Chef’s Unique Blend of Cultural Influences Create One of a Kind Hummus and Other Jewish Dishes

hummus dip plate and lemon on wooden table
Hummus may be a staple in the refrigerators of most vegetarians, but one chef’s recipe is taking this traditional dish to a whole new level.

Chef Alon Shaya, who owns the restaurant Shaya in New Orleans, likes to put a fresh spin on classic Israeli, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. This year’s Passover menu at his restaurant was evidence of this culinary innovation.

For example, Shaya used a wood-fired oven to make the matzo, and his karpas were served with zhoug, a green chili paste, and grilled asparagus — far from what his ancestors may have eaten.

“We’re calling it Israeli cuisine, but even people in Israel don’t know what that is,” Shaya explained to “Israeli cuisine is Bulgarian food, Polish food, Moroccan, Yemenite.

“There’s this country that’s very small but represents so many different cultures. The food being cooked there today is unlike anywhere else in the world.”

Shaya credits some of his creations to his grandmother, whose salad recipe ended up on his menu, and the growing trend toward including Jewish holiday dishes on gourmet menus and in cookbooks.

Yet one place where Shaya’s creativity is most evident is in his roasted duck hummus, which is served with buttered leeks and olives.

What is hummus? Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip that has found its way into as many as 20% of American households and is typically made from chickpeas, tahini, and various spices — but roasted duck is a fairly uncommon additive.

Hummus is also one of the healthiest dishes available on the market. Those who regularly eat hummus were found to have significant higher HEI-2005 scores, also known as the Healthy Eating Index; they also had lower Body Mass Index and a smaller waist circumference on average.

Hummus is also fairly nutritious, with adequate amounts of protein, fiber, iron, vitamin K, folate and antioxidants.

But Shaya’s recipe goes beyond what most people can make at home and adds a touch of gourmet to a dish that mostly gets used in wraps and sandwiches in the U.S.

Shaya adds pan-seared duck breast to the top of his hummus, which he recommends eating with pita bread.

Other topping recommendations from the chef include pan seared Brussels sprouts with toasted almond and lemon, curried heirloom carrots and onions, fried eggplant and oven roasted tomatoes with za’atar and charred romanesco with pomegranate, dates and cilantro.

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