themselves? This is what I struggled with after reading the recipe for this week’s Food Matters Project challenge. Some dishes are easy to put your own spin on. Substitute one ingredient here, another there and you have a totally different dish. Others, like this week’s recipe of “Hummus Served Hot.” not so much. The beauty about hummus is the simplicity and purity of the ingredients. Chick peas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, maybe some lemon juice. It doesn’t get any easier than that. But it also doesn’t make it any easier to revamp.
I knew I didn’t want to make another dip, by changing the chick peas to something like cannellini beans. I also knew I didn’t want to use it as a condiment in something like a wrap or sandwich – too obvious. So then I started to look at flavours associated with hummus. Whenever I think of hummus I am reminded of spices like coriander and cumin; flavours that can pack a lot of oomph to some rather mild ingredients. Think Indian dishes like vegetable korma or Gobi Aloo; or Middle Eastern favourites like falafel and shwarma. That’s when it hit me; vegetables! Cauliflower and carrots to be exact, mild flavoured veggies that can carry the robust flavours I planned to use, but hearty enough to stand up to the earthy spices.
Now that I chose my ingredients I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with them. I knew I needed the hummus to stand out. I didn’t want it to be simply another flavouring to the dish. I wanted the smooth creaminess to compliment the hearty vegetables. So instead of making a stew or a sandwich, similar to the aforementioned dishes above, I decided to smother the vegetables in a coating of the hummus and top it with some bread crumbs; thus creating a gratin of sorts.
Finally, wanting to incorporate spices like coriander and cumin, I decided to roast the vegetables first with a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of these spices. After a twenty-five minute rendezvous in the oven, the vegetables come out sweet and earthy, ready for the next step. A light covering of hummus provides the rich creaminess associated with gratin, but without all of that guilt. A topping of Parmigiano Reggiano and bread crumbs gives a nod to the French inspiration of this dish, and when it all comes out of the oven it’s a culture clash that totally works.
Speaking of culture clashes that work, my husband and I were in Toronto this weekend and while we were there we ate at a restaurant that we’ve been meaning to try for quite some time. Hrvati Bar (Bloor St W and Euclid) serves up some great Croatian pub fare; or I guess I should say kafić fare. Their pljeskavica (hamburger) is unreal and definitely lives up to all of the hype it has produced. The beer selection is stellar and features brews from all around the world. Then there’s the decor, which can’t be beat My husband and I came to the conclusion that it’s best described as a stara hiža (an old wooden house, like my grandmother’s here - scroll down to the bottom) and a german beer hall with a communal, long wooden table and bench, barrels and vintage murals. Needless to say, it’s an unpretentious, casual atmosphere that is enjoyed by all, but one that brilliantly highlights what Croatians love most, good food, good drinks and good times! Živjeli!
To see more pictures of Hrvati Bar click here – Toronto Life Magazine
Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Hummus
For this recipe you definitely want a looser hummus. In Bittman’s recipe, which you can find on Erin’s blog, Naturally Ella, he suggests to reserve some of the liquid that the chick peas are cooked in, or use plain water to reach your desired consistency. During the baking process, the hummus does thicken a bit. Add a bit of extra water and/or olive oil (on top of the extra liquid you used when making the hummus) to thin out the sauce before you pour it over the veggies. To read about the other recipes inspired by this week’s choice, click here.
1/2 cup hummus (recipe here)
1/2 head cauliflower, about 2 cups florets
2 to 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (recipe here) made with 2 slices of bread and untoasted.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pats of butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Spread out cauliflower and carrots on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with cumin, coriander, salt. pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss and roast in oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until vegetables still have a little resistance when pierced with a knife.
Lightly grease a gratin dish, or shallow oven proof dish with olive oil or butter. Put in the vegetables and top with hummus that has been thinned out with a little water or olive oil (should resemble the consistency of stirred yogurt). In a small bowl, combine the prepared breadcrumbs with olive oil, and stir so that the crumbs are coated in oil. Cover with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and the bread crumbs. If you like, dot the surface of the gratin with little pieces of butter. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees farenheit for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.