Lentils “Hummus Style,” with Pomegranate and Mint and Toasted Za’atar Matzohs

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: About



Appears in

The Gefilte Variations

The Gefilte Variations

By Jayne Cohen

Published 2000

  • About

Round as the wheel of life so it has no “mouth” to scream out against iniquities, the lentil, like other legumes, has been a food of mourning since Jacob consoled grieving Isaac with lentil soup after Abraham’s death.

Is it to hoodwink the Evil Eye then that Ashkenazi Jews feature mourning foods on the menu at a Shalom Zahar, the joyous celebration held the Friday night after a male child is born?

Perhaps. But I prefer another explanation. In the womb, the neshama, or soul, of the baby boy has total knowledge of the Torah, but all that wisdom is left behind when he enters the world. And it is this grave loss the infant mourns at his Shalom Zahar.

Although “hummus” actually means “chickpea,” quick-cooking lentils are a delicious alternative in the garlicky spread. In this version, sesame tahini is replaced by other tastes from the Middle East, pomegranate and mint, which freshen the bean puree with fragrant, sweet-sour grace notes.

The aromatic za’atar, a Middle Eastern herb blend crusting the toasted matzoh, underscores the tart, fruity flavors in the hummus.


  • cups (about ½ pound) brown lentils
  • Salt
  • 1½–2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic, according to taste
  • About 6 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, or to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, plus additional leaves for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 3 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)


  • trimmed fresh raw vegetables, such as fennel, celery, carrots, red and yellow pepper strips, etc.; Toasted Za’atar Matzohs, plain matzoh, or hot pita quarters


  1. Pick over the lentils carefully, discarding any stray objects or discolored beans, and rinse well in fresh cold water. Drain and place in a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover generously and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until very soft. About 5–10 minutes before the cooking time has elapsed, add salt to taste.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until just tinged with pale gold. (You only want to eliminate the raw taste.)
  3. Drain the lentils, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water, and put them in a food processor, together with the garlic and its cooking oil, 3 tablespoons oil, the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, mint leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Process to a smooth puree. Add some of the reserved cooking water if necessary to achieve a soft and creamy consistency. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and oil as needed. Spread the hummus on a large platter and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if using, and mint leaves.
  4. Serve with fresh vegetables and Toasted Za’atar Matzohs or warm pita, for dipping.