What if the Italians had given us hummus?

This Sept. 30, 2013 photo shows Italian-style hummus with diced tomatoes in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

What would happen if hummus had been invented in Italy, rather than the Middle East?

I decided to answer the question for myself with this simple reimagining of the classic chickpea puree.

And it’s not as discordant as you might think. Many of the same flavor profiles can be found across both Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Which makes sense, given relative geographic proximity. Even the ingredients and technique have common ground.

Italians make generous use of chickpeas and lemons — both essential to classic hummus. Though in the case of chickpeas, Italians tend to use them more often in soups and pastas than in spreads.

And when they do make spreads, they often reach for other beans, such a favas. And while traditional hummus relies on tahini (ground sesame seeds) to add richness, Italians probably would be more inclined to reach for pine nuts. So with those substitutions in mind, I created this delicious Italian-style hummus topped with diced tomatoes spiked with balsamic vinegar.

ITALIAN-STYLE HUMMUS WITH DICED TOMATOES

This hummus is delicious as a spread served with crackers or baguette slices, or turned into the base of a dinner. For that, smear a hefty serving of the hummus over a lightly toasted sliced of sourdough bread, then top with either lightly seasoned grilled chicken breast or roasted vegetables.

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

6 cloves garlic, minced, divided

1/2 cup pine nuts

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra

Salt and ground black pepper

1 large tomato, diced

Balsamic vinegar

In a food processor, combine the beans, half of the garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, and 1 tablespoon of the rosemary. Process until chunky smooth.

With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the hummus reaches a smooth, silky texture. Taste, then season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, the remaining 1 teaspoon of rosemary and the remaining garlic. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the hummus into a wide, shallow bowl, using the back of the spoon to form a cavity at the center.

Spoon the tomatoes into the cavity in the hummus. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and hummus, then sprinkle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 350 calories from fat (70 percent of total calories); 39 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 11 g protein; 250 mg sodium.

• J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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