I had a real treat this October – an advance press copy of Tal Ronnen’s new book, Crossroads!
I’ll share my review of Crossroads next week – but for now, I’ll share a recipe. (The publisher, Artisan Books, graciously allowed me to share recipes from this amazing book!)
For those of you who don’t know who Tal Ronnen is …he’s the celebrity vegan chef that catered Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding, served as a consultant for Gardein, is behind Kite Hill vegan cheeses, owns the upscale vegan restaurant Crossroads in Los Angeles, and is author of the best selling cookbook The Conscious Chef.
Smoked White Bean Hummus is one of the two recipes I’m sharing. I chose this recipe because it’s simple but delicious. At first glance, this book can look a bit intimidating … these are, after all, the same dishes that are made in the famous Melrose Avenue restaurant! Obviously foodies and advanced cooks will love this book!
But one thing I really appreciate about Tal Ronnen’s books (both Crossroads and The Conscious Chef) is that the books are also very accessible for intermediate level cooks.
Tal breaks each recipe down into very detailed steps – there are paragraphs of instruction! It’s like taking a cooking class. He’ll provide you the whole shebang if you want to make a dish exactly as it is made at his restaurant – but he’ll also provide a few shortcuts as well as substitutions for the more exotic ingredients.
At Crossroads, they cook their beans from dried and smoke their own beans, and Tal gives you instructions for doing that, if you wish. He also provides an alternative – using canned beans and smoked sea salt. (This is how I made it – with canned beans and smoked sea salt. Easy-peasy.)
I also chose this recipe because it seems so Autumnal. I love a smoky taste in food in the Autumn. I also like warm bean dips when the weather gets chilly.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure about some of the ingredients in this hummus. Wouldn’t the nutritional yeast make the hummus taste cheesy? And agave nectar? I’d never tried adding a sweetener to hummus before! But, somehow, it all works. It’s savory and nuanced and like Tal Ronnen says, much better than anything you can buy at the store.
Ingredients for Tal Ronnen’s Smoked White Bean Hummus
1 cup Dried Cannellini Beans, soaked overnight in cold water, or one 15 oz. Can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast Flakes
2 Garlic Cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 Shallot, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 fresh Thyme Sprig, leaves stripped from the stem
1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon coarse Smoked Sea Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin Olive Oil
2 cups hickory or apple wood chips, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained (optional; skip if you’re using smoked sea salt)
Instructions for Tal Ronnen’s Smoked White Bean Hummus
If using dried beans, drain and rinse the beans and transfer to a large pot. Add water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and rinse the beans. (The beans can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated, covered.)
To smoke the beans: Open the windows and remove the battery from your smoke detector. Line a large pot that has a steamer insert with aluminum foil (this will keep the wood chips from scorching the bottom). Spread the wet wood chips on the foil. Cover the pot tightly with the lid and set over high heat.
Meanwhile, put the beans in the steamer basket. Once the chips begin to smoke, drop the steamer basket insert into the pot and cover tightly with the lid. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak up the smoke for 5 to 6 minutes – no peeking. Set the beans aside to cool. (The beans can be prepared a couple of hours in advance, covered, and held at room temperature.)
To make the hummus:
Combine the beans, tahini, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, thyme, agave, and pepper in a food processor. Add the smoked sea salt if you did not smoke the beans. Puree until the mixture is totally smooth, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, pour the oil in a steady stream, making sure it directly hits the blade (this is the best way to distribute the oil and emulsify it evenly and quickly), and process until it is fully incorporated.
Store any leftover hummus covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Don’t skip the thyme. It makes this hummus sparkle!
Use your best judgement in pouring the oil in the food processor. Obviously, the instructions are for larger, fancier processors with a feed tube opening. If you have a mini food processor like me, unless you like to live dangerously and messily, do not take off the lid and pour oil in with the motor running! I added the oil after I’d blended the other ingredients, then put the lid back on and processed some more. That worked just fine.
The shallot I was planning to use was extremely sharp. (Shallots, if you’re not familiar with them, are like a small, very mild onion.) I was afraid it would make the hummus way too pungent, so I substituted 1/4 cup sweet Vidalia onion for the shallot, and this worked well. Keep this in mind if you have difficulty finding shallots, or if your local supermarket charges you three times the price for a shallot as a sweet onion.
You can serve immediately, or make ahead and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to really blossom.
Serve with Tal’s Harissa Potato Chips (recipe in Crossroads), pita chips, or, for a Halloween gathering, blue-black corn tortilla chips. Or – my favorite – serve warm with small toasts. Can’t find a vegan baguette to make small toasts? Regular toast cut into “points” always looks elegant, too.
Finally, this smoked white bean hummus makes an awesome sandwich spread!