Hummus with Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto & Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden.

This idea, of course, is preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss, not to mention the fact that not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. Of course there’s the farmers market and local fruit stands, and I look forward to the day they open all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, they’ve been a regular weekend tradition and signify to my brain that summer is just around the bend.

My adoration for our agriculturally rich valley goes into overdrive this time of year, and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita bread. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas for additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smoky, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad. Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp, buttery Chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal.

Hummus

  • 2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.