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In the kitchen with Cafe Options chef Craig Dixon: Hummus

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In this week's Chef and Tell interview, Cafe Options chef Craig Dixon talks about why he believes Denver is the country's top city for slinging food, how he wishes that citizen journalism reviews were more factual and his role at Cafe Options as both a chef and teacher to the women he mentors. Here, he shares his recipe for hummus, just one of the numerous dishes he's taught his cooks how to replicate.

"At the Café we use hummus as a spread for a grilled vegetable sandwich, but it can also be enjoyed as a dip with pita, chips, or raw veggies," says Dixon. "It's a fairly standard hummus that gets a nice flavor from the roasted eggplant." Dixon also recommends using dried garbanzo beans, rather than canned chickpeas. And, he says, you can easily customize the recipe by adding 1 ½ cups roasted red peppers for a roasted pepper hummus or 1 ½ cups cooked artichoke hearts for artichoke hummus.

Hummus

2 ½ cups chickpeas, rinsed 2 eggplants ¼ cup fresh lemon juice 1 cup tahini 2 cloves garlic 8 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon cumin ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper ½ teaspoons paprika ½ teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup water 1 head parsley, stemmed and minced

Soaking the garbanzo beans

Soak the dried beans in water 24 hours before cooking. Use at least twice the amount of water to the amount of beans, as they will soak up plenty of liquid. After soaking, drain the beans and put them into a small pot of salted water (or vegetable stock if you have it). Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook the beans until they are tender to the tooth, but not mushy. This will take about an hour and a half to two hours.

Directions

1. While the beans are cooking, peel the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise, score the center by making deep cross cuts into the eggplant on its flat side. 2. Rub with 4 tablespoons of oil, and season with salt and pepper. 3. Place the eggplant in a small roasting pan and cover with foil. Bake the eggplant at 375 degrees for about an hour and a half, or until the eggplant is very tender. Both the eggplant and garbanzo beans may be cooked a day ahead. 4. To finish the hummus, combine all ingredients except the chickpeas and eggplant in a food processor and blend well. 5. Add the roasted eggplant and puree. 6. Add the chickpeas and puree until smooth.

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