Appetite For Instruction: Hummus

Demonstrated by Praveen Sachdev of Cosmic Café

Henry Rollins once called it "sex in a bowl." A deceptively simple paste of chickpeas and seasonings, hummus seduces the palate with layers of rich, complex flavors.

Simply put, this Mediterranean staple has the power to comfort the soul and quicken the pulse--when prepared with care. Often, however, store-bought versions have all the subtle sensuality of a Pussycat Dolls video. So even if you're not as hard-up as Rollins, who also noted "I get more hummus than sex these days," it's great to have a recipe on hand for group (or solo) entertaining.

For over a decade, Dallasites have been savoring a unique version of this dish at Cosmic Café on Oak Lawn Avenue. Praveen Sachdev's neighborhood fixture, known for its eye-catching façade, is a favorite destination for a quick, wholesome bite or an indulgent vegetarian feast. Sachdev created his popular hummus recipe after sampling just about every version in town, and it's pure garbanzo gold. You'll notice not one but two offbeat ingredients in his formula below, and together they make for a decadent and distinctive dip.

Step 1: Combine the following in a food processor or blender:
2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
½ cup tahini
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of two lemons
½ bunch cilantro
½ cucumber, peeled and cubed
a dash of pickle juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. each salt and paprika

Step 2: Process until smooth, adding a little water if necessary to move things along. In the summer, Sachdev adds a little extra cucumber for a more "cooling" dip. What, you never heard of cucumber in hummus before? He admits, "I made it up!" That goes for the pickle juice, too. But they work.

Step 3: Garnish with parsley and serve with pita wedges for dipping. Unique statuary optional.

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