Lunch with friends—finally, after yet another month of isolation. What could I bring to celebrate this special occasion? I landed on an appetizer that I thought would be ideal for this group.
Most of these friends are vegetarian and health conscious. Someone was bringing salad. The host was making soup for our main dish. And another friend was bringing fruit and cookies for dessert. I scanned my own digital recipe file and searched online for “healthy appetizers.” I found the perfect dish: Butternut Squash Hummus with Feta and Pomegranate—and so I adapted it for my kitchen.
The recipe is from a website called Love and Lemons, and I’ve used their recipes before. To accompany the hummus, I needed raw vegetables and pita bread triangles. I chose English cucumber and radish slices; red pepper slices would be good too. You could also add a buttery cheese (Havarti, perhaps) if you want more protein on the platter. And if I do say so, it was simply delicious. Tangy, smooth and a tasty addition to our meal. Everyone agreed and requested the recipe.
(One thing we did to protect each other before our get-together: we all agreed to take at-home Covid tests that morning to be sure we were all healthy—and negative.)
The recipe below shows the original ingredients and my substitutions. Also see convenience notes at the end.
Butternut Squash Hummus w/ Feta & Pomegranates
Serves: 6 to 8 as an appetizer
- 1 heaping cup cubed butternut squash (½ inch cubes)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves (or 1 tsp jarred chopped garlic)
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or substitute a 10-oz carton of classic hummus)
- ¼ cup tahini (eliminate tahini if you use prepared hummus)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cayenne, less if sensitive to spice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ¼ cup water—only if needed
- freshly ground black pepper
For topping & serving
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- drizzle of olive oil
- pita, crackers and/or veggies
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Turn the squash cubes into a 9×12 baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet. Cover squash with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to mix. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender. (If you use jarred chopped garlic, toss it with the squash cubes for the last 10 minutes of roasting.) Let cool slightly.
In a food processor or blender, combine the roasted squash, roasted peeled garlic, chickpeas and tahini (or hummus), lemon juice, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and sea salt.
With the blade running, drizzle in the olive oil. Stop blender and test consistency and to be sure all squash is blended in. Add water, only if needed, if it seems too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Note: this is a bit spicy before you add the olive oil; the olive oil tones down the spice.)
The hummus will seem thin when finished. It thickens when chilled for a few hours.
Scoop the hummus into a serving bowl and top with pomegranate arils, feta, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with toasted pita, crackers, and/or chopped veggies. Serve extra pom arils on the side; everyone loves them.
Butternut squash. If at all possible, I buy peeled, chopped butternut squash in the produce department, rather than peeling and chopping an actual hard-shell squash.
Pomegranate arils. (I used to call them seeds.) You can buy a beautiful pomegranate, split it and pick out all the seeds/arils—if you have an hour to spare. You also can buy packaged pom arils at many grocery stores.
Chickpeas and tahini vs. hummus. This wasn’t a convenience choice. I had hummus and didn’t have tahini.
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