At Chicago’s Michelin-recognized Mediterranean restaurant Ēma—which translates to “mother” in Hebrew—whitewashed brick and overhead greenery make an elegant setting for chef C.J. Jacobson’s rustic-refined menu of spreads, dips and meze inspired by his California upbringing.
Raised in Orange County and trained at Copenhagen’s famed Noma, the Top Chef alum weaves earth-to-plate with seasonal takes on Mediterranean favorites, serving dishes like baked halloumi with Greek figs and Aleppo; housemade labneh and stracciatella; and grilled pork belly with braised lentils, pomegranate jus and chermoula.
Jacobson also supports natural growing environments for food beyond the doors of Ēma or urban streets of Chicago. A recent three-course dinner event with Will Serafini of Eataly (and previously, Longman & Eagle) funneled funding to the Montana Wilderness Association, an organization that generates legislative protections of wild areas across the state.
Below is one of chef Jacobson’s popular spicy hummus spreads, a signature of Ēma’s offerings. Serve it with crudité, homemade bread or dolloped on top of salads and grain bowls all week long.
Spicy HummusCourtesy of Chef C.J. Jacobson, Ēma, Chicago
For the hummus:
1/4 pound cooked garbanzo beans (recipe below)
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons tahini
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon bean cooking water
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the spicy peppers:
1/2 pound red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1/2 pound yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1/2 pound piquillo peppers
1/2 cup sambal oloek (Indonesian chile paste)
3 tablespoons sweety drops (Peruvian peppers)
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped basil
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon brown anchovy
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Prepare the hummus: Add the hot beans to a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process for 4 to 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a container and clean the food processor.
2. Prepare the spicy peppers: Place the peppers in the food processor and pulse until chunky. Add the piquillo peppers, sambal oloek, sweety drops, fish sauce, basil, parsley, anchovy, Sherry vinegar, sugar, and lemon juice into the food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Spoon the mixture into a bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
3. Assemble the dish: Spoon hummus onto a plate. Top with the spicy pepper mixture.
Photo by Anjali Pinto.
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1 pound dried garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1. Soak the beans in 1 gallon water overnight; drain.
2. Add the beans, salt, and baking soda to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are very soft, about 1 hour. Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.