It’s January, or, “Veganuary,” depending on your calendar. “Veganuary” is simply the idea of giving up animal foods for the month of January. Rather like Meatless Monday, but with a little more of a commitment. Creamy Squash Hummus is a perfect way to kick off your Veganuary, or Meatless Monday, or just serve a tasty spread to friends.
Are you up for it? There are plenty of good reasons to start the year with a plant-based diet. Stepping a little bit lighter on the Earth, feeling a bit lighter on the scale, and lightening your karmic load are all side benefits of skipping your meats, eggs, and cheese for a month.
If you are just giving this a try, let me suggest that you make up a batch of hummus. It’ll be there for you when the hungries hit.
Hummus is the “quietly-vegan” food that has managed to storm the gates of mainstream society. In the past decade, companies like Sabra have taken what was once a dip associated with Middle Eastern take-out and vegetarian restaurants and made it into a staple food. You can’t help but notice how many varieties and flavors of hummus are now packed in alongside the grab and go foods in the cooler at most groceries. There’s even a program in the Farm Bill to introduce hummus on school lunch programs, as well as funds to help more farmers get into the business of growing chickpeas to feed our insatiable appetite for the spread.
I’d like to give hummus a medal and a parade, for achieving the feat of making such a healthful food so popular. Beans are packed with insoluble fiber, protein and good fats. Just adding beans to your diet for a week gives you more stable blood sugars, and beans deliver a great feeling of satiety. They even have a respectable array of antioxidants, all of which protect you from cancer and premature age-ing.
So when it comes to a good party dish, going with something people like and doing something a little showy with it is always a good bet. Hummus is as lovable as the old cheese ball, but will keep your vegan, GF and low-carb friends happy, too. To make it seasonal, I decided to go with another lovable food, the creamy, sweet, winter squash. Instead of making it into pie or pumpkin spice something-or-other, I thought it would be a perfect way to lighten up our favorite dip, and I would get a nifty bowl to present it in as a bonus.
If you are wondering how squashy this hummus tastes, the answer is, not overwhelmingly so. The soft flesh of the squashes purees to a light, sensuous texture that cuts the heaviness of standard hummus. I like a hefty dose of tahini and lemon (because it’s all about that paste, you know.) Depending on the color of your chosen squash, it makes the dip a little darker in color, but by no means orange.
Making the squashes into little serving bowls may seem a bit putzy, and if you want to skip it, you can just make the hummus and serve it in a bowl. But as long as you are baking squash anyway, why not use the leftover cases for a bit of a table-scape element? The main challenge there is finding the smallest round squashes. wide enough to dip your pitas into, but not so big that the hummus won’t fill them up. To make sure you have enough squash, bake an extra chunk, or you can use the frozen squash portions we put up here.
Once your squashes are baked and scooped, you just need a quick buzz in the food processor to finish the dip. If you want to make it to take to a party, you can start a day or two ahead, and just chill the scooped out squashes in the fridge, tightly covered. The hummus keeps for a couple of days, too. Just arrange it on the platter and scoop the dip in just before serving. I like to toast the pitas in a saute pan for a crispy, olive oil-flavored dipper.
Pita breads are fantastic for this, but you can sub your fave chips, crackers or crudites. For your gluten-free guests, it is easy to get some GF crackers or chips. Celery, sliced radishes, and even sliced apples will be delicious with this.
Your Veganuary is off to a great start, and you can share this one with everybody, even the folks who had bacon for breakfast.
Especially those folks.
Baby Squashes Filled with Creamy Squash Hummus
Serves 8, makes about 4 cups
2 6 inch red kuri, sweet dumpling, or acorn squashes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup baked squash
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, or 1 14.5 oz can
3/4 cup tahini
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, up to 8
1 teaspoon coarse salt, to taste
parsley, for garnish
8 whole wheat pita bread, cut in 6ths
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the tops of the squashes off to make little lids, and scoop out the seeds. Cut a little sliver off the bottoms, if necessary, to make the squashes stable. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and place the squashes and lids, cut side down, on the parchment. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife. Let cool on a rack, and turn over gently to allow the steam to escape. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving a layer in the shell to keep it standing upright. You should have about a cup of squash.
In the food processor, mince the garlic, then add the drained garbanzo beans. Process until well ground and as smooth as possible. Add both of the squash portions and puree until smooth. Add the tahini and process, scrape down a few times to make sure it is well pureed. Add the lemon and salt and process.
Place the squash shells on a serving platter and spoon the hummus into the hollowed out shells. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with olive oil.
If desired, brush the pita wedges with olive oil and toast in a skillet or in the oven. Serve with the hummus.