March 2012

Nigella Seed

Farmshop’s JEFF CERCIELLO gives appetizers the royal touch with a few flecks of an ancient spice  by BAILEY SHIFFLER / photographs by CORAL VON ZUMWALT

Jeff Cerciello sees symbolism in starters. Though he serves all manner of imaginative, seasonal meals at Farmshop, his gourmet café and market in Santa Monica, appetizers are his favorite. “It’s a convivial thing,” says the former longtime culinary director of Thomas Keller’s casual-dining ventures. “You put them down, and people just break bread together.” One landmark hors d’oeuvre is Cerciello’s avocado hummus with pomegranate and nigella seeds. “The nigella adds flecks of black and a sharp, nutty, sort of peppery flavor. Flavor-wise, it works.” With roots in the Middle East, nigella is said to have been harvested for royals, reinforced by its discovery in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Cerciello serves the dip in a shallow dish with rustic bakery flatbread.

AVOCADO HUMMUS

Garlic confit
Juice of 2 lemons, separated
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
2 cups drained chickpeas
6 tbsps tahini
1 ½ cup olive oil
½ cup ice
3 ripe avocados
Salt to taste
Pomegranate seeds

GARLIC CONFIT
4 cloves peeled garlic
½ cup canola oil

Add garlic and oil to a small pot and simmer gently until tender.

MAIN RECIPE
Place confit, mustard and juice of 1 lemon in processor. Season with salt and pulse until smooth. Add chickpeas and puree, drizzling in the tahini. Add ice and 1 cup oil. Taste, then move to a bowl. Without cleaning processor, add avocado and remaining lemon juice. Puree, drizzling in remaining ½ cup oil and salt to taste. Fold avocado purée into chickpea puree and stir. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, oil, salt and nigella seeds.