Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where's the Hummus - Parshat Pinchas

God likes to be punctual - and wants His nation to follow suit. In this week's portion, Parshat Pinchas, God asks the nation to be punctual with presenting all the offerings - from the daily offering to special holiday and Shabbat sacrifices. The various Temple offerings, now defunct, are described in detail, and even the basic daily offering sounds like a delicious well rounded meal - a lamb in the morning and a lamb at twilight, wine, bread and oil. On special, holiday occasions it gets beefed up a with different animals. For example, on the first of every month God "feasts" on a veritable smorgasbord of two bulls, a ram and seven lambs.

After a year and a half of blogging about Biblical foods I'm certainly not going to ask "where's the beef?" But I am wondering this; "where is the hummus?"

A Sabra Hummus Truck in Harvard Square

This Middle Eastern staple is now well stocked in supermarkets (we're pretty loyal to Sabra) but is totally absent from the five Books of Moses. Some make the case that it can be found in later scriptures, however it's not so clear. Wouldn't you think it would be served by Abraham and Sarah to their guests, enjoyed by the Israelites in the desert and accompany the daily sacrifices? No dice. Imagine the Temple priest bringing the sacrificial lamb, baking fresh pita and pouring a tall glass of wine for God. Needs more hummus! Those flavor combinations actually bring to mind a dish Sam and I discovered the other week.

Bidding farewell to our friends Jamie and Seth, we hit up Jerusalem Pita for dinner in Brookline. Sam spotted a dish on the menu that we'd never noticed before - but when the Jerusalem Kabob Bake showed up at our table it got out attention. Served on a large, oval, white platter with Israeli salad and hummus, the dish itself is nestled in a wide white bowl draped with pita dough sprinkled with za'atar and baked in an oven. Inside this Middle Eastern pot pie are roasted vegetables, tomato sauce and lamb kabob. Yum. I can't believe I didn't snap a picture. We tugged the warm salty dough apart with our forks and speared some lamb with saucy vegetables. In between these heavy bites we took relief in the fresh Israeli salad and citrusy hummus.

I've been wanting to it eat again and tonight I recreated it in my own kitchen.

I prepared the pita dough with a few spices thrown in.

Roasted the vegetables with olive oil, pepper and salt.

Browned the spiced ground lamb.

Then put it all together in a bowl with hummus and tomato sauce and covered it with the pita dough.

Sprinkled za'atar on top and baked it.

Wouldn't you say that the Temple lost out on not having hummus as an accompaniment to all that lamb and dough?

Lamb Kabob Bake
Makes four servings

For crust
1 and 1/8 cups flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1 packet yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper
3/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp olive oil

For filling
1/2 lb ground lamb
Fresh cilantro
Curry spice mix - cumin, turmeric, coriander, allspice, ginger, pepper
1 pattypan squash (or whatever type you prefer)
1/2 head cauliflower
1/2 eggplant
1 garlic scape (optional)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 hummus
1 tbsp za'atar

First prepare the dough for the crust: Mix the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, garlic powder and pepper together. In another bowl combine the water and oil and then add them to the flour mixture. Knead the flour and water together until a ball forms. Cover with a towel and let sit for at least a half hour, if not longer.

Now get to work on the filling: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash, eggplant and cauliflower and garlic scape into 2 inch chunks. Place on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil - dust with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, mix the ground lamb with the cilantro and curry spices. Form into 8 small kabob/coils and brown with a little olive oil in a cast iron skillet (if you like your meat medium rare - if you want them more well done cook in the skillet for longer). Set aside.

Remove the vegetables form the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Place the vegetables in a 1.5 quart ramekin and layer the browned lamb kabobs on top of them.

Mix the tomato sauce and paste until you have a thick consistency. Spread this over the top of the vegetables and meat and then spread the hummus on top of that.

Roll out the dough to a wide circle 1/2 inch thick (make sure it is wider than the ramekin you are using). Drape over the ramekin and press down around the edges of the bowl - let the extra dough hang over (don't trim it's a delicious part of the dish). Sprinkle some olive oil and za'atar over the top of the dough.

Bake for 10 minutes, let cool for 4 and serve.


  1. I love that feeling of satisfaction when I recreate a restaurant dish in my own kitchen. Also, this post reminded me I have some CoupMes for Jerusalem Grill that are about to expire. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Lucky you cheapbeets - I hope you have a yummy meal.

    Leah I know you will when you whip this up in your kitchen!