Wanted: Middle Eastern Dips That Aren’t Hummus | Food
I always make my own hummus, but what other Middle Eastern dips should I try?
“The whole idea of dips and mezes is that you can use whatever you have in the fridge,” says Eran Tibi, chef-owner of Bala Baya in south London. And a good one to have in your arsenal is Tibi’s “Bonfire Veggie Dip.” Start by charring your favorite veggies (tomato, garlic, and chilli in Tibi’s case) over a flame until they’re “mushy.” Once cooled, “roughly chop [skin on], then put in a bowl with fresh cilantro or oregano, a little lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and you have “the most luxurious, smokiest and most delicious dip to accompany grilled meat, fish or bread”.
The bread will not be alone with fried Baba ghanoush, That is. Reem Kassis, in The Palestine Table, fry small cubes of eggplant (which have been salted, rested and rinsed) in vegetable oil until golden brown, then, when cooled, adds tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt. Toss with a fork, “breaking up any large chunks or lumps as you go,” and sprinkle with parsley and chopped tomatoes or pomegranate.
Otherwise, try tershi. “It’s a Libyan Jewish dip made with pumpkin, potatoes and a mixture of roasted spices,” says chef Oded Oren, whose cookbook, Oren: A Personal Collection of Recipes and Stories of Tel Aviv, will be released in September. He roasts pumpkin wedges with olive oil, bakes potatoes, then mashes it all up. “Toast and grind the caraway and coriander seeds, then add sweet and spicy paprika and a little olive oil.” Once combined, stir the spice blend into the pumpkin/potatoes and serve cold.
“Lemon and artichoke are one of my favorite flavor combinations,” writes Salma Hage in The Mezze Cookbook. And to speed things up, she uses the jarred variety (“preserved in oil rather than brine”), which she mixes with parsley, tahini, olive oil, zest and lemon juice and garlic. You want to add just enough water so it “starts to look fluffier” and then season. Another lucky dip is peynir ezmesi, made with grated tulum (Turkish goat cheese). In The Turkish Cookbook, Musa Dağdeviren makes a dough out of stale, crustless bread (which has been soaked, drained, and pressed), then adds minced onion, parsley, garlic, and walnuts, and pile again. It finishes with hot paprika, dried dill and oregano, and a drizzle of olive oil. Easy cheesy.
Don’t completely dismiss hummus, though, Jo. You could, for example, add beets or carrots to your chickpeas, or swap them for butter beans or, as Tibi recommends, sweet potato. He cooks a whole one until it’s “really, really soft,” then, when it’s cool enough to handle, he scoops out the middle and whips it with tahini, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper. “If you put a good pile of dukkah, ras el hanout or chili flakes on it, it’s fascinating.”
Alternatively, if yogurt is on rotation in your kitchen, zucchini is a good companion. “Cut them into wedges, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill them on all sides in a cast iron skillet,” says Daniel Alt, head chef at Barbary Next Door at London – make sure they still have some crunch, bothers. “Chop the zucchini with garlic, add mint for freshness, lemon juice, a little chopped fresh chilli or chilli flakes and turmeric, so that everything turns yellow.” Mix into a thick yogurt and enjoy with “everything on the grill”.
Another great ladle is labneh (strained yogurt), which Oren suggests loosening with cucumber to make a kind of tzatziki. “I don’t use herbs – just garlic, lemon juice and salt.” The other option is to serve your labneh straight and focus on the garnish instead. Right now Alt is all about the “scorched” eggplant: “Remove the meat and chop it with chilli and garlic, then add olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt.” Garnish with labneh and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Pitta or flatbread would make nice sides or, for “a guilty pleasure”, fries: “If you go to the beach in Israel, you can order fries, labneh, pitta and a cold beer. It’s the perfect lunch.