Saturday, September 12, 2015

Armenian Matnakash with Red Cowpea Hummus Spread

     Healthy Vegetarian Football Party Snack Food!
     One thing that I have noticed at local gaming taverns and sports bars over the years is that few vegetarian options are offered on the menu.  More often than not, the vegetarian menu offerings are the same old worn out token items.  Veggie burgers, carrot & celery sticks or fried vegetables are just about all there is to choose from in most sports bars.  
     In recent years, hummus has started to hit the vegetarian option list on tavern and sports bar menus.  The only problem is that most bars purchase a pre-manufactured frozen hummus product that contains artificial ingredients.  Hummus is very easy to make and there really is no excuse for a sports bar or tavern to purchase pre-prepared hummus.  

     There is nothing impressive about a sports bar that serves pre-made food service items.  When every restaurant or tavern in a local area serves the same pre-made food items that are delivered by the same commercial food distributer, then the food at every two bit eatery in the area looks the same and tastes the same.  
     Most times, the quality of manufactured food products are mediocre at best, so only members of the middle of the road clientele base are pleased.  Those who demand better food either cook snack food at home or go to a sports tavern across town that hires skilled cooks that cook great food from scratch.     

     Red Cowpeas Preparation:
     This recipe yields about 6 to 8 portions of red cowpeas!  The extra cowpeas can be used to make other recipes.
     Dried red cowpeas can be purchased in Indian food markets and Mediterranean markets.  Dried Cowpeas take a long time to cook, but a pressure cooker can speed up the process.  
     Step 1:  Soak 3 cups of dried red cowpeas in water in a refrigerator overnight.
     Rinse the red cowpeas under cold running water.
     Step 2:  Place the red cowpeas in a pot.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 4" of extra liquid. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar.  (optional)
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil for 17 minutes.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Simmer the beans till they are tender.  Add water if necessary to keep the beans covered with liquid.       
     Red Cowpea Hummus:
     This recipe yields 5 or 6 small portions or enough for 1 medium size Matnakash Bread.
     Classic hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini paste, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac berry spice.  Traditional hummus is made with fava beans too.  Modern hummus can be made with just about any kind of bean.  
     Today's hummus recipe features Red Cowpeas.  Red Cowpeas have a rich bold field bean flavor.  They are a good source of fibrous carbohydrates, calcium and protein.    
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/4 cups of rinsed pre-cooked Red Cowpeas in a food processor. 
     Add 1/4 cup of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of tahini.  (Tahini is pure sesame paste.  It is available at Mediterranean food markets.  Tahini absorbs a lot of liquid, so be sure to follow the guidelines in the last step of this recipe!)
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of red sumac berry spice. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of marjoram.
     Add 1 tablespoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 2:  Pulse the food processor a few times, then leave the processor running at full speed to puree the ingredients.  
     *It will be necessary to add a a few spoonfuls of water at a time, while pureeing the hummus, but do not add too much water.  The tahini pastes will absorb a lot of water and become thicker, till it can absorb no more liquid at all.  The goal is to create a smooth thick hummus paste that is easy to spread.
     Step 3:  Place the hummus in a container and refrigerate for 2 hours, so the flavors meld.
     Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning if necessary.

     Armenian Matnakash:
     Matnakash is the national bread of Armenia.  The dough is exactly the same as Italian focaccia.  This bread is shaped with an oval edge.  The middle of the bread loaf has straight furrows that represent a freshly plowed field.  
     Matnakash can be served on its own or it can be topped with a variety of items.  The look of Matnakash also resembles a sports stadium, so it is a natural choice for making football game snack food!
     I support local bakeries and I do not attempt to make every single bread example for this website.  Bakers need to earn a living and featuring good hand crafted bread from a top notch bakery helps the cause!  I purchased the large Matnakash Loaf in the pictures above at the Jones Market-Eastern European Food in Las Vegas.  
     If making fresh Matnakash from scratch is preferred, follow this link to the Focaccia Dough recipe in the Southwestern Cuisine website:  Focaccia Dough Recipe
     • Shape a large flat oval focaccia loaf on a parchment paper lined baking pan.  
     • Let the dough rise a little bit.  
     • Use a dull pastry wheel to roll the Matnakash style oval crust outline and furrow design on the dough.
     • Follow the focaccia baking instructions in the dough recipe.  

     Armenian Matnakash with Red Cowpea Hummus Spread:  
     This recipe yields 1 medium pizza size "Armenian Matnakash with Red Cowpea Hummus Spread" that can be cut into 10 to 12 snack portions!
     The hummus can be garnished with any items that are preferred.  The garnish in the photo examples tasted nice.
     Step 1:  Spread a generous amount of the Red Cowpeas Hummus over the "infield" of the Matnakash Loaf.
     Step 2:  Garnish the hummus with: 
     - thin sliced yellow heirloom tomato 
     - thin sliced green jalapeƱo 
     - 2 to 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil over the hummus and vegetables.
     - cilantro leaves
     - roasted red bell pepper strips
     - streaks of Mexican Crema or Goat Milk Yogurt (optional)
     - a few pinches of Hungarian Paprika 
     Step 3:  Serve the Armenian Matnakash with Red Cowpea Hummus Spread on a cutting board with a knife on the side ... or cut into portions and serve on a party platter.

     Viola!  A healthy vegetarian football party appetizer that has no shortage of flavor!

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