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Crudités 101 | Great Performances


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Crudités 101
by Chef Rob Valencia

The real reason to eat your veggies = spreads.

In my household, crudité is a major food group and the key component to that is the spreads. We love our veggies but in the end, they are just vehicles for the creamy good stuff.

Getting home late in the summer, the last thing that I want is a hearty meal. A bottle of something cold, a bowl of "vedge & spread" and a dash to the roof to watch the 8:30 sunset is all we need to unwind.

The daily menu knows no borders; smashed avocado and chips, hummus and pita, Russian ikra (eggplant spread), muhammara (hot pepper dip), and cold cheesy spinach dip all keep company with retro green goddess dressing and pimento cheese spread.

My Wednesday CSA share is processed quickly into a week’s worth of food. The beet and turnip tops, spinach and onions are shredded, steamed and cooked with some heavy cream, Sprout Creek Farm parmesan and Coach Farm goat cheese to make a very decadent take on the Steak House classic spinach dip. Eggplant is cubed, roasted with Katchkie tomato jam and garlic and smashed with some smoky spices for a quick ikra (or poor man’s caviar). To add to the pantry, last week’s parsley, basil and green onions were blended with yogurt and tarragon to make a green goddess dip.

Lately, I have been fascinated with some new variations of classic hummus. On a recent weekend getaway to Philadelphia, my girlfriend and I ate our way through the CookNSolo restaurant group and were blown away by the moussey texture of Michael Solomonov’s tehina spreads with their many flavor combinations. No more of the clunky, peanut butter-esque rough garbanzo grind from the grocery store that tear my bread and break my plastic knife (cue the black and white “as seen on TV” clumsy frustration video), here comes the light, silky, cloud-like aeration of sesame and chickpea.

While Solomonov’s now famous recipe calls for soaking the raw chickpeas overnight and cooking with a bit of baking soda to soften the skins (totally worth it if you have the time), you can still achieve great results with the canned stuff. It’s all about the tahini; I use his recommended Soom brand.



1       15 ounce can       Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)

1/3     cup                      Lemons juice (about 1/3 cup), more to taste

2-4    cloves                  Garlic, grated 

1 ¾    tsp                       Salt, kosher, to taste 

1        cup                      Sesame tahini

½      tsp                       Cumin, ground, more to taste


Drain the can of chickpeas (yes, I am a nerd who saves the water for Aquafaba, the trendy vegan meringue). Rinse well and cook with fresh salted water in a sauce pot just to warm. Drain before use, keep warm.

 In a blender, process the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt until smooth, add the warm chickpeas, in a few additions, allowing the blender to cream thoroughly before each addition. When smooth, check the texture and flavor. It should be smooth and creamy with a nutty taste. If still rough and thick, add more tahini and blend further. I emulsify a bit of olive oil while the blender is running to help achieve the mousse like texture.

This keeps for a week in fridge, best served at room temperature with Hot Bread Kitchen’s M’smen Bread and crisp summer veggies.

Now for variations. Usually, I’ll make a batch of plain on Wednesday and then my girlfriend Erin will doctor it up with the following to suit mood, adding the additional ingredients warm while blending.

Cooked, chopped beets


Fresh green peas and pearl onions


Roasted zucchini and hazelnuts


Sriracha-roasted carrots and honey

The other contender on the “it’s what everyone else is eating so it has to be good” list is Muhammara. This classic spread is finding its way on menus everywhere, thanks to the recent books and blogs by Ottolenghi. And with good reason, it’s simple and delicious.

©Little Chef Big Appetite

Fresh Red Peppers are blistered in the oven and smashed in a mortar and pestle with bread crumbs, pomegranate molasses, garlic, chili and walnuts. 

That is, if you like walnuts. This divisive nut has caused many a pillow fort to be erected in our home with cursed invectives hurled at this invasive species as it sneaks its way into so many of our store bought banana breads, salads and brownies. Not on my watch, I say! So even though it may have never seen the table of the ancient Levantines, We prefer to use our native Texas pecan.

We love eating this with crispy lavash chips.

Adapted from Ottolenghi


3                                 Red Bell Peppers

2           Tbsp              Panko breadcrumbs, fresh

½          Tbsp              Lemon juice

1            Tbsp              Pomegranate molasses

1½        tsp                 Cumin, ground

1           Tbsp              Dried Aleppo chili flakes

1                                Garlic clove, peeled and crushed

¼          cup                Pecans, finely chopped by hand

2          Tbsp              Olive oil, plus extra to finish

                                  Salt, to taste  


Rub the peppers in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 F° oven until the skins are blackened and the “meat” gets soft. Remove from oven and place in a metal bowl. Tightly wrap the top with plastic wrap and allow to cool (This will help steam the skins off). With gloved hands, slip the black skins off and remove the seeds and ribs. Rinse the peppers under cold water to remove all of the gunk, pat dry with a paper towel

In a mortar with pestle or food processor, smash everything together until it becomes a chunky paste.  Just enough to be spreadable but not a puree. Add a bit of olive oil to loosen up a bit. Keep in the fridge for one week.

Now, onwards to watch the 8:30 pm sunset! 

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