Back in my blogging bigshot days, publishers would send me free cookbooks. For me, that was better than having Ed McMahon show up at my door with a giant check. I love cookbooks. I have stacks and stacks of them in my kitchen right now because there’s not enough room left on my shelves. (“Maybe you should pull out the ones you don’t use and sell them?” says my well-meaning but delusional husband. “I USE ALL OF THEM!” I reply.)
So imagine my delight the other day when an advanced copy of Gregory Gourdet’s new cookbook, Everyone’s Table, showed up at my door. I’ve been a fan of Gregory’s since he first appeared on Top Chef, and I was really rooting for him when he came back for the All Stars season. Now he’s a judge — a much more comfortable role, I imagine — and it’s great to hear him thoughtfully and gently weigh in on everyone’s dishes.
The recipes in Gregory’s book are so perfect for this moment we’re in, slowly tiptoeing out of quarantine, ready to stop pounding down the Oreos and eager to eat something a bit more wholesome but not, like, boring. Enter Gregory’s book, which he wrote after getting sober. These recipes, to quote the jacket copy, are “both full of nutrients and full of flavor.”
I’ll be honest… I haven’t spent much time with the book yet because when I flipped it open, the first recipe that I landed on was the one that I instantly wanted to make: Cashew “Hummus” with Chile and Herbs.
The idea seemed so fascinating to me: you boil raw cashews in water for 30 minutes. Then you treat them like chickpeas and make hummus with them. (It’s pretty straightforward.)
If you know anything about cashews and cashew products — like cashew butter, for example — they’re often super rich and surprisingly sweet. Boiling them and blending them, as you do here, into a hummus with tahini and garlic and lemon juice and salt is completely MIND-BLOWING.
I kid you not! I served this last night to some vaccinated friends before dinner and this BECAME dinner. They ate up the whole bowl with Persian cucumber spears and Pita chips and couldn’t get enough. (Craig said he liked it way better than actual hummus.) Unlike chickpeas, which can be a little blah, the cashews pull their weight: think of a smooth peanut butter-like texture that’s packed with garlicky, lemony, salty flavors.
The recipe below is slightly tweaked from the one in Gregory’s book. He has you blend the boiled cashews separately from the lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt, and then you stir it all together manually with the tahini. I just thought it was easier to blend them all together, using the cooking liquid to thin it out a little. (I’m sure there’s a reason he did it his way; maybe for the texture?).
As for serving, I mixed some harissa paste with olive oil and drizzled it all over the top and sprinkled on some smoked paprika. I was so eager to serve it, I forgot to sprinkle on parsley and scallions. And the guests didn’t seem to mind.
So the next time you’re thinking about making hummus, break out the cashews. Chickpeas, please pack your knives and go.
Cashew “Hummus” with Harissa
For the “Hummus”:
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 5 to 6 juicy lemons)
- 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground to a powder
- 2 cups well-stirred tahini
- 6 tablespoons harissa, homemade or store-bought
- Smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Handful small parsley sprigs
- 3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
In a medium pot, combine the cashews, baking soda, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until the cashews are fully tender and creamy inside, like cooked beans, about 30 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to scoop out 1/3 cup of the cashews and transfer them to a small bowl to cool. Continue to cook the remaining cashews until they’re very soft and start falling apart and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes more. You should be able to smoosh a cashew easily against the side of the pot with almost no pressure. Drain the cashews, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Place the cashews, salt, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and tahini into a food processor and blend into a paste. Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid through the feed tube to achieve a creamier consistency. Taste and adjust for salt and lemon.
To serve: scoop the hummus into a serving bowl and create a big well in the center. To the well, add the harissa, whole cooked cashews, and smoked paprika. Drizzle on the olive oil, sprinkle on the parsley and scallions, and serve.