Pierre Thiam's nod to hummus uses black-eyed peas, native to West Africa and brought over to America with the slave trade. In Senegal, you'll often find them ground and fried into fritters called accara and served with spicy chile sauce. Here, they are puréed smooth and brightened with lots of lemon juice and served with a tiny dollop of intensely aromatic shito, a Ghanian chile paste, made sweet and spicy from caramelized onions, dried seafood, and smoky chile flakes. The paste will last for months in the refrigerator, but you can use crushed red chile flakes or any spicy chile sauce as a substitute, if you like.
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For the Chile Paste
- 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp. red palm oil or vegetable oil
- 1⁄4 cup crushed red chile flakes
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. dried crawfish
- 2 tbsp. fermented fish powder
- 2 tbsp. smoked dried shrimp
- 1 tbsp. chipotle chile powder or smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. minced ginger
- 1⁄2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
For the Hummus
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, drained
- 1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. red palm oil or vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. minced ginger
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flatbread or crudité, for serving
Make the chile paste: In a small food processor, combine 2 tablespoons palm oil with the chile flakes, tomato paste, crawfish, fish powder, shrimp, chile powder, onion powder, garlic, ginger, and onion and purée until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1⁄4 cup palm oil over medium-low. Scrape the chile purée into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns dark brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Transfer the paste to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use, preferably at least 8 hours.
Make the hummus: Heat the broiler. Place the bell peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until charred all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes to steam. Uncover the peppers and remove and discard their skins, stems, and seeds. Finely chop the pepper flesh and transfer to bowl.
In a 4-qt. saucepan, cover the peas with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook, stirring, until the peas are very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the peas from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Drain the peas and reserve 1 1⁄2 cups of the cooking liquid. Pour the reserved cooking liquid into a food processor along with the lemon juice, palm oil, ginger, cayenne, and garlic and purée for 20 seconds to blend flavors. Add the cooked peas, season liberally with salt and pepper, and purée until very smooth. Scrape the purée into a serving bowl and top with the roasted peppers. Serve with flatbreads or crudité and the chile paste on the side.