Forget about it, folks. When you're asked to bring an appetizer, the plastic container of hummus and predictable bag of pita chips is no longer an option. It's time to raise the bar.
Start by losing the plastic tub. Spread the hummus evenly over the platter, then go all out with sautéed ground lamb, pushing this delicious hummus starter into main-course territory. Part dip, part stew, part salad, it's the perfect casual meal to enjoy outside with friends, perfectly chilled wine--and plenty of oohs and ahhs.
Haute Hummus with Cinnamon-Scented Lamb
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as an appetizer
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small onion, finely diced onion
1 pound lean ground lamb
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
Pinch of ground allspice
1 pound favorite hummus
1 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, or more, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh mint, optional
Warmed pita wedges, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add lamb, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, Season to taste with salt and pepper. As the lamb browns add salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. (Start small, you can always add more.) Cook until lamb is no longer pink, draining excess oil, if desired.
Evenly spread hummus on a large platter. Drizzle with olive oil, to taste. Add lamb, then layer with feta, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and parsley. Serve immediately or make ahead and serve at room temperature.
Diva Confession: Skip the pita if you wish, the bold flavors of the lamb and hummus pair well with colorful radicchio cups. Mix it up with slender endive boats or good old iceberg lettuce cups, topped with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt and a squeeze of lemon.