Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole

Let’s talk about hummus. It’s a good place to start. When most people think about Mediterranean food, this dip perfectly scooped up by pita comes to mind. You could say it would be on the top five list for a Family Feud quiz. And who would disagree? The creaminess of chickpeas blending with garlic, just the right amount of lemon juice and tahini makes for that distinctive flavor profile.

Now, let’s move to Tissiyeh. This Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole might be the cousin to hummus. Like hummus, it includes chickpeas, garlic, lemon, tahini and salt. And yet, it goes so much farther. The toasted pine nuts and oil give the complexity characteristic of pignolas. The bright and creamy yogurt is a bit of a revelation and yet if you consider how much yogurt makes its way into Mediterranean cuisine, it’s not an altogether surprise. Oh, hummus lovers, you are in for a real treat.

Making the casserole perplexed me. While cooking through “An Edible Mosaic” cookbook, the photo and description enticed me enough to include it on a weeknight menu. But, how to serve it? Is it an appetizer? Is it a dinner entree? Is it just plain comfort food in the first order? At this point in our cook-the-book exploration, I trusted cookbook author Faith Gorsky enough to just go with it. Don’t get me started on how much we looked forward to her Fish Pilaf leftovers…

We modified the recipe ever so slightly to make it compliant with how we eat in our home. In place of  the flatbreads recommended in the Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole recipe, we heated up some gluten-free pizza crusts. I figured this substitution would still achieve the same textural goals of the original. This dish came together in such a short time and found it to be quite filling. Gorsky describes Tissiyeh as a traditional dish served in Damascus, Syria, where her family lives.

So when you’re in the mood for a light dinner, an interesting appetizer or comfort food in a bowl, whip up your own batch of Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole and leave the hummus for tomorrow.

An Edible Mosaic- Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole




by Faith Gorsky from “An Edible Mosaic”.
*Reprinted with permission and a minor adaptation

YIELD: 4-6 servings

2 gluten-free pizza crusts

2 16oz. cans chickpeas, reserve the liquid

2 cups water

2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

3 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1/2 cup tahini

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter

4 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves (optional, for garnish)


Preheat oven to 250. Put the flatbread directly onto the oven rack and bake until brittle but not burned, about 15 minutes, flipping once. Cool the bread completely, and then break into bite-sized pieces. Line the bottom of 1 large serving bowl (or 4 individual bowls) with the bread and set aside.

Pour the chickpeas (and their liquid), water, and 1 teaspoon of cumin into a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Ladle a bit (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups) of the chickpea cooking liquid onto the dried bread to make it moist, but not soggy, pressing down with a spoon to help the bread absorb the liquid. If you add too much liquid, just drain off any excess. Remove 4 tablespoons of chickpeas to a small bowl and set aside, and spoon the remainder of the chickpeas onto the moistened bread.

Whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, 1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin in a medium bowl. Pour the yogurt mixture into the chickpeas and sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of chickpeas on top.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly; set aside. Drizzle the pine nuts and their oil on top, and sprinkle on the parsley, if using. Serve immediately.



Cookery Bookshelf

An Edible Mosaic by Faith Gorsky


I weary of war.

I, an American, born in a town far from any war torn territories, weary of war. I don’t understand the need for dominion and the desire to wield power. As a non-land owner, I don’t understand the need to own land. But it doesn’t matter what I believe or understand. That desire and movement to possess and to own continues. My dominion of ownership extends shallowly to whether or not I’m going to serve polenta at dinner or need another book of poetry.

My world is so very different from those in the Middle East.

And yet, I believe in love. Love cures so many ills and evils, yet we regale it to a four letter word bound for the trite cliché likes of words like “nice” or “delicious”. We forget it is a verb and as such must work in the past, present and future to exercise the inevitable power latent when those four letters combine.

An Edible Mosaic- Juzmuz Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce

This may seem like an odd place to start a cookbook review of “An Edible Mosaic” by Faith Gorsky, but I can’t separate our cooking through a book of Syrian recipes without considering how much tragedy has befallen the country itself. We read articles, watch the tweets come and go and find ourselves comfortable. Fed. Safe.


It’s important to note that this cookbook and the recipes therein give me such hopefulness for the future. Again, perhaps an odd commendation to give a cookbook, but love plays a central figure in the collected recipes. Had it not been for love, Gorsky might not have met her Syrian husband and learning a cuisine from a culture so very different than her own. She might not have been self-charged with months of shadowing her mother-in-law in the kitchen, neither speaking the other’s language.

An Edible Mosaic- Meat and Vegetable Casserole with Pomegranate and Rice with Toasted Vermicelli

So, I would posit that this is an important book, not only for the pleasure the recipes will bring to recipients, but because it brings Syria into the home. It makes those headlines closer as I wonder if someone else ate Maqluba (upside down rice casserole) tonight too and in that small act of eating a specific dish, I am connected with someone in Syria. In the act of cutting the onions and lopping off the cauliflower florets or slicing the potatoes, I am reminded of the violence that sweeps across that country. This leads me to keep Syrians in my prayers even as I welcome their food to my table. It makes me want for them to know peace.

And shouldn’t all people come to know peace?

An Edible Mosaic- Beet Salad with Tahini Dressing

When I consider intercultural communication classes and the role culture plays in food, it makes me curious to know if Syrians are bold like their spice combinations (nine-spice, anyone?) or pithy and bright like the accents of lemon and yogurt in much of the cuisine. It makes me think they are rich in the love they lavish upon friends and family like the tahini that makes a common appearance in sauces.

An Edible Mosaic- Falafel

I could yammer on about how much we enjoyed the recipes in this cookbook and believe me when I say, every meal was a feast of flavor, texture and complementary contrasts. I could tell you how my falafel looked more like fritters bursting with garlicky goodness or how a drizzle of pomegranate molasses over the sesame sauce made those falafel something revelatory. I could tell you about the evening we made the Meat and Vegetable Casserole and my husband helped himself to thirds, something as rare as catching a jackalope in the Texas wilds. I could let you in on the secret that is sprinkling salt over eggplant slices to extract their moisture before pan-frying them into a simple addition to a maza (appetizer platter).

An Edible Mosaic- Scrambled Eggs with Meat and Onion

But somehow using all those words in that way might feel like a cheat. Instead, I will tell you that combining the spices to make the Nine-Spice Mix slowed me down to smell the cumin, the coriander, and ginger, letting me get a feel for how they might play nice with each other. It made me wonder how countries fighting internally and fighting neighboring countries might find a way to play nice. And just as the flavor of a nine spice mix is complex, so too is the pathway for the Middle East. But I wonder if somehow food, the table, a meal could be the place where peace starts. Where all the so very different ingredients work together to make a dish that makes me want to swoon like the Fish Pilaf.  And really, that Fish Pilaf doesn’t come easily. But some of the best things in life are not easily won, right?

An Edible Mosaic- Fish Pilaf