Spiced beef with pine nuts (pignoli) over hummus is a staple in my home. It tastes so flavorful and exotic to an American palate, yet it is easy to make and filling. Served with warm pita, it can be a fun appetizer or a main course.
Spiced beef with pine nuts is also called hashweh in Arabic. It’s one of those foods, like hummus, that goes beyond borders; everyone wants a piece of it.
My recipe for homemade hummus was derived from a recipe shared by my friend Sharon Cohen of Brooklyn, New York. Mine differs slightly, but what I love about cooking and sharing recipes is that you cook to your taste. If you love garlic or pepper, add more so that you’re happy.
Sharon has this amazing trick of adding orange juice to the hummus, which prevents it from crusting over when sitting out. With this recipe, you will never need or want to buy hummus again. If you’re in a bind for time, you absolutely can enjoy this beef recipe served over store-bought hummus, but I encourage you to try this version at least once. It’s worth an extra 10 minutes of time, and it is easily prepared while the beef is browning.
Both recipes are easily halved or doubled, so no matter if it’s for two people or for a party, you can adjust the amounts and have the same fantastic result.
Ingredients for spiced beef with pine nuts:
1.5 pounds ground chuck
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large, sweet onion, diced
4 teaspoons baharat spice (If you don’t have this spice, look online for a recipe to create your own.)
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½ cup pine nuts
Ingredients for homemade hummus:
2 cans chickpeas
½ cup raw tahini
3 garlic cloves
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
⅓ cup ice cold water, about 3 ounces
Olive oil, za’atar spice, sumac and pine nuts to garnish. Use them all, or use only what you prefer.
For the beef:
Sauté the chopped onion in olive oil over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beef and brown well, turning and chopping with your spatula until the onions are very soft and translucent and the beef pieces are very small. This can take a solid 15-20 minutes. You don’t want the heat to be too high; lower the heat if you think the meat is cooking too quickly.
Stir in the salt, cumin, baharat spice and Aleppo pepper, then lower the heat and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Finally, add in the pine nuts, cook for 2-3 minutes longer, and remove from heat.
For the hummus:
Rinse and drain the chickpeas. I suggest taking 5 minutes to remove the membrane layer from each piece. This may seem like overkill, and I am all about shortcuts, but I promise that this step will give you a really creamy hummus. The good news is this is a perfect job for a child.
In a food processor, mix the chickpeas, garlic cloves, salt and Aleppo pepper until nicely combined. It will appear thick and a little chunky.
Add in the tahini and process for another minute, then add the orange juice and process and mix for 1 minute more.
Slowly pour in the ice water through the hole in the lid of the food processor; the color will lighten and the consistency will change. At this point I usually allow it to mix for another minute or two.
The hummus should be room temperature before plating it out. I like to use wide, low-sided soup bowls to serve. Take a small rubber spatula to scoop the hummus into the bowl, then smooth the hummus evenly around the bowl and up the sides so that it is about ¼ of an inch thick all the way around.
Add the warm beef in the middle of the bowl and serve immediately with warm pita if you’re serving it for dinner. You can garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley if you have it on hand; a little green livens up the presentation.
If you wish to make a large version of this for an appetizer, use a spatula to spread the hummus over a large platter before adding the beef.
This recipe tastes wonderful warm and also at room temperature.
The hummus can be left out for hours without any hardening or crusting. If you want to use the hummus by itself, spread it at room temperature onto your serving plate. Use a spatula to make small indents or a design of your choice. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with pine nuts, Aleppo pepper, sumac, za’atar spice — choose one or all to your preference.
When I made this recipe, only two of us were at home and I had extra spiced beef left over. My husband folded it into puff pastry, brushed it with egg wash and sesame seeds, and created bourekas out of it. Simply bake until golden brown using the temperature suggested on the back of the puff pastry package. We got a second but different meal out of the same basic recipe, and nothing went to waste. PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.