Seasoned beef over hummus, good for a starter or dinner

Spiced beef with pine nuts (pignoli) over hummus is a staple in my house. It tastes so aromatic and exotic to an American palate, but it’s easy to prepare and fill. Served with warm pita, it can be a fun starter or main course.

Spiced beef with pine nuts is also called hashweh in Arabic. It’s one of those foods, like hummus, that pushes boundaries; Everyone wants a piece of it.

My recipe for homemade hummus was derived from a recipe shared by my friend Sharon Cohen of Brooklyn, New York. Mine is slightly different, but what I love about cooking and sharing recipes is that you cook to your taste. If you love garlic or pepper, add more to keep you happy.

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Sharon did this amazing trick of adding orange juice to the hummus which prevents it from crusting while sitting. With this recipe you will never need or want hummus again. If you have the time, you can definitely enjoy this beef recipe served over store-bought hummus. However, I recommend that you try this version at least once. It’s worth an extra 10 minutes and is easy to cook while the beef is browning.

Both recipes can easily be halved or doubled. Whether for two people or for a party, you can adjust the quantities and get the same fantastic result.

Ingredients for seasoned beef with pine nuts:
1.5 pounds of soil forage
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large, sweet onion, diced
4 teaspoons of Baharat seasoning (If you don’t have this seasoning, search for a recipe online to make your own.)
2 teaspoons of Aleppo pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ cup of pine nuts

Ingredients for homemade hummus:
2 cans of chickpeas
½ cup of raw tahini
3 cloves of garlic
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons of orange juice
1 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper
½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
⅓ cup of ice cold water, about 3 ounces
To garnish olive oil, za’atar spices, sumac and pine nuts. Use them all or just what you prefer.

For the beef:
Fry the chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef and brown well. Using your spatula, twist and chop it until the onions are very soft and translucent and the pieces of beef are very small. This can take 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want the heat to be too high. Turn the heat down if you think the meat is cooking too quickly.

Stir in salt, cumin, Baharat spice, and Aleppo pepper, then lower the heat and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Finally add the pine nuts, cook 2-3 minutes longer and remove from the stove.

For the hummus:
Rinse and drain the chickpeas. I suggest taking 5 minutes to remove the membrane layer from each piece. This may seem like an overkill, and I’m all about short cuts, but I promise this step will give you a really creamy hummus. The good news is that this is a perfect job for a kid.

In a food processor, mix the chickpeas, garlic cloves, salt, and aleppo pepper until well mixed. It will appear thick and a little chunky.

Add the tahini and process for another minute. Then add and process the orange juice and mix for another 1 minute.

Slowly pour the ice water through the hole in the lid of the food processor. The color becomes lighter and the consistency changes. At this point I usually let it mix for another minute or two.

The hummus should be at room temperature before plating. I like to use wide, low soup bowls for serving. Use a small rubber spatula to scoop the hummus into the bowl and smooth the hummus evenly around the bowl and around the sides so that it is about 1 cm thick all around.

Add the warm beef in the center of the bowl and serve immediately with warm pita when serving for dinner. You can garnish with chopped coriander or parsley if you have it on hand; a little green enlivens the presentation.

If you want to make a large version of this as an appetizer, use a spatula to spread the hummus on a large platter before adding the beef.

This recipe tastes wonderfully warm and also at room temperature.

The hummus can be left out for hours without hardening or crusting. If you want to use the hummus on its own, spread it on your serving plate at room temperature. Use a spatula to create small indentations or a design of your choice. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pine nuts, aleppo pepper, sumac and za’atar spices – choose one or all of them according to your preference.

Bourekas can be made with leftover beef (photo by Wade Grann)

When I made this recipe there were only two of us home and I had extra seasoned beef left over. My husband folded it into puff pastry, brushed it with egg wash and sesame seeds, and made bourekas out of it. Just bake until golden brown at the temperature indicated on the back of the puff pastry packaging. We got a second but different meal from the same basic recipe and nothing was lost. PJC

Jessica Grann is a Pittsburgh based chef.

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