My friend Jeannie’s kid is 2 years old, and he’s obsessed with hummus and has been since he started eating solids. He dips everything in it, from Goldfish™ to veggies to his finger. He doesn’t really like meat and isn’t really a fan of cheese, so it’s a main source of protein for him. Jeannie goes through tubs and tubs of hummus a month, and while it’s not prohibitively expensive, buying a pre-packaged processed food—granted a natural one—gets old, I’m sure. Last month my kids discovered the Goldfish™/hummus combo when visiting Jeannie’s house, and sure enough, I found myself in the refrigerated section buying up tubs of hummus as well.

Zucchini Hummus

Around the same time, the garden started to ripen, and distracted by the beet greens and lettuce we were happily harvesting, we neglected to notice that buried beneath a super healthy and blossoming squash plant lay two of the hugest zucchinis I’d seen in a long time. Tender young zucchinis are one thing: hard, mature, two foot-long zucchinis are something else entirely. They’re the running joke of all home gardeners, as we’ve all forgotten to harvest and been surprised by fruit so large they might attain consciousness.

Now, when I’m blessed (or cursed) with these things, generally I’ll scoop the seeds out and shred one or two up to freeze for future baking; of course, one large zucchini provides enough shreds for two years of breads and muffins. Sometimes we put diapers on them and Mr. Potato Head parts and show them to our visiting friends. Some people are known to seek out unlocked cars in parking lots and leave anonymous gifts; but generally speaking, large starchy zucchinis are not considered a delicacy to say the least.

Well, it was grocery shopping time last week, and we needed hummus, and as I was preparing my list I saw large zucchini number two sitting on my kitchen counter and I had an idea. Since zucchini has such a neutral flavor—and the older vegetable is so dry—I decided to experiment with adding the squash to a batch of homemade hummus. I don’t know what came over me, as I’m not really a fan of zucchini in any form, but I’m happy to report: after a bunch of tweaking, I found a very viable use for monster squash.

I pulled out the Cuisinart and tossed in a can of drained garbanzo beans for protein and that familiar hummus richness. Next, I added two cups of peeled, seeded and cubed flesh from the dreaded giant zucchini. Then I finished it off with the traditional ingredients of sesame tahini, fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. I pureed it until smooth, took a deep breath, and took a bite. It was delicious: tart, rich, garlic-y—just the way it should be. And the best part is that you would never know that the secret ingredient in this dip is the bane of this gardener’s existence.

The bonus? It passed the sniff test with my kids. They saw me put the zucchini in it (gasp!) and still devoured the stuff on tortilla chips. I prefer hummus as a sandwich spread, especially as a roll-up with ham, cheese, and baby spinach. A fun use for hummus is in a quesadilla: mix a bit of cumin into some hummus, spread onto wheat tortillas, sprinkle with chicken and a bit of cheese, fold over, and grill. The hummus is reminiscent of refried beans but much healthier, and the richness tricks you into thinking you’re eating something much more indulgent than it really is.

I can’t wait for Jeannie to try this recipe on her son. He’s really picky, so I know that if it passes his standards it’ll pass anyone’s. Kids really enjoy tactile food, and hummus is a great substitute for the ketchup and ranch and other dips that parents often turn to in their attempts to make food more interesting.

Raw food friends: you’re in luck with this one! You’ll have great success with this recipe using sprouted garbanzos and raw tahini, or, as a vegan friend of mine recommended, try substituting raw cashews for the beans. And whether you make this hummus traditionally or raw, there are so many possible variations on the main recipe that you won’t get bored soon. Some ideas that come to mind are sun-dried tomato, roasted pepper, feta and olive, and spinach.

About the Expert Chef

Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy.

As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite.

Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.